Monday, February 24, 2014

Something New Out Of Something Old

I've been working on a jean quilt for about a month.  I had a stash of old jeans, denim shorts, and denim shirts that were worn out, or stained, or otherwise unfit for donation.  The intent of the stash, when I began collecting it, was to make myself a denim quilt the same size as the one I'd made DH several years ago.  He uses his when camping, and since we don't own sleeping bags, I thought it would be nice to have one of my own so that when camping together we could layer them just like when you zip two same size sleeping bags together to make one large one.

When I decided it was time to tackle that stash of off-cast denim and turn it into a quilt, I began by cutting the seams out of several pairs of old jeans.  The seams are just too hard to work with in a quilt; the denim itself is thick, and when you are trying to sew two pieces together, that is a tall task for a sewing machine needle.  To ask it to do two pieces when one or both of them includes a seam . . . well, expect a lot of broken needles.  I did keep some of the pockets, if they were fairly thin, just to add interest to my quilt, but tried to cut them so that no existing seams were on the sewing lines.

In my stash, I also found a few pair of worn out denim shorts of mine that I had forgotten about; a gingham checked pair and a yellow pair.  There was also a peach colored denim shirt DH had gotten me in 1998 when he was on assignment out in New Jersey for 5 months (and I was home alone with four young kids).  I'd worn that shirt till the cuffs and collar frayed and it had many stains on it.  But there was still usable fabric, so it too had gone into the box with the future denim quilt fodder.  I guess you could say that shirt has some meaning, since I obviously kept it with the intent of making a quilt out of it despite it's stains.

Once I had the shorts, the shirt, and about eight pair of jeans cut into 6" squares, I started counting.  I needed 300 squares for my project.  On average, I was getting 20 squares from an adult size pair of jeans, so that gave me a pretty good guess at how many more pairs of jeans I needed to pull out of the stash in order to have enough denim squares. Some of the oldest jeans I found were larger child sizes, even a few pair with embroidery on the legs, and I used those also. I think I ended up with two extra squares in the end.  They'll go to some future project.  The box of old jeans did not get totally emptied before I hit my 300 squares, so obviously there are some more recycled denim creations in the years to come.

I like my jean quilts to be random, rather than a planned pattern of colors, so once I had all 300 squares cut, I used my highly scientific method of organizing them into a random assortment:  I tossed them, one by one, around my bedroom floor, being careful none of them went under the bed or dressers.  Then I picked them up into twenty stacks of fifteen squares.  Sort of like the 'fifty-two pick up' method of shuffling cards.  Voila, no planned pattern here!

Sewing those stacks into twenty rows of fifteen squares each, pressing them after each row was sewn, and sewing those twenty rows into a quilt top took a while.  I was near the end of all that sewing when I realized I didn't have any large pieces of flannel for the backing.  All the other jean quilts I've made, I've used flannel for the back.  Being so heavy, denim quilts don't really need batting for warmth, just a nice fuzzy backing.

Now, I could have gone to the fabric store and purchased about 6-7 yards of new fabric.  But I didn't want to.  Not only didn't I want to cough up the money for new fabric, I had remembered that eons ago, I had bought a huge piece of mint green baby wale corduroy (most likely on sale) with the intent of making my daughters some jumpers.  I'd never actually gotten around to making those jumpers, so that massive cut of corduroy should still be in my possession somewhere.

I located it, unfolded it, and was pleased to see it was enough to back my newly made quilt top with (plus about 2/3 yard to spare!).  Hooray!  Being baby wale, it is soft, almost like flannel.  And corduroy is a warm fabric too.  Plus, green is my favorite color, so being a light green made it the perfect thing to use for the backing of my very own personal jean quilt.

Before sewing the top to the backing, I took five minutes to stitch my name in one of the squares.  Just because I can, and I wanted to.  DH's quilt has his name stitched on it (less likely to get 'accidentally' swiped by one of his camping buddies on the times I'm not on the same trip), so I felt since I was making a sorta matched set with mine, it needed my name on it.  I used embroidery floss in an shade that is pretty much an exact match to the corduroy.

stitching same color as backing

Once the top and the back had been stitched together, and turned right side out, came the pinning.  This is to keep the two layers aligned so that there would be no shifting or bunching while I tied the quilt.  I commandeered the floor where the living room and dining room meet for the pinning and tying.  I used some variegated yarn in blues, greens, and yellows to tie the quilt with.

Then I had a finished quilt!

all done

pocket from one of DS1's last pair of jeans from high school

embroidered pocket from DD2's middle school years

Without spending any new money, I have a keepsake that is both special, and useful.  Old ragged jeans and unused decade (or more!) old fabric have become a new creation.

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