My husband has a denim quilt that his mom made him when he was just a kid. He used it as his comforter when we were dating, and we’ve had it as a throw blanket for eight years of marriage. It obviously meant a lot to him, so I wanted to do something similar for our kids. It really was as easy as it looked – but it was also much harder. I’ll explain.
Making a Denim Quilt
I’m a huge fabric pack rat, and fabric for me doesn’t have to be bought-by-the-yard stuff. I save everything that’s been worn, torn, found, donated, thrifted, whatever. If it is made of fabric, it can be re-made once it has served its purpose. Hubs is super hard on clothes, and I’ve stashed away every pair of jeans he has worn threadbare. So, it wasn’t super hard to get the fabric needed. Once word got out that I was making something from old jeans, I was given quite a bit more to work with, too.
To make the squares, I basically made an arbitrary sized square to start with, then used it as a template. Once I knew what size they were, I measured the sheet I’d use for backing to see how many squares I needed. I hadn’t loved sharing a twin-sized quilt with Hubs, so for the kids, I made them roughly queen sized. The backing on each was a queen-sized, flat flannel sheet, also thrifted or given to me. For the size squares I used, it worked out to 12 squares x 12 squares.
From one pair of jeans, I could get roughly 12-14 squares, depending on whether I used the pockets. Sometimes I could, sometimes I couldn’t.
Oldest’s quilt backing was darker, so I used jeans that were black or had a darker wash. Younger’s was blue, so I used nice bright blue or super light washes. Littlest’s is a khaki quilt-in-progress with a pink and green sheet backing.
The pattern I used was simple:
Sew light and dark squares together in pairs,
Sew two pairs together into a larger square made of four.
Light – Dark
Dark – Light
Once I had 6 of these, I’d serge them together to make a row. Then I serged rows together until I had 12×12.
The topper was actually fun. I used my serger so as not to be so hard on my poor cheapie machine, and it went really quickly.
Next, I bought a queen sized batting from Joann’s Fabrics (about $10-20, depending on quality and the coupons you have).
To put it all together was simple, again, but a bit more cautious:
Pin the flat sheet to the ground, nice and smooth, right side facing up,
Lay the topper over it, right side down, and the batting over it,
Pin all three layers together, and trim off the excess around the edges.
I’m not all about precision, so there was excess. But that’s okay. You want to make sure you check regularly to make sure your size is right as you make the topper – I know I’d rather have excess sheet than excess topper!
Then, I serged around the edges, sewing all three sides together, stopping with a gap big enough to reach in and turn it right side out. Grab and turn it so that the sheet is on one side and the topper on the other.
To close the hole, on one I serged the whole edge. On the other, I tucked in the open section and sewed with the machine down the edge. I think I intended to sew around the whole blanket, but I lost interest. I wound up preferring the serged edge just because it was easier.
Now, the part that has kicked my butt – quilting it.
I don’t really trust my little sewing machine to stand up to all those denim seams, or I’d sew “in the ditch” (down the rows and columns) to quilt it. Instead, I’m taking yarn and hand sewing Xs into the squares. This is, sadly, an important part, or the batting will rip apart inside of there. It’s also, so disappointingly, mind-numbingly tedious. I “finished” theirs for their birthdays in September. I’m still not done, just because I’ve been putting it off.
Don’t be like me. Finish your quilts. (Quilters – do you have any tips for enjoying hand-quilting? With a short attention span?)
All in all, I’m crazy proud of these things, and they are awesomely warm (and relatively cheap). I wound up making another for myself out of sweater scraps, and it has been my cool-weather best friend (also unfinished. I know, I know!). They may not be up to par by real-quilter standards, but they work, and my kids love them. Hopefully, they’ll last as long as Hubs’ did!
Tell me your upcycled heirloom story…I’d love to hear!