The Great Denim De-Stash

My sewing studio is a disaster.  Even when I tidy up, I just pile mountains of totes into the closet, and I can’t access stuff.  It drives me bonkers.  I had intended 2016 to clear out some of my stash, and I have made very little progress.  So far, I have finished a few small projects, that have used less than 3 yards of fabric.  Part of the problem for me is having the vague goal of “reduce my scrap pile”.  My scrap pile is piled up with all kinds of stuff.  So today, I decided to pull out the denim.  I’ve recently seen a denim quilt I want to try, and my new puppy could use some denim doggy toys.  (When hubby said stop buying toys for the puppy, he didn’t say don’t make them.  Loophole!)

IMG_0260Here it is.  I’ve gone through the closet and pulled out all of my denim.  You may wonder why I have so much denim.  My Dad always refused to throw away old jeans (or anything, really).  He had jeans that were 20+ years old, with more patches than original fabric.  The only explanation for this is that he was deranged.  I inherited that quality.  I was gifted many pairs of his old jeans when I started quilting, and when he died I got the rest.  Many family members have denim quilts from Dad’s jeans.  My husband, kids, and I go through jeans pretty regularly.  Also, I have been known to lose my mind at thrift stores and load up on old jeans, especially if I have an idea in mind.  I shouldn’t do that.

I made a dachshund toy today, with a squeaker.  Why something so small?  I finished it in one session, and it used up some of my batting scraps.  (The batting scrap pile is as big as the denim pile.)  Unfortunately, it did not use much denim.


Lessons learned

  1. Don’t use denim to make a stuffed animal with small pieces that need to be turned.  It is too thick – they don’t turn, or the stitches rip out, or both.
  2. Don’t use denim if you can’t find your good glass head pins. (One more reason to go through the closet.)

I will be trying to spend at least an hour each day in my sewing room working on some denim projects.  I want to make this quilt, from Lucy’s Quilts, first.

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 6.30.32 PM

I love the stained glass effect, and I definitely have a large assortment of colors to work with.

In the past I have made denim purses, rag time quilts, and simple throws.  One of my favorite parts of working with denim is that it feels like traditional quilting to me.  My understanding of the history of American patchwork is that it was a way to use up worn garments and turn them into something useful again.  Also, what a better way is there to be green?

Denim picnic quilt

If you are getting ready to work with denim I have some tips learned from previous projects.

  1. Use a new rotary cutter blade.
  2. Don’t bother trying to seam rip the seams of the jeans.  The time spent vs the amount of fabric saved seems like a bad choice to me.  I do like that what is hidden in the seams is very dark, but wow, that thread is strong.
  3. Use a Jeans needle for your sewing machine.
  4. Hand stitching is very challenging.  Use a metal thimble, or just use your sewing machine.
  5. Do not get your heart set on matching colors exactly.  Embrace the beauty of the fading and gradual change over each pair of jeans.
  6. Watch for stretchy jeans.  Many of my jeans have stretch, and it just requires a bit more care.
  7. Use lightweight batting or flannel, and quilt slowly.  Needle breakage is common, and can be spectacular.  I wear my glasses when sewing denim.


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