Archives for posts with tag: uses for old jeans

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

 

 

 

 

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.

Last month my lucky stars (more accurately, a reader in a donating mood — thanks Lana) brought me a treasure trove of upholstery samples that were doing nothing in her closet:

All this filled two contractor bags

Many were 12 inch squares, some bigger.  Some I liked because of their color, some because of the patterns (many hydrangeas) and I quickly became excited as I saw how this one would go well with denim or that one with corduroy.  So cheering was this sudden abundance that I ignored the fact that my fabric stash had just increased exponentially.

I removed all the tags first to eliminate the staples -- I didn't want Modest Machine to break a tooth. Assuming the dates on the tags indicate date of manufacture, some of these were 14 years old.

As I sorted and bagged the bounty, I recalled a trio of denim throws made recently for a school craft fair.  The one that sold I liked the best, and this is the only picture I can find of it:

A 16-square center surrounded by a neutral and finished with a scrap denim border.

All this new upholstery suggested a remake.  I looked for pieces that would work with denim:

The rust color at left is very similar to the stain finish on a media cabinet in my home, a warm, rich hue

A patterned cotton offered a floral match:

This is an example of one of my favorite quilting terms -- "fussy cutting," in which a specific pattern or motif is cut without regard to maximizing fabric usage. Such practice is generally anathema to Patwig, but an exception is made here.

A bag of denim scraps from the last project offered a head start on the strip border:

But I don't have big enough pieces for the center squares, so it's back to cutting up jeans. Time to thank Wendy, who gave me an outgrown pair of her son's, and my husband, who parted with a faded pair of Levi's.

Assembling the inner section is rapid.  A simple linen/hopsack from the upholstery trove adds a needed neutral.

Four rows of four 7-inch squares

The denim border will take more time.  I like how these strips playfully suggest the fabric’s prior life:

I left the Levi's tag on at first, but it started to crumble when sewn through, and didn't take to ironing at all.

Once the quiltop is done, I enlist a piece of flannel from a massive old comforter cover:

A little of this color goes a very long way

These fabrics are so heavy I don’t need a lot of batting.  An old jersey sheet, previously repurposed into a turban for a school project, is just right:

I do love the angle of the sun this time of year

Once all layers are sewn together it’s ready for hand tying.  Since this has been a such a speedy project, I decide to drop time into some extreme repurposing … pulling apart the woven strands from some pillowcases my friend Matthew gave me:

When I machine washed these pillowcases the weave basically fell apart (it really is best to follow care instructions). The wreckage revealed that each cord was three twisted strands of thread, or now, quilt ties.

The finished product is a 38 by 38 heavyweight nearly 100% cotton throw.  It’s for sale, and if anyone’s interested, comment here or send me an email.   And stay tuned for more upholstery projects!

Now I’ve just got to use up the rest of that upholstery

There sat a bag filled with old pants:  a contribution from my mother to the quilt-old-clothes enterprise.   The day to figure out whether I could do something with these old pants had arrived.

Three pairs of denim, seven khakis and a whole lot of cutting.

The first order of business is always “stripping the carcass,” and for this a rotary cutter is a marvel.  Cutting is time to ponder the fabric.  I feel the khakis don’t merit the prime real estate quiltop – but will serve suitably for backing. The denims are wonderfully weighty and possess a range of hues, but bright color is needed.  My heavyweight stash offers highlight color from My First Commission remnants, as does a deep garnet velvet my mother gave me recently.

Starting somewhere with red velvet, floral MFC curtain and a rust-denim.

What emerges is a style quilters who got here before me call Housetop.  Bright color anchors the middle, supporting strips build the sides.  The fun of it is it gets big quickly because of all those jeans legs.   Front legs feature worn areas around the knees, as in some of the  Gee’s Bend quilts which continue to be a divine inspiration me.

Still, the color isn't popping here the way it is in the Gee's Bend quilts (seriously, you won't regret opening the link above).

At four big blocks it’s ready for a border, but I have run out of jeans legs.  Luckily my son has outgrown these

Now he prefers "skinny jeans" anyway. Does that mean he's a hipster?

With their 27″ inseam, these eight pieces easily cover the border

There's a substantial, "rugged" feel to this piece: I can almost smell the wood smoke.

but the corners could do with a little brightening.  There is a mystery fabric I think might help.  When my mother-in-law contributed her remnants for MFC, there was nearly a yard of upholstery which looks “retro” enough to be mid-century.  Unfortunately there was nothing printed on the selvage line to identify it.

Would you use this for curtains? Shazam!

With border added, the first quilt upcycled from these old pants measures 56 x 65 inches, a generous throw.

It will be finished when fill and a khaki back are added.

Many small pieces of denim remain.  With Modest Machine still armed with a heavyweight needle, I decide to keep going and use up the denim scraps.  The mystery fabric leads the way.  I like how its zig-zag pattern echoes with random denim strips.

Perhaps a throw for a dog bed?

This just needed to be sewed up —  I didn’t want to embellish it any more than it appears above.

With a narrow denim strip border, it's a big welcome mat size.

Feeling remiss about not having used any khaki, I decide to go for one more.  This arrangement comes together quickly:

I like to leave pockets or plackets or other hints of the prior life of fabric when possible.

I want to offset the four-square center with something less balanced, so I randomly join denim strips for a wide strip border

This is quick, so I feel productive. Then all the seams need pressing, so I take two steps back.

A khaki border “mat” gives the feeling a of picture frame.  Perhaps a wall hanging? 

This didn't use much khaki, but it still needs a back so the khaki won't go to waste.

In the end these old pants yielded three quilts.  Although I’ll admit, these three quiltops took a bit longer than a day to make.  Next post will reveal the finished products, complete with khaki backs and yarn ties.

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