Denim Frayed Lap Quilt




With this project, you will get lots of practice learning to sew a straight line; one of the most basic things to learn when using a sewing machine and control of your fabric. You will also get a very unusual and pretty lap quilt in the process. This would be a good grown-up+kid project. The one shown in these instructions uses 36 denim (frayed side) squares and 36 cotton squares (colorful side), making the finished quilt 36"X36". You may want to start with a smaller one. If so, cut and sew 16 denim squares and 16 cotton squares together, which will make the finished quilt 24"X24", which would make a nice sitting place for a small dog or to cover little toes.

Step 1: Supplies:

*Used denim jeans, skirts, etc. You can probably find some in the back of your closet or at thrift stores. If you make one of these as a gift for someone besides a family member, you might want use new denim fabric, but I just love the idea of recycling. Be sure and save pockets, waistbands, and belt loops for possible future projects.
*100% cotton fabric, either all one color or different colors as I used here. Again, look through your closets for outdated or rarely worn cotton clothes. The important thing is to make sure it will fray. Also, you could use a Christmas print or colors that a boy or girl would like.
*Cardboard for making the pattern/template
*Pencil or pen to mark the size on the cardboard
*Some type of fabric marker to mark fabric-you want to use something that can be washed out such as a chalk pencil or air/water soluble marker.
*Straight pins
*Scissors-one old pair to cut out the cardboard and a good, sharp pair to cut the fabric. Never use fabric scissors to cut paper, cardboard, etc. It will dull them very quickly and ruin them.
*Threaded (white is fine) sewing machine with a size 14 or 16 needle.
*Tape-(optional), to mark the 1/2" line on the sewing machine. This aides when sewing all the 1/2" seams.

Step 2: Instructions:

Measure, mark and cut the cardboard 6-1/2"X6-1/2". Use this to mark the denim and cotton fabric with the grain. If you look close, you can see the threads in the fabrics running up and down, this is the grain of the fabric. This is the direction you want to cut to make the fabric fray. Cut 36 denim squares and 36 cotton squares. If you want, you can press all the squares before you sew them together but it is not necessary.
To make the first row, lay down a square of denim-wrong side up, a cotton square-right side up, another cotton square-wrong side up and a denim square-right side up. Pin the 4 layers together.

Step 3: Hint:

One of the biggest mistakes some sewers make at the beginning of sewing something on a machine, is not holding and pulling back with a light tension on the top and bottom (bobbin) thread as they start to sew. This could result in a thread nest that can jam the machine. Also, do not sew over the straight pins as this could cause your needle to break.

Step 4: Starting to Sew:

If your machine has a stretch stitch (2 stitches forward, 1 stitch back) use that to stitch the quilt together. If not, sew across each square twice. Sew a 1/2" seam on the right. You have just sewn 2 denim squares and 2 colorful cotton squares together.

Step 5: Finish Sewing:

Sew squares together like this to make 1 row with 6 squares of denim on 1 side and 6 cotton squares on the other. Do the same with each row. Sew row 1 to row 2 and row 2 to row 3 till the quilt is connected. Reduce bulk by laying seam allowances underside and topside rows going in opposite directions. Sew 1/2" around the outer edge of the quilt.

Step 6: Clipping Seams:

Turn to denim side and with sharp scissors clip all the exposed seams about 1/2" apart being careful not to cut into the sewing thread. This project is pretty forgiving so if you happen to by accident, stitch the area you cut IN a little more than the 1/2". It probably wont show because of the fraying.

Step 7: Finishing:

Take the finished quilt outside and shake it as much as you can to get loose threads off. Wash and dry the quilt at least 3 times, starting with a clean lint filter on the dryer. Check the dryer lint filter/trap about every 15 minutes as lots of threads will come loose and if it clogs up the lint trap it can cause the dryer to overheat and possibly catch fire. If making this size (or smaller) quilt, I would add a couple of pairs of old jeans to wash and dry it with to give it something to rub up against to loosen threads.

Step 8: The Finished Lap Quilt:

The finished quilt, each side.

Step 9: My Granddaughter's First Project:

This was my granddaughters first project I taught her using a sewing machine and she loved it. Her squares were much smaller though. Children should be supervised when using a sewing machine, it is not a toy.

Step 10: Lastly:

Clean and oil the sewing machine. This quilt causes a lot of lint buildup.

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33 Discussions


3 years ago on Introduction

I want to try making a throw. Trying to figure out how many squares to cut. Your instructions will help me get started.

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

I hope my instructions help. If you run into a problem with figuring it out, let me know and I'll try and help. Good luck and post a pic when you're done.


4 years ago on Introduction

Great instructions. I made a queen size quilt for my daughter with a fleece backing. It turned out perfectly. Thanks for the instructions

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

i just finished a queen size denim rag quilt and it was one helluva project... it was also my first and, at times, i thought i would never get it done


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

I think it's fantastic to come across guys who like to sew! A queen size is quite a project to take on. I know because I'm getting ready to start one that size for a family member who wants one for Christmas. Good luck on yours and post pictures of your finished quilt if you can.


7 years ago on Introduction

I make rag quilts for baby blankets. I use flannel, three layers for each square. Usually the inside is more colorful. But for girls I would use brown and pink squares. If you have a Singer sewing machine with different kinds of stitches, you make an X sewing, and using the different stitches, you can make them really cool. then sew them together, use a sharp knife to cut each seam about every half inch around ALL of those seams, then I take it to the laundromat because I am not about to have all those threads plugging my washer. Then dry it. They make beautiful baby blankets. Six across and nine down makes a rag quilt for a baby crib.

1 reply

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for the info wahela. What a great idea about taking them to the laundromat afterwards too!


7 years ago on Step 10

I've been looking for instructions on how to make a rag quilt that actually make sense. This seems easy to follow, and I can't wait to start. Thanks for posting!

1 reply

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Thank you! It is messy and takes some time, especially a larger one. But SO worth it, I think. Good luck.

Sassy Cat

8 years ago on Introduction

I made this lap quilt ( a little bigger) and it came out so adorable. Love the Instructable. Thank you for sharing. I am going to make more of them. They are fun, but be prepared for "mess". I had levi threads all over the house, but well worth the cleanup.

1 reply
amnartistSassy Cat

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Thanks Sassy Cat! I enjoy making these. I've been sewing for over 40 years and just can't throw scraps of fabric away(or old, worn or stained jeans). This is a great way to use them up. But yes, they are messy.


8 years ago on Step 10

Love your idea, and you presented it very clearly.


9 years ago on Step 10


1 reply

9 years ago on Introduction

Congratulations! Your quilt deserves to be in the finals. Good luck!!