Upcycled denim quilts don’t have to be boring! When you use upcycled denim to sew some of your favorite quilt blocks, it will take your recycled blue jeans quilt to the next level.
A lot of upcycled denim quilts don’t incorporate quilt blocks at all, and there’s definitely a place for that. A strip-pieced denim quilt, or one that’s a patchwork of simple squares or triangles, is beautiful and fun and a great beginning sewing project.
And it’s true that many quilt blocks don’t lend themselves to being sewn with denim. Denim is a LOT thicker than quilting cotton, and the seams, in particular, can get very bulky. Fussy, intricate cuts with lots of seams don’t tend to work well.
However, you’ll find that there are a lot of denim quilt blocks that turn out beautifully. Sure, you may not get the same variety in color and prints that you do with quilting cotton. However, there are a lot of tones–and even colors!–of blue jeans out there in the world. Light blue and navy give interesting contrast, as do stonewashed black and deep black.
For the best results, look for a quilt block that works well with a limited color palette and few seams or intricate cuts. Also consider upsizing your quilt block. You’ll notice that almost all of the quilt blocks I’m going to show you I’ve made several inches larger than you usually see them. The extra room makes the bulky seams much more manageable (although I still somehow didn’t line up all the triangle points on that star quilt block, grr!).
Here are some of my favorite quilt blocks for sewing with upcycled denim:
Remember I told you that you can upsize your quilt blocks? Yeah, the strips I’m using for this log cabin quilt (leftover from the strip quilts I made my kids) are six inches wide! If I’m feeling fancy, I might incorporate a few 3″ strips. But dang if those 6″ strips don’t make sewing a king-sized quilt a LOT quicker!
You’ll notice that as the log cabin quilt block grows, I need to piece together the strips that form each side. I’m doing it patchwork-style, but you can make the piecing practically invisible by using strips from the same pair of blue jeans.
The fun thing about the log cabin quilt block is that there are tons of variations. Here’s how to get started with a traditional log cabin quilt block, although this Courthouse Steps variation is just as easy.
This herringbone quilt block is going to become part of a table runner! If I start my next block with the same denim that I used to end this block, the join will be barely noticeable.
The herringbone quilt block is a little fussier, and requires some careful measuring and cutting. Add that to the fact that you’ll also likely be upsizing the block, and you’ll probably deduce that this quilt block isn’t for beginners. For a confident sewer who’s ready to learn a few new tricks, however, here’s an excellent walk-through of the process. You don’t have to have one of those fancy quilting rulers called for in the tutorial to make this block, but not gonna lie–it really does help!
Half-Square Triangle Star
You can make a lot of lovely quilt blocks using the half-square triangle, but this star quilt block is one of my favorites. This particular block is on its way to becoming a throw pillow!
The denim color is really important here, and you do need two to three distinct colors to make it work. This would be a terrific quilt block to make if you come across a few pairs of colored denim jeans. I’m very happy, however, with the two different tones of black that I found to make my star!
If you become as obsessed with half-square triangles as I am, check out this entire Pinboard of half-square triangle quilts! Just remember when you’re searching for a project to keep in mind the limited yardage and color palette of your own upcycled denim stash. Choose a quilt block pattern that fits what you’ve got.
Even More Quilt Blocks Suitable for Upcycled Denim
- Hidden Wells. I love that you can use any patchwork pieces to make this, and the result is a wide variety of perfectly matching quilt blocks! Since there’s a lot of piecing happening you do have to watch out for that bulky seam issue. Upsizing your block helps a lot.
- Little Houses. Here’s the perfect cute quilt block with a limited color palette and not too many seams.
- nine-patch. This quilt block requires only two colors and is super easy to size up or down. I like to use a nine-patch quilt block to make potholders, and denim is a particularly great fabric choice for that.