When I was working on my last commission, two friends gave me fabric donations:  five pair of frayed, paint-splattered blue jeans and a seasoned sewer’s remnants, including several jaw-dropping 1960’s and 70’s Marimekko prints.  I marveled at my good fortune and vowed to coax something wonderful out of these cast-offs that might have otherwise joined a landfill.

This simple strip block throw that I made in 2006 was my inspiration

My inspiration quilt for this project

There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the quilt above.   I like the way the light-and-dark strips define the center area.  And the red shamrock fabric (pocket material from an old pair of jeans) highlights the corners, though not enough.  I notice now that the dark strips at the upper right remind me of the  new red equality symbol.

I began sewing strips from other old pants together with the jeans …

Thanks Russ and Laura Irwin for the Levi's!

Thanks Russ and Laura for the Levi’s!

and kept going until it was something approximating what I liked in the inspiration quilt

Because I had started into some old khakis and white canvas carpenter pants (which I think I bought for my husband eons ago and he rarely wore them)

Joining Russ’ jeans are old khakis, white canvas carpenter pants, black jeans, corduroys and old cargos (thanks Greg, Dan, and Peter!)

More denim for definition

A good solid denim border for good measure

Maybe being a child of the 70s makes me a sucker for faded denim

And now for a bold border, care of those original Marimekko pattern designers

I actually used two different prints in the border, one a remnant and one a single print.  Thanks Ellen!

There are three different prints in the border, two remnants and one single print. Thanks Ellen!

Since I could go no farther with this quiltop at queen-size, I launched into another.  From trimming the denim-and-khaki strip blocks in the prior project, I was inspired to ladle a heavier dose of denim in this one

I sandwiched Marimekko strips from the first quilt between denim strips

Marimekko strips sandwiched between denim give contrast

It’s basically a Chinese Coin, a type I like to do.  It’s a straightforward assembly process, and is visually striking

Bordered in denim

Bordered in denim

Pressing the seams on all those narrow strips takes the most time

I made these quilts between April 4 and May 6, according to the camera dates

I made these quilts between April 4 and May 6

At this point the denim mass is crying out for a foil.  This print seems robust enough

But maybe a little transition is needed

But maybe a little transition is needed

This white is from a super lush, thick sheet set (thanks Wendy!), and works perfectly to set off the red blaze

This white is from a super lush sheet set (thanks Wendy!)

I dislike playing favorites, but I really do like this quiltop.  It is also queen sized.  It’s heavy, due to the denim, and would be marvelously warm in winter.

Detail

Detail

There was time for one more small quilt before the floor I was using would morph into my college son’s summer bedroom.

I cut out some big patterns in the Marimekko prints (quilting term of the day: fussy cutting)

“Cut-outs” is right … the saturated colors against white ground remind me of Matisse’s cut-outs, which story of him making even when bedridden at the end of his life so fascinated me in high school art classes (thanks Mrs. Hornstra!)

The tic-tac-toe structure seems suitable to house these color blocks

More white sheet sashing to pop the color

White sheet sashing pops the color

and a denim border frame

Bright primary colors -- child's quilt or play mat?

Primary colors — child’s quilt or play mat?

At this point all that was left from the five pair of Levi’s was small strips, and of course, lots of scraps from the other fabrics.  Using jewel-size bits for the center and working out, I launched right into making blocks to use up the scraps

Alas, this one is still a work in progress

Alas, this one is still a work in progress

The three completed quilts featuring vintage Marimekko are available for sale or show.  Please email me or comment below.  And thanks for reading my adventures in quilting with old clothes (and other fabrics).