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   Make a jean quilt Posted by Chica 
January 17, 2008 
Chica
 

Toolbox

  • lots of old jeans
  • sewing machine and thread
  • polyester quilt batting
  • large safety pins
  • fabric to use on the back

Photos

  • Jean seams
    Fig 1: The two types of seams
  • Placing the pattern
    Fig 2: Placing the pattern
  • The quilt stitching
    Fig 3: Yellow shows the stitch lines
  • Lots of squares
    Fig 4: Lots of squares
  • Red bandana fabric
    Fig 5: Red bandanna fabric
  • The finished product
    Fig 6: The finished product

I bet if you look in your closet, you’ll find at least one or two pairs of old jeans you should get rid of. Maybe they don’t fit anymore, maybe they have holes, or maybe they’re no longer in style. No matter the reason for no longer wearing your jeans, there’s still a way to use them.

I saved my old jeans for about a year (and took donations from friends) in order to get enough for the project I had in mind, which was a large jean quilt. The result was so much more wonderful that I had even imagined!

The biggest element to this task is, of course, collecting the old jeans. Depending on the size of quilt you want, you’ll need many pairs. My quilt is about 6′ x 6′, and has 144 six-inch squares in it. I found that I could get about 4 squares out of a pair of jeans, so I needed about 36 pairs for the whole project. That may seem like a lot, but if you start asking your friends to keep an eye out for discarded jeans, you’ll find that you reach your goal sooner than you thought. You can always adjust your finished quilt size to suit the amount of material you have, too. If you get impatient, you could also try local salvage stores or look for bulk used jeans on eBay.

Once you have enough jeans gathered for your quilt, start by making a pattern. I wanted my finished squares to each be 6″ x 6″, so I made my pattern 7″ x 7″, which gave me a half-inch seam allowance around all edges. I cut the pattern out of card stock.

Then I took a pair of jeans and laid it out to see how I wanted to cut my squares. Most jeans will have two two types of seams (Fig 1). The one on the outside of the leg is usually cleaner, and the one on the inside of the leg has the double stitching. I decided I wanted to feature the double-stitched seam on my square, so I cut the pant leg apart along the other seam, to give me a large surface to work with.

I then took my pattern card and positioned it on the material and turned it until I got the desired impact. I decided I wanted my seam to go diagonally across the square. (I kept the seam out of the corners, though, because I knew that much bulk in the corners would make the squares very hard to sew.) Once I had the pattern card positioned the way I wanted it, I drew a line on it to mark where the seam was, so that I could easily make all the squares match as I cut them (Fig 2).

Then the lengthy task of cutting the squares began. I would lay my pattern over the jeans and trace around it with a marker, then cut them out. Denim is tough, so make sure you have some good fabric scissors that can handle it! Cut however many squares you will need for the quilt you want to make. As I mentioned before, my quilt was 12 squares wide and 12 squares long, which meant 144 squares. Whew!

Once all the pieces were cut out, I began sewing them into strips of 12. I highly recommend you use a sewing machine for this, because it would be way too hard to sew by hand. Once the strips were done, I sewed them together into a large sheet. Remember as you grab each square that you should pull them from the pile randomly. Some of your squares will be darker and others lighter. You want to mix them up really well so that you get a nice pattern across the quilt.

When I finished sewing all the squares together into a sheet, I was ready to start assembling the layers of my quilt. I started with the fabric that I wanted to use for the back of the quilt. I found some fabric that was printed to look like a red bandanna, and I loved it the moment I saw it. I knew it would look just right with the jeans. It wasn’t wide enough to cover the whole quilt, but it was easy enough to sew two lengths together to make a wider sheet. My finished size on the bandanna fabric was quite a bit larger than the quilt (7′ x 7′) because I wanted to leave lots of extra on the edges to use for the trim. So I laid the bandanna fabric down on the floor, wrong side up. I then topped it with a 6′ x 6′ piece of polyester quilt batting. Finally, I put down my giant sheet of jean squares, right side up.

With my three layers in place on the floor, I then started pinning them together with large safety pins. I put one pin in each square, so that I could be sure the layers weren’t going to slide around on me.

The next step was to actually quilt the fabric. This involves sewing all three layers together, using some pattern for the stitching. I again opted for machine sewing, and I knew that I wanted to follow the pattern of the squares. I decided to sew long diagonal rows of stitches across the entire quilt, matching the diagonal seams along each square. Figure 3 shows the stitch lines marked in yellow, so that you can see how I did it. I just fed the quilt through the machine over and over, until the whole thing was covered in diagonal stitch lines.

The only thing left now was finishing off the seams. First I trimmed the layer of batting that stuck out so that there was about 1 inch showing all the way around. I then cut the red bandanna fabric so that it stuck out 2 inches beyond that (3 inches total). I then folded the red fabric over the exposed batting, folding the edge of the red under for a nice seam, and making sure that it went in far enough to cover at least 1/2 inch of the jeans. I pinned that down and took it back to the sewing machine, where I ran a line of stitching all the way around, securing the seams in place.

The finished quilt (Fig 4-6) is unbelievably tough, durable, and warm. It’s also quite beautiful and fun! The denim is so heavy that it covers you well and warms you up quickly. I’ve had this quilt for years, and it’s my favorite blanket in the house.

embroidered jean quiltUpdate!

I revisited this project idea in December, when I made my niece her own kid-sized jean quilt with embroidered designs on the blocks.

Read my follow-up post titled Make an embroidered jean quilt for details and more photos.

27 comments so far:

  1. chris said: (February 6th, 2008 at 10:17 am)

    Wow I have made rag quilts using denim, but I always cut away my seams. I would have never even thought to work with them!

    What a great idea! I still have a large pile of jeans left and may even try this one some day.

    Thanks for the instructions, they are easy to follow.

    Take care, and go create something today.

  2. Chica said: (February 6th, 2008 at 1:48 pm)

    Thanks for the nice comments, Chris! I don’t remember what made me think of using the seams in the first place… I think the design just flowed naturally. Either way, I’m happy I did it, because I love the effect. :)

  3. Jill Moser said: (February 26th, 2008 at 1:19 pm)

    That looks great!!! I recently made a toddler quilt out of jeans from family members!!! I put fleece on the back and no batting( it was heavy enough). Around the outside rows,I put a pocket patch. One of the pockets(it was from corduroy shorts)had an inside pocket. To form the border, I cut 6″x2″ strips(from my stash) and sewed them together and made 6″ at the corners. Then I sewed right sides together and turned it near the inside pocket. I cut the bottom off of the pocket, pulled the open sides through, sewed it, pulled the side back out and sewed the pocket shut and tucked it back inside. The Shorts came from the child’s deceased Grandfather and on the plain side,I embroidered his monogram and put it in the center(or close to it)!!! Some of the strips came from projects that I made for him and his brother and even his mother. Then ,I’m sorry to say,I tied the corners with yarn. I wasn’t sure I could quilt it because of the bulk at the corners. I’t looks very nice and was a nice keepsake for him!!

  4. Chica said: (February 26th, 2008 at 2:48 pm)

    Hi Jill. What a lovely idea to make the quilt personalized with jeans from family members! We’d love to see a picture of your quilt if you can.

  5. Jill Moser said: (February 27th, 2008 at 3:56 pm)

    Sorry Chica, that blanket is in Boston and I’m in PA. I finished in time for Christmas and my friend took it for her grandson. I could kick myself now for not taking a picture of it!!!!
    There may be another one in my future and you can be sure I will take a picture of that one!!!!

  6. mopzsix said: (May 2nd, 2008 at 1:54 pm)

    awsome quilt
    i have wanted to do this for a while i have over 500 6×6 squares for my quilt now i just have to put it together you have gotten me inspired to really start putting it together you tips on how you did it will really help me out
    thank you so much
    debbie j

  7. Delsie said: (June 22nd, 2008 at 11:37 am)

    HI!!… I made one out my husbands old jeans that I had saved for a couple years, but i ripped all the seams out of them… you know there was almost an inch extra fabric!! I used a pinwheel pattern and alternated with solid blocks. The effect was pretty nice (i thought). HOWEVER the corners got really thick in a couple of the blocks making it tough to get the needle thru. If i had it to do over I would use only the “simple” pinwheel pattern.
    Delsie

  8. Chica said: (June 22nd, 2008 at 4:31 pm)

    Delsie, I know what you mean about getting too thick to sew. Denim sure adds up fast! Your quilt sounds really neat. I’d love to see a picture if you’ve got one :)

  9. Chica said: (June 27th, 2008 at 7:52 am)

    Delsie sent me a photo of her quilt and it’s so pretty! Take a look here

  10. Chica said: (July 29th, 2008 at 4:13 pm)

    I found a new product that helps a TON with sewing denim. It turns out they make special blue jean thread (available here and here) that’s super strong and matches the gold-colored top-stitching on your jeans. I’ve sewn a bunch of jeans with this thread now and it never breaks on me. I love it!

    I wish I’d had this stuff back when I made my quilt. The diagonal quilt stitching would’ve looked awesome with this thread.

  11. Priscilla said: (December 2nd, 2008 at 2:56 pm)

    I have been collecting jeans for some time and my late husband went to a goodwill store and got some they were throwing away. It has been interesting in putting it together….I have saved the top pockets for several other projects that are fun to do and useful…..I love the way your seams turned out…..and yes very warm

  12. Min said: (March 9th, 2009 at 7:36 pm)

    Very fun! I am making a queen-size jean quilt, I have the top of it finished. I used seams, pockets, rivets, everything in my squares and it is so cute and quirky. (but you have to be careful sewing some of them or you’ll break your sewing machine needle) I even left belt loops attached and tacked them down to the next square. I alternated jean squares with a cute blue Moda fabric with red flowers; the back will be red flannel. (My local thrift store saves old ripped jeans and gives them away for crafting by the garbage bag-full. Ask at your local thrift stores! They’d probably be happy to find a use for things.) Anyway, your tutorial will really help me with the backing and batting since it’s my first large quilt~thanks!

  13. Chica said: (March 10th, 2009 at 6:18 am)

    Min, your quilt sounds great! We’d love to see a picture when you’re done. I’ve certainly tried shopping for jeans at thrift stores, but I never thought of asking them for torn jeans. What a fantastic idea!

  14. Christine said: (December 8th, 2009 at 2:22 pm)

    I love this site! I am 19 years old and have only recently been interested in crafts. I had quite a few pairs of torn jeans and stumbled onto this site after so many others and fell in love! I love how it really breaks down everything into easy, simple steps. THANK YOU!!!

  15. Chica said: (December 8th, 2009 at 2:32 pm)

    Thank you so much for the nice comments, Christine. We’re always glad to hear about budding crafters, and thrilled that we can inspire you. Why not subscribe via RSS or e-mail so you don’t miss any of our new projects? :)

  16. Lydia said: (February 6th, 2010 at 4:49 pm)

    I went to the trift store today to get some jeans for this project and have found long jean skirts to also be a great source of fabric (fewer seams)!
    This is going to be fun.

  17. Chica said: (February 7th, 2010 at 1:56 pm)

    Lydia, that’s a great idea!

  18. sheryl said: (March 10th, 2010 at 1:22 pm)

    Our hard drive crashed. We lost everything. I looked high and low for this site. I had it as one of my favorite. I love your ideas. Thank you.

  19. Chica said: (March 10th, 2010 at 1:27 pm)

    sheryl, I’m so glad you found us again! :)

  20. Angel "98" said: (January 2nd, 2011 at 3:06 pm)

    I was wondering if you could use little kids blue jeans

  21. Chica said: (January 2nd, 2011 at 3:38 pm)

    Sure, you can use any jeans you have on hand. The pieces will just be smaller if the jeans are tiny :)

  22. Marlene said: (January 16th, 2012 at 4:31 pm)

    I keep finding new things as I look through your site. I wish you were my neighbors!!!! LOL

  23. Chica said: (January 16th, 2012 at 6:00 pm)

    Marlene, we’re glad you are enjoying the site :)

  24. Lesley said: (July 31st, 2012 at 10:08 pm)

    Hi,I am new to quilting and was wondering how far apart you made your seams in the quilting stage of this project?

  25. Chica said: (August 2nd, 2012 at 7:00 am)

    Lesley, I think the quilting lines were around 2 or 3 inches apart, but the real guideline I used was the original side seam from the jeans. Everywhere I had a side seam showing, I put a row of stitches.

  26. Cami said: (October 4th, 2012 at 8:47 pm)

    hey i was just wondering how u attached the squares into strips of 12? what did u do with the frayed edges of the squares?

  27. Chica said: (October 5th, 2012 at 8:16 am)

    Cami, I sewed the squares together by putting them with right sides together, sewing one edge, then opening it up to lay flat. The frayed edges are then underneath and never show.

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