Tuesday, 4 January 2011

How to Quilt - Making Denim Quilts

Do you find yourself hoarding denim jeans because they don't fit or you don't like them any more but they are too good to throw away?  One option is obviously to give them to a charity shop, but another option is to make them into a denim quilt.

The size of the blocks for your your denim quilt is limited by the size of the jeans that you are cutting up.  I found that I could get much larger strips from the boys' left over jeans than I could from my daughter's jeans.  I settled for 4.1/2" blocks so that I could use several different sizes of jeans to give some variety in the colour of my denim quilt.

I cut away the seams and hems - no point in trying to unpick those seams with several layers of stitching.  I usually try and save the zips, but that ends up a bit like my fabric stash:  the zip I need for a project is never quite the same size or colour as anything in my zip collection.

Having cut panels of fabric from several pairs of denim jeans, cut them into strips of 4.1/2" width.  These are cut into strips 8.1/2" long and 4.1/2" squares - two squares for each 8.1/2" strip.

With right sides together and using a 1/4" seam, sew two squares together and then sew the resulting strip to an 8.1/2" strip.  This creates the basic 8" quilt block.  For this denim quilt I used 5 rows of 4 denim quilt blocks (25 quilt blocks in all).  I used a pocket for one of the blocks, so I made 24 quilt blocks as shown.

Denim is obviously much thicker than quilting fabric.  When I was chain sewing the blocks together, I found that as the needle moved from one block to the next the denim would not move forward smoothly.  Pressing down with my index finger just to the left of the needle helped solve this problem because I was pushing the fabric down onto the machine feet so that they could grab the fabric and move it forward.

I was worried by the thought of very bulky seams, so I pressed the seams open.  That's also the reason that I put sashing between the quilt blocks of the denim quilt.

For the pocket quilt block, I could not cut a big enough piece of fabric round the pocket to make an 8.1/2" square, so I measured the size of the square that I did have (6") and added strips of denim round the edges to make the square up to 8.1/2".  That meant adding 3" strips because of seam allowances.

When I had 25 blocks, I laid them out and moved them round a bit so that the different colours were distributed fairly evenly.  The sashing is made from strips 1.1/2" wide by 8" long.  You will need 20 of these to sew between the denim quilt blocks.

Working from the left hand block of the top row, add a strip of sashing to the right hand side of the first quilt block and then sew the next quilt block to this sashing.  Continue across the row.  You should end up with five denim quilt blocks connected by four strips of sashing, with no sashing at either end of the row.  This will be added later.

Do the same with the next five blocks to make the second row.  I usually put the pocket block in the middle of the third row.  Keep going until you have five rows of denim quilt blocks.

In order to join the rows together you will need sashing the length of each row - about 44".  This is just longer than one strip across the width of the fabric so you will need to join two pieces of 1.1/2" strip and you will need six strips to join all the rows and have a strip at the top and bottom of the denim quilt top.

Sew a strip of sashing across the top and bottom of the third row.  I find it easiest to start with this row as it has to be in the middle because of the pocket.  It doesn't matter then if you change the order of the other rows as you are sewing.

Sew the second and fourth rows above and below and add a strip of sashing above and below them.  Add the first and fifth rows and again add sashing above and below.  You should now have five rows of denim quilt blocks beginning and ending with sashing but with no sashing down the sides.

Measure the length of the denim quilt top - it should be about 46.1/2".  Cut two lengths of sashing and add down each side.  That's the denim quilt top complete.

For this denim quilt I decided to bring the backing forward for binding, so I cut the backing fabric about 2.1/2" wider than the denim quilt top all the way round.  So if your quilt top measures 46.1/2" square, you will need to cut the backing 51.1/2" square.  The wadding only needs to be slightly larger than the quilt top to allow for any shrinkage when quilting.

I quilted about 1/4" away from the seam.  Do remember to check your tension - these layers are probably thicker than you normally sew and your tension may need adjusting.  Trim the wadding to the quilt top and trim the backing to about 2" beyond the quilt top.

To make the quilt binding on the straight edges, fold the raw edge of the backing in to the edge of the denim quilt top.  Then take the fold and pull it over the edge of the quilt top by about 1/4".  Sew in Place.  I always slipstitch this part by hand, but many quilters do machine sew it.

For the corners, it helps to cut off a triangle to give a smoother corner.  Cut the triangle to leave about 1/4" of backing fabric beyond the corner of the denim quilt top.

Fold that diagonal edge down over the corner and then fold the edges leading up to the corner twice as you have been doing on the straight edge.

You now have an attractive, durable denim quilt and you have also recycled several pairs of jeans.

Thanks for visiting my blog.
You' ll find more ideas for quilting at Ludlow Quilt and Sew.

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