Introduction: Denim Rag Quilt
Common Quilt / Comforter Dimensions
Standard Crib 32 x 50 “ 5” squares needed: 70
Twin 68 x 89” 5” squares needed: 238
Twin XL 68 x 94” 5” squares needed: 252
Full/Double 84 x 89” 5” squares needed: 255
Queen 90 x 94” 5” squares needed: 272
King 106 x 94” 5” squares needed: 357
Cal-King 100 x 98” 5” squares needed: 400
A Word About Quilt /Comforter Sizes
Even though there are “Standard Sizes” for quilts and comforters that you might purchase in a store, you may find that the size that should fit your bed falls just a little short. I used to have a full/double bed and was never able to use a “full/double size” store bought comforter because they were all just a tad too narrow and too short. Instead, I ended up buying “queen” size bedding. Now that I have a “queen” size bed, I still like my comforters to be a bit wider (to cover my butt) and a bit longer (to cover my feet). So, I end up adding around 5” to both the width and length of my quilt / comforter.
Also, you should take the thickness of your mattress into consideration when calculating your final dimensions for your project. Older mattresses were usually around 7-12 inches thick. Occasionally, you might see a piece labeled “Extra Deep” that would be 15 inches thick but those were rare. Today’s mattresses are much thicker. I would say a 12-15 inch thick mattress is normal, with the “Extra Deep” models reaching a thickness of 20-22 inches.
Standard 20 x 26” Case Size 21 x 30 5” squares needed: 30
Queen 20 x 30” Case Size 21 x 34 5” squares needed: 35
King 20 x 36” Case Size 21 x 40 5” squares needed: 40
Body Pillow 20 x 60” Case Size 21 x 64 5” squares needed: 65
Denim Rag Quilt Instructable Materials List
- Lots of denim
- Sewing Machine
- Sharp fabric scissors
- 6” acrylic quilting template
- Straight edge
- Chalk or washable pen or pencil
- Straight pins
- Quilting / Basting pins
- Color coordinated sheet (preferably a minimum of 3-5 inches wider and longer than your quilt)
- Neutral colored thread
- Contrasting color yarn
- Yarn or tapestry sewing needles
Be Nice To Your Scissors and Rotary Cutters…
Your scissors and Rotary Cutters should ONLY be used on fabric. Do not cut hair, cardboard, paper or paper ribbon with your fabric scissors or you will find that your once razor-sharp scissors are cutting more like a dull butter knife. It is expensive to have them sharpened.
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Step 1: Gather and Prepare Your Denim
Gather all your denim together. If you are using jeans, cut off all seams, pockets, and decorative trim until all that is left is flat sections of denim. The idea here is to get the largest plain pieces of fabric that is possible from each pair of denim jeans. If you cut the legs off of your jeans just below the crotch you can use them to make a really cute denim jeans themed purse. I will be making an instructable showing you how real soon so keep an eye out for it!
A Word About Fabric…
It really doesn’t matter if the denim you are using is 100% cotton or if it is a blend with some stretch to it. You can use both in the same quilt. If the fabric you are using has some elasticity to it be very careful not to stretch it tight when you are assembling your rows or it will pucker when you assemble your quilt. Also, remember that denim is very heavy and sturdy. It is not necessary to get the heaviest weight denim that you can find. If you do, you will find that your project is too heavy and may become unmanageable. Light weight denim is perfectly fine for this type of project. Whatever kind of denim you choose to use, you should wash it and dry in it in a clothes dryer (on HOT setting) before using it. You don’t want to wash your finished quilt for the first time to discover that some of your fabric has shrunk. You don’t have to iron your fabric before you start using it, but its best if it is relatively wrinkle-free. Last but not least, it is perfectly fine to use flawed fabric or fabric with visible imperfections. Discolorations, bleached or faded spots, and an occasional heavy or coarse thread all add character to your finished piece. If you are using pieces with holes in them you may want to patch them from the backside before using. Prints, stripes, and patterned fabrics are all great to use to add a personalized touch to your project.
Step 2: Figure Out Your Dimensions
This step is very important. First, decide what you want your final dimensions to be. Then take the number of inches across and divide it by 5. Do the same for the length. Once you have these numbers, times them by each other. This is how you figure how many squares you are going to need for your quilt. For example:
60 inches wide divided by 5= 12
70 inches long divided by 5= 14, so
12 x 14= 168 total squares needed.
If your figures dont work out evenly, always round up to the nearest whole number just to be on the safe side.
Step 3: Cut Out Your Squares
Using your 6” acrylic template, chalk, and your sharp scissors or rotary cutter, cut as many 6” pieces as possible from each piece of fabric. Make sure that your edges are as straight as possible. For counting purposes, I stack them in stacks of 10 squares each until I have enough squares to complete my project.
Step 4: Plan Your Quilt Design
When you have enough squares cut to complete your project, begin laying them out in rows and columns in a random method. You can re-arrange squares until you find a pattern (or lack of one) that is appealing to you. Try not to get too many light squares or dark squares bunched together in one area. Remember, the idea is for this quilt to look “random.”
Step 5: Start Assembling Your Rows
Starting with Row 1, put square A and square B together (back or wrong sides of the fabric facing each other) and sew them together leaving a 5/8” seam allowance along the edge. Make sure you “lock” your seams by making a few stitches, reversing for a few stitches, and then continuing to sew forward. This will help ensure that your seams do not come loose and unravel. Repeat with square B and square C, etc… Work your way to the end of the row. On the back side of the first square in Row 1, mark it with the number 1, using your chalk. Repeat with all rows, numbering them consecutively.
NOTE: On my first quilt, I used a 1/2" seam allowance and it turned out just fine. On my second one, I used a 5/8" seam allowance because I wanted thicker frayed seams. I prefer the 5/8" allowance but it is entirely up to you which you choose.
NOTE: You may want to double stitch your seams when assembling your rows. It is up to you, but it makes your quilt sturdier. If you do decide to double stitch, go slow and try to stitch directly over where you stitched the first time.
Step 6: Sew Your Rows Together
Begin sewing your rows together, in order, along the long sides. Every so often, reverse your stitching direction to “lock” your seams. Continue sewing rows in order.
NOTE: You may want to double stitch your seams when sewing your rows together. It is up to you, but it makes your quilt sturdier. If you do decide to double stitch, go slow and try to stitch directly over where you stitched the first time.
Step 7: Double Check Your Measurements
When all your rows have been sewn together, take your quilt top and put it on the size bed it is intended for. Act like you are making the bed to sleep in and then stand back and take a good look at it. Is it too wide? Too narrow? Too Long? Too Short? Now is the time to remove a square or two or add a square or two, if needed. .
Step 8: Trim Your Edges
Lay your quilt on the ground and smooth out any bumps and wrinkles. Check your measurements to make sure they coincide with what you had planned. If any of your rows are out of line with the others, trim them so all 4 sides are straight.
Step 9: Prepare to Add Your Middle Layer
A Note About Batting or Linings- I am a "hot" sleeper so I left the lining out of my "quilt" altogether, and it turned out just fine and I love it. Recently, I made a baby blanket for a relative and used actual quilt batting for the first time. It, also, turned out beautiful and I think I will be using quilt batting from now on. However, be careful choosing which batting to use. 100% cotton batting is available but it is quite heavy and will weigh your quilt down. Polyester or polyester blend batting is best to use on this type of project.
Lay your quilt top face down on the ground. Smooth all the wrinkles and lumps and bumps out of it. Some people like to use masking tape to secure the quilt top to the floor at this point to make sure it doesn’t shift positions.
If you have decided to skip a middle layer in your quilt for
whatever reason, skip Step 10 and proceed to Step 11.
Step 10: Add Your Batting
Lay your middle layer (batting) on top of the quilt top and smooth it out so it also has no wrinkles or lumps and bumps. Your middle layer should be about a half inch smaller than your quilt top all the way around.
NOTE: You can use just about anything for the middle layer of your quilt. I personally left the middle layer out entirely because I am a very "hot" sleeper and was afraid it would be too warm for me. An excellent middle layer for this quilt would be a flannel sheet or thin flannel blanket.
Step 11: Add and Secure Your Backing Material
Take your sheet (or whatever fabric you are using to back your quilt) and, starting at one side and working your way across, line it up with your quilt top (on both the side and the top) and secure with quilters safety pins or basting pins.
At this stage, you absolutely cannot use too many pins! You want to make sure that the 2 (or 3) layers of fabric are absolutely smooth against each other, with no wrinkles or lumps and bumps, when you are pinning it together.
Pay close attention to the edges of your project when you are pinning it together. You want to make sure that your sheet, AT THE VERY MINIMUM, meets the edges of the quilt top. It is actually better if it is bigger than the quilt top. You can always trim it later.
Step 12: Sew All 3 (or 2) Layers Together
Flip your “quilt” over so it is right side up. Slowly and carefully, sew all the way around the perimeter of your quilt. Make sure that you reverse and then reverse again your sewing direction to “lock” your seams to prevent them from coming loose. When you have sewn all the way around the perimeter, DO IT AGAIN. Be very careful and try to sew right on top of the seam you made the last time around.
Lay your quilt out flat on the floor or your worktable. Look at your edges. Are there some places that show your backing material? If so, trim the backing material so it is exactly the same size as the quilt top.
Step 13: Prepare to Tie Your Quilt
Once again, flip your quilt over so the backing is on top. Feel your way across it, counting each intersection (where, on the front, 4 squares all meet up), and decide where you want to tie your quilt.
Some people like to tie at every other intersection and others like to do it more or less frequently. I, personally, tie at every other intersection but I also stagger my rows so the ties are not an exact geometric pattern.
Once you have decided where it will be tied, using your chalk or water soluble marker, make a little dot where each tie will go.
Step 14: Get Busy Tying!
Using your yarn and tapestry needle, tie your quilt. From the backside, insert your needle and push it all the way through all the layers, leaving about a 3” tail. From the front, push the needle all the way through all the layers, coming out about 1/16” from where you inserted the needle to begin with. Tie the two ends of yarn together firmly. Then tie them again… and again. You should be left with a triple knot. Leave the tails of your knot about one inch long or a little longer. You will trim them later.
Step 15: Clip Your Quilt
Using very sharp scissors, clip each exposed seam every ¼ to 1/3 of an inch, making sure you don’t clip down so far that you clip the seam holding the two pieces of fabric together. Do this for every exposed seam and all the way around the perimeter. MAKE VERY SURE THAT YOU ONLY CLIP THE EXPOSED SEAM ALLOWANCE. TAKE CARE TO NOT CLIP THROUGH YOUR SEAMS. IF YOU DO, YOUR QUILT WILL EVENTUALLY UNRAVEL AND CREATE A MESS THAT IS VERY HARD TO FIX!
NOTE: If you have any intersections that look like the third photo in this step, free up that seam allowance by clipping it so it lays the same direction as the other seam allowances (see fourth photo in this step). This will make it much easier to clip.
Step 16: Wash Your Quilt
Wash your quilt on cold temperature and the gentle cycle. You may have to take it to a laundrymat depending on how large your finished product is. Then, dry the quilt in the dryer on low/medium heat. When it has been washed and dried, wash it and dry it again. This is to make sure that the seams fray properly. The more you wash it, the more the seams will fray and the better your quilt will look.
A word about washing and drying your quilt… When you wash your quilt in the washing machine, you may end up with lots of little strings lining the drum of your washing machine. These are easily removed by wiping the inside of the drum out. When drying your quilt, you will find that the lint trap of your dryer fills up quickly with little strings from the exposed seams. Clean the lint trap every 15 minutes or so to avoid burning your dryer up.
Step 17: Clip Your Knots
Now, after your quilt has been washed and dried several times, go back and trim the yarn tails that you made while tying it. They should have shrunk sufficiently that you can better judge how long you want them to be.
Congratulations! You have completed your first Denim Rag Quilt! These quilts make great gifts for friends and family of all ages... or you may just want to keep it for yourself. Either way, enjoy it!