Gorgeous Denim Quilts

blue jeans pocketsI know, I know, it’s like we’re obsessed with denim around here. Gavin showed us how to patch our jeans if we’re not ready to let them go, then Leslie showed us how to recycle a pair into a sexy miniskirt and use the leftovers to make a shopping bag. (Personally, I’m waiting for Gavin to upcycle HIS jeans into a miniskirt…)

My favorite jeans have finally died, and before I saw Gavin’s post I was planning to start a denim quilt. Denim quilts are heavy duty for picnics and playing on at the park, and I was just at Goodwill this past weekend so I’m inspired by the availability of cheap denim that needs a second chance at life.

Then I started to think about my “dead” jeans from a green point of view. The mantra Reduce, Reuse, Recycle doesn’t include the word “repair,” but it probably should. Reducing is best, reusing or repairing is good, recycling is a last resort. I had decided to recycle my jeans rather than repair them because I had this notion that patched jeans look “run down.” It’s like I’ve been trained by society that if a repair is visible, it makes the garment worthless.

Let’s get serious, people. I am a stay-at-home / work-at-home mother of an eight month old baby. I spend most of my waking hours in my own house. I get spit up on a lot. I crawl around on the floor to retrieve pacifiers and toys. Who the heck is going to put me on What Not To Wear for sporting a pair of patched jeans? I thrifted a “new” pair to replace them for going out, but if I can get more life out of the old ones, why not do it? Also, that way the new ones won’t be worn every day and they’ll last longer for occasions nicer than than cleaning pureed sweet potato out of someone’s hair.

I’m not saying that I’m going to spend all day in clothes I hate in order to be green, but I think it’s time for me to fight my way out of the trap that equates repaired with flawed.

At this point you may be thinking “Um, excuse me, wasn’t the title of this post DENIM QUILTS?”

Yes! Even though my favorite jeans aren’t going to be included, I still want to make a denim quilt.

The Goodwills in my town don’t sort jeans by size, so it’s way too time consuming trying to find some to wear. It’s more fun to pick them out for craft projects. I’ve been to the “overflow” discount shop where I saw how many they’re trying to get rid of that didn’t even make it into the store, so I know they’re not running short on jeans for people who are actually trying to buy clothes to wear.

I’ve been looking for inspiration, though, because I’m in a quilting rut lately. I keep falling back on unplanned scrap quilts or large squares just to get a project done instead of putting time into finding or designing a pattern I will be delighted to look at. A lot of denim quilts are rag quilts, which I don’t personally care for, or they look a little bit country to me.

So I went to look around for other options, and I thought I’d share a roundup of some of the beautiful denim quilts I found.

So that ought to help me get out of the quilting blahs. First, though, to patch my jeans…

[Image by Alessandro Paiva.]

Written by Skye Kilaen

Skye Kilaen began sewing at an early age and eco-rabble-rousing shortly after that. Many years later, someone finally told her that there are books about how to make quilts. Life was never the same. In fact, she spent more on her sewing machine than her car. Bringing her green and crafty passions back together, Skye is now happily discovering ways to create beautiful and useful objects using thrifted and sustainable materials. No, that's not just an excuse to visit Goodwill more often. Honest.


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  1. excuse me, miss, but you may have just changed my life!!!! my dad has literally dozens of boxes of jeans that he somehow manages to rip the crotch out of (maybe i dont want to know how this happens), and he is always asking me if i can use them for something, and of course i take them, but I can never think of anything I, truly want to do, but now…i found it!!! I stumbled upon crafting a green world via two green chickens, thank goodness i did!!!

  2. Hey, my mom made a quilt for us when we were kids! It’s made out of all our old, torn up blue jeans from when we were kids. Her original plan was to make one for each of us, but it was so difficult the first time around she settled for one. It so warm, we love it.

    My favorite parts are the pockets and zippers. She left them open so you can still open them up or hide things in them. The dedication is behind the button and fly.

  3. Re deciding to mend your jeans, there are plenty people (like me) who will appreciate your mended jeans if you decide to wear them out of home. I sympathise with the mum dilemma of always being at home with littlies (having young twins myself) and not having a reason to wear ‘good stuff’…but my decision is to get into the homeliness of it all! Y’ just got to get into the aesthetic of mending. Don’t just ‘put up with’ mended things but be proud to wear them and do something creative with your mend. Or just do it skilfully and be proud of that. And get used to the idea that if your jeans mend is loud and proud then people will be looking at your bum!
    I have a jumper (read ‘sweater’ you Americans/Canadians) which my mum knitted for me about 15 years ago. It has always been a favourite and i’m never giving it up…I am actually looking forward to the time it becomes more mended than knitted!
    One last thing, I feel sad that my kids are growing up and growing out of their little clothes, so I was going to make a quilt out of them…but I guess it would be greener to reuse them whole?

  4. This reminded me of a coverlet I started (but never finished) when I was in High School. The idea was to cut 3 or 4 inch squares from various denims and then crochet around the edges, then crochet the squares together. You were suposed to embroider something on several squares, but I suppose since it was not finished on the back, you could continue embroidering until all of the squares were embroidered.

  5. I’ve made many quilts using only denim for local shelters and other charity groups. Although you may be tired of making plain quilts, the shelters will never get tired of receiving them. If you bat them with an old blanket (electric blankets with non-functioning cords pulled out are great), they will be heavy, very warm, and will last forever. You don’t even have to quilt them, just tie them with yarn or heavy thread. If you like the ragged look, seam the squares wrong side out so the unfinished seam edges can fray; this is easy and the frayed edges add a degree of “touch” warmth. The comment about using the pockets was great; I’ve made 2 quilts using only the parts of the jeans that incorporated pockets. The pockets are great for keeping “stuff” in, and you get to use a part of the jeans that is usually not considered usable. Years ago, I made 7 or 8 14″ denim blocks, each of a different Texas block pattern. I never made the quilt, as I needed new seat covers for casual chairs and the blocks just fit, but it would have made a nice quilt. If you think of it, you can use just about any block design you want. Use some of the denim in it’s natural state, lightly bleach some or overdye some. Collect the parts that have become unevenly faded (waistbands that were gathered, or front pleats) and use them like a different printed pattern, and you will have a choice of shades from which to choose.

  6. would love to get some advice on making whole clothes quilts from my grandpa’s coveralls! Should I cut off the front and applique to fabric? Should I try to applique the whole thing without cutting off the back? If so, how to make it lie flat?

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