Dad’s Jeans: Long Story
Years ago (at least six, but possibly more) Dad asked me to turn his jeans into a blanket using my sewing machine. He had been sewing the ends of the legs together, making a double thickness blanket and figure I could do it faster with a machine.
I got a box in the mail containing jeans, girly-hippy shirts, a towel, and… a hammer?
I promptly put the box in my closet and put it off until later. It lived in at least two houses in Atlanta before living in my mom’s basement until I came back from Korea. For the past two years the box has lived in the office closet.
During the winter break I decided I needed to donate the jeans or make a quilt out of them. I opened up the box and discovered that Dad hadn’t sent me jeans, but instead had sent already cut-off legs.
Ahhhh, well, that sealed the quilt idea!
Cut and Zig-Zagged
I researched quilt ideas and found rag quilts, but they were much too Kountry Kute and I thought they’d be a bad idea with Dad’s dogs. I found some different strip quilt ideas and decided to do that.
I got a wide acrylic ruler, a rotary cutter and a mat and spent several days cutting out strips of denim in different widths. I also cut several very short pieces in case I needed them (shown above, I never needed them).
In order to prevent the quilt from fraying, I zig-zagged around the edges. Months ago I bought prefilled bobbins. I thought I was being frugal, but it was a dumb idea because I didn’t know what kind of thread was used, and several of the colors were colors I’d never use. (Bubble-gum pink?)
I decided to use those bobbins and a random spool of bright yellow thread to do my zig-zagging. It was a good way to use up odds and ends without spending a lot of extra money. I used up the entire spool of ugly yellow thread, part of a spool of left over blue thread, and prefilled bobbins in yellow, pink, baby blue, mint green, grey, and red.
Cleaning my Machine
Normally, you need to clean a machine after one project, or about 8 hours of sewing. Zig-zagging around denim kicked up a lot of lint and I needed to stop every bobbin/45 minutes to clean out my machine.
(Doing this project, I also learned how to adjust bobbin tension on my machine since adjusting the upper-thread tension didn’t work.)
Since my strips were all different lengths, I randomly paired them together, making sure I didn’t put the same exact fabric together. I sewed them together using a narrow zig-zag and black heavy-duty thread, leaving a deep seam allowance to help prevent fraying as well.
Then I matched the longest pairs with the shortest pairs, and put the medium length pairs aside.
I finally made longer strips made up one one long pair, one medium pair, and one short pair. I ended up with 14 rows made up of six rectangles each.
Where I found weak spots or holes, I did a wide, short zig-zag around them or over them to reinforce the spots. I knew Dad wouldn’t mind.
Finally, I lined the strips up, trying to avoid lining up the seams exactly (they would be too thick to sew over) and trying to avoid the same color lining up next to each other. The same color only ended up next to itself once in the whole quilt, where two white rectangles slightly overlapped. Considering how little planning I did, I was very surprised and pleased!
Amazingly, the ends of the strips lined up fairly well. I guess my “short with long” method worked. I whacked off the ragged edge to make it even and zig-zagged it again to prevent fraying.
I picked up navy duck cloth from Joann’s to back it. The duck cloth had sizing on it and was dry clean only. (Ha! As if Dad was going to dry clean this thing.) I preshrunk the fabric in hot water and hot heat, which also removed the sizing. It worked out beautifully.
I did not insert batting because the denim and duck cloth were already heavy together. I did consider leaving one end open, with snaps so Dad could insert a thin blanket or down comforter if he wanted, but Dad said he thought it’d be heavy enough.
I also simply seamed the end closed from the outside with my machine. I tried hand finishing, but it was really tough because of the denim and I decided that Dad would prefer Having an Imperfect Quilt This Month to Getting a More Beautiful Quilt at Some Unknown Point in the Future.
Dad confirmed this when we talked on the phone. Ha!
I didn’t hand tie the top and backing together. Since my dad’s got a lot of dogs, I was afraid they might chew on the ties.
The quilt ended up being larger than I expected! In this picture I’m standing on the bench on the porch and I still needed to hang the quilt over the railing to prevent it from dragging on the ground.
Duck Cloth Backing
In order to make this quilt, I needed to purchase:
two denim needles
four spools of heavy duty thread
three rotary cutter blades
I used up:
a bunch of old denim
bobbins of left-over thread
1 1/2 spools of left over thread
I purchased but will reuse:
an acrylic ruler
The total cost of the project (excluding the reusable materials) probably came to about $50.
I know this sounds like lazy quilt making. No planning, no measuring (other than width), no tying, no hand finishing, no proper patching of spots… The thing is, my dad is really hard on his things, and he lives in the dusty desert with his dogs. Making the quilt long-wearing, easy to clean, and dogproof were the project’s priorities. I think I succeeded in those areas. I think Dad’s going to be really happy with it.
As a side note, I bought this spool holder on sale. It was meant to sit on a table, but what a waste of space! I found two tiny hooks in the closet and added them to the top of the holder so I could hang it on the wall above my machine. It looks great!