Modern Denim Quit Tutorial

*Tutorial by Autumn @ It’s Always Autumn for her win of the Season 13 Finale!*

Thanks to everyone who voted! What a tight race! I made this quilt in four days, cutting and sewing madly to get it done in time, so anyone who has a couple of weeks to work on a project could definitely do this. As a quilt goes, it’s really rather simple. Here’s the rundown:

1. Gather denim. I purchased all my denim at three different garage sales the morning I wanted to start making the quilt. Garage sales are the best place to get denim cheap! If you want to make an ombre quilt you need to pay attention to the color of the jeans you are buying – be sure to get some that is quite dark, some that’s medium colored, and some that’s lighter. I kept all the denim I had bought in hand as I was looking for more, to make sure the colors all looked like they’d go well together. I only purchased adult jeans because I wanted strips the were a full 6 inches wide. Also, pay attention to how distressed the jeans are – if the dark jeans you buy all have really light areas in the bum/knees you’ll have to end up cutting some of those out. I think I purchased about 18 pairs of jeans and had at least three or four more than I needed. I got all my jeans for $1 or less per pair.

2. Wash and cut. I would not recommend trying this without a rotary cutter and large ruler, as you see below. You certainly could do it, but it would take lots longer! I just sliced the legs off the jeans right at the crotch then used my ruler and rotary cutter to cut them into 6 in wide strips. I discared the knees of many of my jeans because they were stretched out and light – but that’s ok, because you end up with strips of different lengths, which is what you’re looking for.

As I cut up jeans, I placed them into one of four piles based on color, and I tried to keep the piles fairly even. NOTE: I actually decided I didn’t have denim that was quite light enough, so I used RIT Color Remover (discussed here) to lighten up a few strips for the lightest row in my quilt.

3. Lay out strips, then sew together. When I felt like I had lots of strips I laid them out on the ground and moved pieces around until I liked how they looked (making sure each row could be about 64 inches wide, and adding rows until I had nearly 88 inches in length – I ended up with 17 rows). I tried to make sure that the vertical seams connecting each strip WOULD NOT line up from row to row. When I liked how it looked, I went ahead and sewed the strips together into rows, using 1/2 seam allowance and pressing the seams open. Save yourself a headache and use a denim or heavyweight needle.

4. Sew each row together, then press all the seams open.

5. Place quilt top on backing fabric, wrong sides together, and baste securely. Sorry, I guess I didn’t take a picture of this step. I used 4.5 yards of nice flannel (washed first!) and sewed it together to get a rectangle just a little larger than my quilt top. I spread the backing down on the floor and smoothed it out as well as I could. I rolled the quilt top up into a log, then carefully unrolled it onto the backing, again smoothing as much as possible. Then I hand basted the two layers together (you could safety pin together if you’d like) so they wouldn’t move around once I started quilting. NOTE: I did not use batting between the two layers because I figured the quilt would be plenty heavy and warm as is. I was right.

6. Machine quilt! I figured out where I wanted my first row of diagonal stitching to go and marked it with masking tape. Then I rolled up the portion of the quilt to the right of the masking tape into a log, moved it over to my sewing machine, and used a straight stitch with a fairly long stitch length, following the masking tape. (This is a great tutorial for straight stitch quilting – it recommends both a walking foot and grippy quilting gloves – I didn’t use either, but I think I may invest in both before I make another quilt!)

Here’s a closer view of the presser foot, right next to the masking tape. The masking tape really helped me keep my quilting rows nice and straight (or at least straight enough!)

When I finished a row I’d move the masking tape over, lining it up with my row of stitching, then go back to the machine to quilt another row. I put my machine in the middle of my large dining room table, which made the quilting process much simpler because there was somewhere for the heavy quilt to rest as I sewed the rows. I was sewing like crazy trying to get this quilt done in time.


7. Square off the quilt. I don’t know the best way to do this, and I’ll admit that my quilt didn’t end up completely even, but this is what I did after quilting to trim all the edges. I spread out the quilt on the ground again, then measured and marked an even rectangle using string that I taped to the floor. I slid my cutting mat under the edge of the quilt and used my rotary cutter and ruler to trim the edges even with the string.

You can see the string a bit better here.

8. Bind the quilt. I used this tutorial for adding binding in a soft gold flannel (prewashed!). The tutorial has a pretty slick method for making nice mitered corners. I probably would have asked my mother-in-law to bind the quilt by hand for me if I hadn’t been in the competition, but since I was in a time crunch and have a little carpal tunnel so I can’t hand sew much I went ahead and used my machine to bind it. It’s not quite as pretty as hand bound, where you can’t see any stitches, but it looks pretty good. A few tips – use bobbin thread that matches the quilt backing so it will be less visible. This meant I used gold thread on top and purple thread in the bobbin UNTIL I got to the gold patch on the back, and then I switched to gold bobbin thread as well. (Ok, I forgot to do this and had to unpick a bunch of purple thread from the gold patch and then re-sew, but oh well.) I also had to lower my tension quite a bit so the binding didn’t bunch up as I sewed.

My son took about a hundred pictures of me hard at work finishing things up:

This one’s my fave:

I think I’d just realized I’d messed up and sewed with purple thread on the gold patch…

Anyway, that’s the run-down. Thanks to Missy for putting on a great competition! Don’t forget to come visit me over at It’s Always Autumn for more tutorials, crafts, sewing projects, recipes, and photography tips!


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