Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Raggy Denim Quilt Tutorial

Let me give you the back story on this quilt.  I was cleaning my closet with Barbara and I was complaining about the upcoming auction project that I would need to do with my daughter's class.  My complaint was that I would go spend a bunch of money on fabric, spend a bunch of time on making the project, then one of two scenarios would play out.
In one scenario, I would end up very angry because someone "stole" my quilt for a measly price that would not cover my costs, much less my effort.   I speak from experience on this scenario.  In the second scenario, I would end up very, very angry because in trying to prevent the first scenario,  I would go win the bid for the quilt, thus paying for it TWICE and I could have just written a check and saved myself some grief.  So, in either scenario I end up, not happy, so I was not gung-ho about this project.

But as I vented, I shoved old clothes in a bag.  Clothes made of fabric.  Clothes made of FREE fabric.  And what clothes do everyone own??  Yep, you guessed it, jeans.  So I sheepishly asked Barbara if she would help me to retrieve all the denim from the bags.  It is bad enough to have to call in reinforcements to clean the closet and to ask them to re-sort the purge is almost insane.  Being the good sport that she is, she agreed and even offered a bag of jeans from her house!    The idea was born.  The class pitched in and donated all kinds if jeans and I was on my way.

Now about this tutorial thing.  I promised that I would do a quilt tutorial for you, so here it is.  I am not all that good at tutorials because I am not exact, nor do I consider myself any sort of an expert.  I am just a stubborn fool who is fearless and will not be beat.  If you are exact or a pro, this might just drive you to drink.   If you are up for an adventure in fabric, come along, because here we go.....

So, we have established that you need jeans.  My best estimate is that you will get 4-6 blocks out of the legs of the jeans.  This quilt took about 20 pairs.   I did not go for the pockets because of the additional bulk.  I decided to back the quilt in denim too and that would make it heavy without adding in another layer with the pocket.  If you want to back your quilt in a flannel, that will be good too.  You can also scatter flannel squares in among your denim, but I did all denim, so I will proceed with instructions for that.

I wanted this quilt to get as big as possible as fast as possible, so I cut 11 inch squares of denim.
First I scissor cut the inseam of the jeans open.  Next, I used a rotary cutter and a plastic quilter's ruler to cut the squares.  You can also make a template and trace the squares and cut them with scissors.  I cut and cut and cut and cut 84 squares of denim.
HEAR ME NOW AND BELIEVE ME LATER----Your squares DO NOT need to be perfectly square.  I will repeat, do not aim for perfection!  The seams in the jeans will make it difficult.  And overachieving efforts at perfection will become COMPLETELY irrelevant when you fringe the edges.  Just get it in the ballpark.  OK.  Really.

Next step- TOTALLY OPTIONAL.  After that, I took the squares to the school to the kids along with some various fabrics.   The kids cut a star of heat and bond.  They ironed the star to the back of the fabric.  Then they cut out the star and ironed the star onto the squares.  All of this scissor and hot iron action occurred under my watchful eye, commencing with a heavy sigh of relief when everyone made it through the process unharmed.  

With that complete, I cut out 42 10 inch squares of batting.   I  arranged all the front denim squares the way I wanted.  I tried to alternate shades of denim and the way that the seams in the squares ran.

I sandwiched a piece of batting between 2 denim squares.  This picture shows that batting a bit smaller than the fabric.  That is good.

Next, I went row by row doing the quilting and piecing.  For the plain denim squares, I marked them and  quilted from corner to corner to form an X.  

For the star blocks, I quilted a straight line about a quarter inch inside the star.  After that, I didn't want batting to wad up, so I sewed a 4 inch seam across the corners.  The 4 inches is irrelevant.  I just picked that because it looked good to me and caught the corners of the batting.

Though I usually quilt with 100% cotton, I went for a heavy duty all purpose thread.

As I quilted the squares, I sewed them into rows.   To do this, you place the BACK sides together and sew about a 5/8 inch seam.   Again, it doesn't have to be perfect.  All the fringe will hide flaws. It makes this a very forgiving quilt.   This will be going through 4 layers of denim, so go slowly and use a little longer stitch length.

I was using a very basic machine (Hello Kitty), so I used the medium stitch length.  Iron the seams OPEN when you do this.  It makes connecting the rows easier and it makes the fringing process easier.  

As each row was completed, I sewed the rows together.  When I did this, I sewed it once and then sewed it again right over the first stitches.  I thought it would add some reinforcement to these bulky seams.  I ironed these seams open too.

Finally, when they were all together, I sewed around the edge.  To do this, I double threaded the needle with red thread.  I had two spools, so I just threaded the machine with 2 threads.  It works just fine. You can uses different colors too.  That makes it interesting.   I sewed all the way around the front.  Then I flipped it over and sewed it over the same stitches on the back.  Again, reinforcement.

Here are a couple of pictures from the back side.  The X blocks form a diamond and triangle pattern.  The stars look neat and I really like how the corner stitching made little diamonds.

Then I clipped the seams.  Silly, stupid me thought this would be quick, but it took quite some time.  I clipped about 1/3 inch chunks.  Clip near the seams, but do not clip the seams.  If you run across some larger seams, you can trim them down, if you want.  Also, if you find any batting pieces more than peeking out, you can trim them back, but they will disappear once you wash and dry the quilt.

And now for the fun part.  Wash and dry the quilt.  This will fray the edges.  It will produce a TON of lint.  Dry it in 15 minute segments pausing to clean your lint trap.  This is NOT OPTIONAL.  Trust me.
When it is done, you will have a cool looking, extremely heavy (mine weighed 7 pounds!) warm, cuddly quilt.  

And for a little bonus, this is a quilt made just the same with a mix of denim and flannel.  My aunt made this with my Pappy's old jeans.  He was an amazing man and I cannot believe that he has been gone for over 20 years.   It is very dear to me.

If you decide to make one of these,  please feel free to send questions!   I am happy to help you if I can.


Unknown said...

The pictures do not do this quilt justice. It is beautiful and I am sure there will be a bidding war over it. Thank you for all your hard work!

Katy said...

My friend Darla gave the fantastic idea of laundering at a laundromat. Save your machine the woes of all that lint! See, I told you I am a rookie!

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