Introduction: Denim Crazy Rails for Warmth

I am in the middle of a blog project using the denim and all its 'bits' from approximately 250 pairs of jeans (check it out here: I deconstructed all of the jeans and then went on to cut all of the usable denim into multiple sizes of blocks. For the quilt, we will be using the blocks sized 2" x 6". The fabrics are mostly a variety of blue, but there are also black and white and a very dark green.

This quilt is a very casual quilt and therefore I do little pre-planning. Whenever I cut fabrics for use in any other quilt project - as well as non-quilt projects - I try to cut as much of the scrap as is possible. The 2" x 6" pieces are very versatile in many patterns as well as borders and corners.

Since I was cutting all the denim harvested from the massive stack of jeans, I ended up with a nice stack of 2" x 6" pieces. I don't know how many there are and how many squares I will end up with when I am done sewing, it is the approach of denim to be casual and adaptive. Because there will be trimming to make the final blocks, I am not always sure exactly the size of the final block!

The only really important item is that your seams should always be the same size. Whether by choice or by repetition, always make your seams the same size. Mine, just for information, is a eighth inch.

Step 1: Chain Stitching the Blocks Together

Take two pieces of the 2" x 6" blocks and sew them together lengthwise with right sides facing. Because you will eventually sew another piece to these two, as I sew, I set one block to the side. As I work my way sewing the pre-cut pieces together, I don't cut the threads between them, just continue to sew. They make a pile on the opposite side of my sewing desk.

When you have worked your way through your pieces, then you will clip the thread between them.

Next, you will add the third piece to the previously sewn two piece block. Continue until you have exhausted your supply or you have what you think will be needed.

Step 2: Ironing Your Blocks

At this point, ironing the seams open in your three piece block is a good idea. Generally with denim, I will iron with the seams falling to each side. Because there isn't a lot of bulk here, I follow the lead of my denim, usually it will give you a hint of which way it wants to lay. Working with denim is a little different from cotton as it has heft, so I try not to fight it.

Step 3: Final Block, Part 1 of 2

Now that you have your three piece blocks ready, you can start by sewing two sections together, then sewing that two piece block with another to create the final block (a four piece block).

Make sure that you always position the blocks parallel to one another. Its easy to do if you set your pieces in two piles in anticipation of sewing them together in that way. You can always do a quick visual check on the pieces as you sew to ensure that they are being fit together correctly.

Step 4: Final Block, Part 2 of 2

Once again, you get to clip the threads between the pieces. Lightly press to get the seams to lie flat. It doesn't have to be perfect, just a quick press. Then lay the pieces out ready for your final stitch.

Here you want to line the major seams together. Lay them out side by side lining up the seam, then flip one on top of the other. I use a pin to help hold it in place. Stitch.

Continue chain stitching all of the pieces together.

Step 5: Trimming the Blocks

You have successfully created your blocks. You now need to trim and square-up the blocks so that they can be sewn into your quilt.

You can either trim by hand with a pair of scissors or use a cutting mat and rotary cutter. If you are a regular quilter - or want to become one - the rotary cutter is the one tool you should invest in. A cutting mat will save your surface of your table, so again, invest in the largest size that you have space to accommodate and the price that works with your budget.

Trim each side, keeping the block lined up on the mat. Continue with all of the blocks.

Step 6: Assembling the Blocks

Determine the number of completed blocks that you have completed. This will determine the size of your quilt.

In my example, I had 36 blocks, so I created a quilt that is 6 blocks by 6 blocks. This makes for a nice lap quilt. The larger (or smaller) you want to make depends on the number of blocks you made. You can also add a border if you want to make it larger.

For denim quilts, I let the amount of fabric guide the final size, but when making quilts of cotton, I will pre-plan the number of blocks which will indicate the number of 2" x 6" strips I need.

Step 7: Completing Your Quilt

The really wonderful thing about quilts is that they are completely customize-able. Add a border, add more rows, start with a center medallion and then add the blocks around it. Make it your own. You might have noticed that I added a touch of red, this time out thrifting, I found a red pair of jeans!

Also, to 'officially' become a quilt, you need to add a backing and batting. You also need to attach the three layers together. Again, there are a number of options available. The easiest is to "tie" the quilt, which involves using thick thread or yarn and actually creating knots through all of the layers. But all of this is

Personally, I find that they quilts are heavy without the batting and I prefer to just add a flannel backing and have a long-arm quilter add the top stitching. Then I fold over the backing material to bind the quilt.

Step 8: Caring for Your Quilt

The best part of a denim quilt is that it just gets better as the years go by. Much like your favorite pair of jeans coupled with a favorite flannel shirt, it just gets softer and more worn and much loved over the years. Throw it in the washer (and then dryer) to continue its care. This quilt isn't to be folded and kept in a cupboard as a keepsake, it is meant to be used, snuggled under and spread for picnics.

Sew Warm Contest 2018

Participated in the
Sew Warm Contest 2018