Archives for posts with tag: Levi’s Quilt

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.

 

 

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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