Archives for posts with tag: what to do with old clothes and fabrics

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.

 

 

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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).

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