Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Recycled Jean Denim Quilt - Part I

Alas, my lovely EarnestSewn jeans that are no more!
Full disclosure: I have never, ever made a quilt before. I can sew (sails, to be precise, on great big sewing machines with clutches and the ability to sew through the bones of your finger; and I can also do repair work and hemming. But actual full-sized quilts...?!)

I believe all craft projects, like cooking, should be pursued with reckless abandon. It's either going to work, or it's going to fail (often dramatically)!

An old pair of pants & the first pair of jeans to bite the dust. 8" x 8" template.

I go through jeans like nobody's business. I always wear them out in the exact same place, leading me to believe that I have oddly shaped thighs that rub in a very specific location only. There's always this one worn spot on each leg, and try as I might, patching never seems to work.

I also have the habit of buying cheap jeans. I bought very expensive jeans once (and I loved them!), but their fine denim wore out as fast (if not faster) than the $30-40 ones I've been buying recently. So maybe there's little correlation to the cost of the jeans and the actual wear-time (unless we're talking utility-grade jeans from a warehouse store or something). Regardless, I have managed to amass a great pile of sad, holey jeans, and I really wanted to put them to use, especially the expensive ones that I once loved so much!

Anyway, I did a quick search online and found a few absolutely hideous and terrible uses for scrap denim. Then I came across a quilt idea, which was somewhat inspiring. It wasn't the most beautiful thing, but then I remembered this gorgeous handmade quilt a friend of mine had whose Mom had stitched it together from old, softened collared shirts collected from thrift stores. I knew I couldn't beat that, but maybe I could make something even half as cool. I guess we'll find out together!

I started this project on an off-day (i.e. I was feeling sick, and lying on the couch watching "The Price is Right" wasn't helping). Chopping up old jeans turned out to be pretty therapeutic and didn't require much energy (which is perfect when you're feeling under the weather but are quite bored). I was surprised at how many 8" x 8" squares I could get out of my jeans! (Are my thighs THAT big?!). Turns out there's quite a lot of material making up those slim-fitting skinny jeans! See below...

I easily got ten 8" x 8" squares out of size 28 'skinny' jeans

With three pairs of jeans at my disposal (plus two 'legs' left over from making cut-offs), I figured I may not have enough for a Queen-sized bedspread, but I would have enough for a beach or picnic blanket. And it turns out that cutting squares of denim from old jeans is an activity I rather enjoy.

I haven't gotten very far at all yet (I've only just cut the squares and played around with arrangements), but I have been trying to learn some basics of quilting online. It seems to me that the way to do it is to sewn the squares together into long strips the length or breadth of the quilt, and then to sew the long strips together along their edges. Makes sense I suppose - probably at lot less likely to get all warped and bumpy, like it might if you sewed on each square individually.

Not being a perfectionist, I won't mind much if the corners don't meet up exactly. This quilt will very likely live in the back of the car, or will be dragged to and from Kits beach all summer long. I haven't exactly worked out how I'll back the thing, either - at first I thought I'd sew together similar sized squares (like in that check print from those old pants I also cut up), but it might be easier (and more fun) to buy a vintage bedsheet or old curtain from the Salvation Army Thrift Store and stitch that on the back instead. I suppose I could even sandwich in an ugly old blanket for some bulk between the layers.

One thing that strikes me is the variation in the colours - I only had dark-wash jeans, and though the colour varied slightly between each pair, the insides varied even more, giving me a palette of 6 different shades to work with. Kind of a happy surprise, that!

I also kept the pockets. I'm sure the annoying little metal spurs will only irritate me as I try to doze on this at the beach, but then I also thought of hiding things in the pockets down the road (mostly stuff that would appeal to small children - candies, coins and that sort of thing). And I have to admit that the novelty of it got the better of me. I plan on arranging the pockets so that they all open in the same direction as well. I suppose I could wedge in a bottle of sunscreen or a tube of lip gloss at the beach (or more likely, my bookmark, because I can never find where I put those down!).

So that's it for now! I think this makes a great rainy-day project. I can't wait to triumphantly reveal the completed project, which in all likelihood will never actually happen. But hope springs eternal, what?

EarnestSewn jeans are really awesome, but not cheap. Au revoir mon ami! A bientot!
(Another great rainy-day time killer is PG Wodehouse. I love Wodehouse. I also love The Drones Club random Wodehouse quote generator. If you're strange like me, you'll love it!).

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