When we left off, I was in creative retreat so I could work in an unhurried, peaceful environment.

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Wawayanda Lake, NJ

I had no particular plans, just a lot of materials.

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Back, or “patch” pockets

After making perhaps 10 denim quilts over two years, I’ve amassed collections of parts.  I’m inspired by that which seems unusable, like buttons and zippers.  Buttons are a lot like coins: they’re weighty, pleasingly embellished, and in accumulation create a treasure chest effect.  Eventually having them around resulted in this

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I’ve also been accumulating inside front pockets

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and discovered that these not-quite half moon, not quite quarter-circle sections of denim on plain cotton make a nice composition on their own …

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as a four point star.

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With this inspiration, I found myself joining together as many as I could.  It was not especially easy or fun.  I wanted the watch pockets and rivets in there for texture and variation, but this upped the difficulty ante, so that needle heartbreak waited over every pass.  Modest Machine gamely grinded over the varying levels of fabric density like a mower over a dry rocky lawn.  Eventually a payoff came in visual impact as they multiplied.

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Since the jeans and pockets were different sizes, the resulting star squares went from small to large.  Dipping into my denim stash, I gave each a wide border, adding tonal variation with different fades.

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Staggered, the borders gave a sense of movement to the stars, but I chose to collapse them into an overall square.

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I wanted to use as much of the original source material as possible. Lots of lining remained because of the emphasis on denim thus far.  Usually the back of a quilt is a simple muslim or sheet … why not piece all the pocket scraps together?  It would be smooth sailing for my little machine; the fabric was all the same weight.

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So began another painstaking demonstration of the scrappiness of quilting

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Why discard a piece with printing or graphics for added interest …

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Compositionally this part was more fun than the stars on the front

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And when it reached the size of the front piece

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I wasn’t sure which I liked better … each can stand (or lie) on its own

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Completed July 27

If I had to classify it I’d call it a throw. When not thrown it folds up rather tidily. There is one more quilt I finished while on my peaceful retreat.  I’ll write about that next but will leave you with a summer sunset for now.

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July 26

 

 

 

 

A highlight of my summer was about 17 days (but who’s counting) at my lakeside weekend home in New Jersey.

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Evening, July 10

My husband joined me on the weekends, but the rest of the time was my own, and I used it as a creative retreat.  I had two cats with me, family nearby, some wonderful neighbors, and nothing but the cycling days and nights to fill as I wished.  It was bliss.

The weekend prior I brought up a bunch of materials

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I have been cutting up jeans, khaki’s, cargo shorts and more for 10 years.  In this time, my house has been blighted with clothes moths.  Enter Container Store.

As fabric is my medium, this is my method

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Modest Machine

Two items in my materials seemed to float to the top. My younger son (known as Chuck) recently castoff a pair of cargo shorts. My painterly friend Chuck gave me a canvas remnant scored with an island of red paint. These became my starting points.

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Using a seam ripper, I completely took apart the shorts, section by section.

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Belt loops

Preparing the fabric is observational and contemplative.  Handling it I note its surface feel, weight, mobility. With each change in geometry and line I imagine new arrangements, and fabrics to enhance the bright red island. It takes most of the first day to take the shorts apart.

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Waistband, cargo pockets, zipper fly, hems, and belt loops all give way to my seam ripper, lint roll, and iron.

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These were well worn shorts. I’m not sure why they stopped returning value to my Chuck, but for me this new form is tremendously pleasing. I love its furry softness and the rippling gradations in the fade.

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The rabbit munching in the grass every day probably put me in mind of a red clover print in my stash, luckily in one of the containers I brought along. These were from a pair of jeans (pocket lining) I wore in the long long ago, before children. Turns out this is why I saved them.

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At some point in my process there’s a shift from taking apart to putting together. In this case it was when I noticed the pocket flaps had clipped corners. Modest Machine roared to life to attach pocket lining to create 90 degree angles. I’m enjoying now how they look like old fashioned photo mounts.

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I still felt one more element was needed for the composition.  Some painted denim from my inspiring friend Chuck seemed to fit, with its grey and blue hues

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Then in a pretty continuous flow Modest Machine and I joined the elements together

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Surrounding the center island atoll

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Buddy checked frequently for surface feel.

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Until it was done (about 22 hours, but who’s counting), and as close to square as I’ve ever come with a quilt.The border includes a jeans leg where Chuck painted a blue rectangle.

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That’s Chuck Squared. Backing is an old sheet. The fill, as always, 100% cotton batting, as this is a small quilt/blanket/throw.   Coming very soon a post on the project that came on the heels of this one. Let me know what you think in the comments, and here’s your bonus shot for reading to the end!

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The deck at night, July 11

 

 

 

 

Commissions are wonderful because I get paid. This helps cover basics like electricity, thread, machine maintenance, and lint rollers. Thanks to the interwebs it means people from different locales can commission a quilt, so that Patwig pieces travel, my expressive little denim ambassadors, far and wide.

So it was with this second commission for Gretchen from Texas.  She contacted me to make quilts from jeans saved up through the lives of her two sons, now men

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She also shared this photo with me because I had expressed curiosity about her sons. What an amazing picture.  I see their smiling faces, an easy camaraderie, and imagine them horsing around, since I’ve raised two boys of my own.  I see the jeans and wonder whether they were among the 34 pair I painstakingly disassembled over 30 hours. Then I see the gun, and am reminded anew at what different lives we all live in this vast country.  I remember discussions with other parents of my sons’ friends when they were small about whether or not to provide toy guns for play.  People had strong feelings, to put it mildly.  My general feeling is that I don’t wish to impose my opinions and beliefs on other people. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa, but we make choices as we live our lives and as long as you do not cause harm to other people, so be it.

But I didn’t get the picture until after this quilt, for her second son, was done. The first, for her oldest, was all jeans, and she had suggested I focus on the imperfections

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It’s pretty tonal, with lots of texture

But for this quilt, other fabrics and colors expanded the possibilities

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I set them out this way to get a quick visualization of whether there would be enough for a wide border … the answer was yes

And she sent items that had sentimental meaning

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I can picture a little boy decked out in this adorable apron “helping” his mom in the kitchen.  The keffiyeh was acquired hiking through Petra in Jordan

The keffiyeh reminded me of a pairing I made a few years back of a strong red Marimekko pattern with denim

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Still one of my favorites

and I was inspired to mix up all these new fabrics and see how they moved together.

For the most part I liked what was happening, but it’s always good to check in with the client, and it turned out Gretchen felt there was “too much going on.”  Wanting her to be as happy with it as she was with the first, which was mostly due to its tonality, I took out most of the color

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and arranged the quiltop in sections, or vignettes …

like the first quilt, it included denim representation of Mom and Dad ^… and had some strong forms, like the almost white leg below that looks like a handsaw

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Until it was done

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And she told me she LOVED it.  If you love it, share with others!  Thanks as always for reading to the end.

 

 

 

 

 

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There will be quilts, around 15 (!), but I’ll also have smaller gift items expressly made for the sale, including wine gift bags

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and variously sized E-reader cases

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But it’s not just about me.  Sally Kay who is graciously hosting, creates unique jewelry designs  in gold and semi precious stones, and Studio E Downtown crafts collage cards inspired by postage stamps.  Three individuals creating unique designs in New York City.

Come on by and say hello!

It’s been a long time since I was inspired to write about a quilt project. Instead I’ve been taking fabric expeditions with my ever growing collection of discarded textiles, like this composition featuring jeans buttons:

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Or these crochet experiments with t-shirts:

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Turtle shells for cats?

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Crochet webbing for a beach chair?

Then Gretchen from Texas found me in the wild world of Etsy.  She had saved her sons’ jeans and wanted to turn them into quilts.  After a vetting chat, she sent me a box packed with about 35 pair.  The first set, from her oldest son, ranged in size from 4/5 years to men’s 36/34.  So I set my t-shirts aside and devoted myself to ripping out jeans seams.

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She wrote her son’s initials, CHC, on the waistbands.

I started with those adorable legs …

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Arranged in different ways until ideas emerged …

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In our chat Gretchen said to “focus on the imperfections.”   This excellent advice became my mantra as I chose what to draw attention to….

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Like the glorious deep blue indigo revealed when seams were opened

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and Matisse cut outs began dancing through my head.

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And so it went, until I had assembled a variety of vignettes,

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texting Gretchen along the way for feedback.  Luckily she was positive, so it was time to assemble a whole …

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which was to be queen size. I created a border surround with the biggest legs to highlight the center design.

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In spite of Buddy’s assistance, figuring out that center design was the toughest part.

One element was “a little bit of Mom and Dad.”

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This bit of Mom and Dad buttoned together nicely could stand on its own as a little accent pillow.

Not without a little struggle (isn’t that the point?), a whole did come together,

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and on the whole, I think it turned out well.

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What do you think?

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I really would like to know.  You can comment (click on the number to the right of the date, above) if you like.  Or, share with one or two friends you think might enjoy it.  If you REALLY REALLY like it, post on your preferred social media.  In any case, thank you for reading to the end!

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As summer filtered away into deepest August, Rod from Carson City, Nevada decided to do something about a lingering idea.  His used jeans pile had grown to 15 after going through his right knee at least as many times and he had been searching for someone to, in his words, “assemble them into a quilt versus discarding them.” Cue the vast and wonderful interwebs, which led him to my email.

I wish I had taken a picture of the box .... maybe 18 inches square and weighing about 26 pounds (according to the UPS label)

I wish I had taken a picture of the box – maybe 18 inches square and 26 pounds (according to the UPS label)

And so it was that come fall, I opened a box to find multiple Levi’s (size 34-32), Lee, Kirkland (the Costco brand – thanks Lori!), GAP (relaxed fit), and Joseph Abboud jeans.  Rod’s jeans were all retired around the same level of wear (right knee out of most, left in some), some with dark brown spot stains (Rod guessed paint, or maybe blood?  He’s a hunter), all neatly folded.  The charge at this juncture:  pattern ideas for Rod choose from.

This beginning stage of a project is always the most fun for my smallest household residents.

This beginning stage of a project is always the most fun for my smallest household residents.

This random arrangement of legs in rows reminded me of a Diamond in the Square wall hanging I made a few years ago

The stripes are men's shirt plackets and the border peicing is men's shirt cuffs

Stripes = men’s shirt plackets and border = men’s shirt cuffs

and I wondered if this quilt style would work in this setting.  After checking with Rod (and marveling yet again at the trust people place in strangers), it was a go for my first Denim Diamond in the Square.

I cut the segments much more neatly

At least the math was relatively easy. I went for the longest strips given the 32″ inseam. Placket-narrow wouldn’t work here, but 3-5 inch widths seemed about right.

I cut sections for fade, wear, stain spots, and pockets until there were enough for four quadrants.

Alternating light and dark is a tried and true method for ...

This looks nice and orderly, but after the cut …

I used a rotary cutter on the diagonal resulting in 8 triangles

Cut and flipped, the quadrant becomes a Diamond in the Square

… it looks so much livelier.  And now for the fun, or paradox, of quilting … sewing pieces back together

Four diagonal cuts of squares result in eight sides of triangles needing seams

Four diagonal cuts of squares resulted in eight sides of triangles needing seams

This takes time:  two triangles are placed right side against each other, care is taken that seam presses are all laying in the right direction, then sides are pinned together  to hold through the machine

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Until a diamond appears.

I don’t know how well pictures and words convey the literally painstaking (needles, knees on the floor) nature of this process, but it’s a good example of how a word like “painstaking” arose in our shared language

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Corner triangles are added one at a time to the diamond

As the whole grows in size, it pays to carefully fold it up at each step both to keep it straight and facilitate feeding through Modest Machine.

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My workspace isn’t big enough to lay out a project this size, so I walk back and forth, project in hands, from my college son’s vacant room to my workspace.

Unfortunately for my knees, this tedious work is best not interrupted because the concentration and resulting work quality might not return in matching levels.  So I keep at it until all sides are done.

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For everyone who asks me how long a quilt takes: sewing these eight triangles together took about four hours.

Quilt folkways generally call for a border around a design, so it’s time to confer with Rod.  He agrees with my recommendation of a simple “strip” border, and so I paw through the pieces that remain.  This turns out to be a good way to deploy the decorative potential of all those jeans pockets.

This "strip" border is actually a block border, a good deployment of the decorative potential of jean pockets

The pocket areas add visual interest, but a look at the underside shows all those layers that complicate sewing and make jeans a difficult clothing item to repurpose

I probably spent more time than absolutely necessary selecting pieces for the border, but this part of the process was fun, and I was seeking a feeling of balance

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Joining, sewing, and iron pressing continues until the border lengths surround all four sides, which means the quiltop is done

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Now for a quick review of the end process that returning Patwig readers may recall:

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Finished quiltop is placed, right side up, on batting

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Backing is placed right side down on quiltop and layers are pinned together around perimeter, leaving 12-18 inch opening on one side

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And it’s back to Modest Machine for sewing twice all the way around. I’m feeling kind of just-shoot-me-now at this point.

Until that’s done, and I’ll leave off the last tedious details to show the finished quilt …

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….and with this view I appreciate it much more, and the work it represents.  I hope Rod from Carson City is enjoying its use, and that you enjoyed reading about its creation.  Thanks for reading to the end.  If you want to be sure to see more of my projects, scroll down and hit the Sign Me Up! button to subscribe, and when I publish it will come to your email automatically.

 

 

Linda came back to me around this time last year with an armful of stuffed plastic bags and a twinkle in her eye.  She had an idea:  a wall hanging using her mother’s old scarves and rhinestone buttons.

In her bags were buttons, which were a marvel unto themselves

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I probably spent the better part of a day arranging and rearranging these on my worktable

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I wanted to make a wreath somehow with them, but that wasn’t what Linda wanted

And there were more scarves, even after her project from last year

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This was sheer, so I backed it with black fusible interface

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Some were cut for a section of their design, like the one here for its polka dots

There was even a rhinestone belt, which she hoped could be used for the tabs to hang the finished piece on a rod

How could this be done? Twist around the rod?

How could this be done? Twist around the rod?

And best of all, she knew how she wanted to apply the buttons …as the center of fabric flowers!  The mission was clear, I just had to figure out a way to do it.  I won’t show you the how, because it involved flame and I don’t want anyone to start a fire on account of my shenanigans.  If you’re so inclined, after doing a little googling, you could find a tutorial, too.

So it was that flowers began to proliferate, and eventually each paired up with a matching button

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The size she specified for the finished piece wasn’t huge, in fact it was a mere 22/23 inches square, while I was abundantly supplied with 30+ buttons and 25 scarves.  How to arrange so many elements in such a small space?  Somehow I had to simplify it.  Eliminating the solid color scarves, which already were appearing as flowers, I chose a square representative sample of each

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and kept going to fill in a grid as background to the flowers

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Now for the floral arrangement.  Big bouquet?

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A smattering here and there?

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At this point I texted Linda to see what she preferred.  While I waited to hear back I began to play  with a color wheel border

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And tabs had to be fashioned out of that rhinestone belt (this was also something I don’t need to do again),

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Then Linda chose to place one flower in each square

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Best of all she was happy with the final product and bargain price given the work involved.  I haven’t made fabric flowers since then. Looking at the finished piece now, I think I like the border the best.  There are just so many ways to vary the entire composition.  What a riot of color to remember a woman who loved her scarves, her garden, her clothes, and colorful designs!

It has occurred to me time and again over the last many months that I haven’t posted anything quilty since before I put up that “most inspiring blogger” patch (thanks again Tall Tales!).

These pics are mostly for my followers, who signed up, I presume, because they wanted to see more of my creative process.  Thank you for following me!  Here are  some quick pics of what I’ve been doing since the last peep.  I’m not sure which one to write about yet.  Why don’t you let me know which one you’d like to see and read more about?  Please comment here or email me at patwig63@gmail.com.  And Happy Summer!

Playing with remnants from clothes

Playing with clothing remnants.  Click for a closer look.

Flowers made by melting edges of poly scarves over a candle

Flowers made by melting edges of poly scarves over a candle flame.  The client wanted flowers, so after googling, I adapted a burning method.  Do NOT try this at home!

playing again with clothing remnants, this time the unfolded hems, side seams and waistlines from jeans

More play with clothing remnants, here the unfolded hems and side seams from jeans

My latest commission which took about 3 months to make

My latest commission took about 3 months to make, from scarves, a skirt and curtains.

Sometimes lovely things seem to appear from nowhere … as this weekend, when I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by a fellow quilter, Tall Tales From Chiconia.  Thank you for your kind words Tall Tales!

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Apparently once one receives this honor, there are things you must do, in addition to simply being inspiring in the blogosphere.  It’s a little bit like all those copy and paste status thingys people put on Facebook.  Well, I’ll play, ’cause I get to display this cool award sticker.

First, you nominate other blogs that inspire you!  This is the spreading the love part.  Herewith, in no particular order  ….

Andrea Feucht

Traveling Academy

BEXJ80

Vicky Myers Creations

Andrea Works … And Writes, And Runs

Improvised Life

Start Making Sense

Things Organized Neatly

Unconsumption

Crazy Mom Quilts

Sarah the Gardener

The Cool Cat Blog

Neenah Paper

The Full Circles Blog

And the other thing is to list 7 interesting things about yourself.  Herewith, though I’m not sure how interesting it is …

1.  I like to chop wood

2.  As an adult, I have had 12 feline companions

3.  I pick up pennies on the sidewalk

4.  I fell in love with brussell sprouts in my 40s

5.  My favorite movie is Room With a View

6.  I like looking for worms in old leaf piles

7.   If my first child had been a girl, I would have named him Celia

Levi's backside = icon

I love denim.  I love it new and deeply saturated, I love it softly threadbare.  I love the gradations of blue.  Perhaps as a child of the 70s I just have jeans in my blood.

A recent Sunday found me and my quilts at Greenflea market on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, where an amiable man named Donald stopped to look at the quilts on the table and the fence.

The patchwork in the foreground is made from jeans, khaki's, canvas shorts, and upholstery samples

The patchwork on the table in the foreground is composed of jeans, khaki’s, canvas shorts, and upholstery samples

“If I gave you a bunch of jeans could you make me a quilt like that?” he asked.  This is music to Patwig’s ears.  I truly enjoy giving new form to clothes that would otherwise be discarded.  And I like the surprises and challenge in coaxing something from a given pile of cast-offs.  A few emails later I had these on my worktable.

7 pairs jeans and cut-offs and 14 legs

Seven pairs of jeans and cut-offs and 14 legs, most blue and black, with one pair of corduroys and one pair of white denim in the mix.  Donald wanted something that looked like the finished quilt he saw at Greenflea, but with a uniform border, for which he provided a yard-or-so of soft blue fabric.

One of the tricky bits about working with clothes, because of their shape and the need to cut unusable parts away, is that it’s not always clear how much is needed.

The legs were readily arranged

Donald wanted the finished quilt to be 75 x 80 inches

A quick arrangement of these cut legs helped me eyeball that there would be enough material to achieve the desired size.  So I paired up pockets from different pairs of jeans.

Probably because I started with a grid-ish structure, I alternated colors

Definitely needed to keep those iconic Levi’s tags

Some of the pocket areas were quite worn, so I repaired them with a bit of fabric underneath and a zig-zag stitch

This piece looks like it might have an ink stain in the rear right pocket.  Remember when we used to carry pens in our back pockets?

After much arranging and contemplating, I sewed until there were several rows, a beginning for the center of a queen bed.  I thought this a good time to check with Donald to see if I was barking up the right tree, so I emailed him a picture of what I had so far.

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He said it looked OK, but a bit boring, given the orderly grid.  He also wanted more emphasis on the blues and less on the orange and white, which made up the majority of the piece so far.

Dear Reader, I wanted to do better than OK and a bit boring, so with his blessing I cut it up again.  Then the project really opened up – it would be orderly no more …

I had been emphasizing the pockets, now I added it more plain blue legs, which offered their own variety in the form of worn knee areas

I cut to maximize blues

With so many of my "rows" ending with the top of the jeans or other particularly thick spots, I ended up sewing the rows onto backing pieces

I resewed pieces back at angles, joining sections with smaller strips of non-blues

I cut the original section out at angles, varying the row widths

The angles varied the row widths

I increased the length of the rows by adding in a couple of stripped sections

I increased some rows by adding two strip sections, including a button fly strip.

With a lot more movement in the mix, my focus turned to getting the size right.  The goal was 75 x 80, and the fabric Donald provided would yield a 6 inch border.  So I had to close the gap between the center above and the planned outer border.  Scrap time!

Cuffs often get frayed, which gave me a start on opening up those bottom seams. The worn areas resemble a sort of tie-dye pattern

Frayed cuffs start openings in the bottom seams.  Fully opening the hem triples the width of workable material and reveals a sort of tie-dye pattern

Strip borders are quick to compose and sew and, most dear to me, reduce waste.  Less goes in the garbage can

At this point there was fabric laying around everywhere

I laid the cut bits out until I was sure there was enough to go around

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A row at a time is sewn together, pinned to the center, then the whole piece is folded up, ready for Modest Machine

Joining pieces

Though I used needles sized for denim, Modest Machine still broke 3 teeth on this project

One row at a time sewn together, sewn to the center, and trimmed

After rows are sewn to the center and pressed, they are trimmed at the sides with the rotary cutter

Each time I lay the quilt down I risk losing it to this resident

Each time I put the quilt down on the floor I risked losing it to this household resident

The blue fabric Donald wanted for the border was the last part of the quiltop

Once all 4 strip rows were done it was time to add the blue border.  I think it frames the active center well

This part of quilt making is physical.  Down on the floor, crawling from side to side while straightening, smoothing, pinning, and folding, then up and down the hall to feed carefully through the machine, sticking myself with pins multiple times along the way, then back to the floor, unfolding and doing it all again.  Knees, back, ankles, wrists — all recruits to the effort.  No wonder whole groups of women made larger quilts before labor saving devices were available.

Only once the outer border is done is it time to turn the quiltop design into what we know as a quilt.  That starts with batting

Quiltop done, it's time to actually turn it into what we know as a quilt

Batting is a layer of pure cotton fill which gives a quilt its warmth

The batting is placed on the floor and smoothed out

On a flat surface, batting is placed down.  I have trimmed it to just over the size of this piece

The quiltop is placed on the batting, right side up, smoothed out, then a single layer of backing is added.  Sheets work well for this job.

The backing -- Wendy's sheet -- is the third layer

Who knows what calculus goes into such decisions, but luckily for me, this baby blue in very good condition was retired from its household bedmaking rotation, donated to me, and perfect for this quilt

As well as being physical, the end stage of the process features craft and precision.  It’s not especially fun.  I’m always concerned that I’ll seriously mess something up and all will be lost.

once pinned together, again I fold it up and bring it to Modest Machine.  For this I sewed around the perimeter twice.  Because of the smooth surfaces -- compared to the bumpy layers of denim -- it goes smoothly, with no broken needles

Now for the final two rounds around the perimeter joining all three layers

Once turned inside out, pressing the edge seams is necessary to establish the edge

Once turned inside out, pressing outer borders is necessary to establish the edges.  I do the first part on my ironing board then, you guessed it, back to the floor

Because of its size, ties will help keep the layers from shifting around.  I've got this old spool of needlepoint thread -- I think it was my mother's or grandmother's -- and it matches the corduroy perfectly

Simple ties will restrict shifting from the weight of the denim. This old spool of needlepoint thread — I think it was my mother’s or grandmother’s — matches the corduroy perfectly

As I go through my photos while writing this post, I realize I don’t have one overall picture of the finished quilt.  What I do have are these detail shots,  which is what I liked most working on this, the juxtapositions of various bits of old jeans.

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You made it to the end!  Hope you enjoyed this scroll through my quilt making process.  Please feel free to share/link/forward Patwig’s Blog with anyone you think may enjoy it.

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