This is a fun idea for repurposing your old blue jeans.
Denim quilts are always popular. They make a great picnic blanket or beach quilt and they are nice and heavy and warm for the winter months.
But wrestling lots of layers of denim, quilt batting and quilt backing through your sewing machine can be too much bulk for many quilters.
So I decided to do a quilt-as-you-go denim quilt block that would let me enjoy the quilting and piecing in smaller batches.
This denim quilt block also uses quilting scraps – specifically colorful strips or leftover ends of quilt binding strips (you’ll find two options below).
This post is all about how to make the quilt blocks themselves. I will link below when the quilt is finished to a post about how to join the blocks and add the quilt backing.
Here is the link to the post all about joining the blocks and finishing the quilt:
Note: As well as the written tutorial below you will also find a video version.
Materials Needed – QAYG Scrappy Denim Quilt Blocks
- Denim Squares (from old jeans) – mine were 7” but you can use any size
- Leftover folded binding strips or other long fabric strips – these need to be long enough to rest across your denim squares in any direction (see instructions) – 1 strip per quilt block
- 12 wt thread (you can use any thread you like but I used a 12 wt variegated Gutermann thread in shades of orange and yellow)
- Batting squares cut the same size as your denim squares (my batting was 80/20).
Notes for Sewing with Denim
I add this section because it makes some sewers feel more secure but really sewing through one to two layers of denim (there will be two layers when you join your blocks!) is no big deal for most sewing machines.
If you want to be extra careful you can:
- Use a denim needle (I have some but I don’t always use them)
- Use your walking foot
- Keep an eye on your seam allowances. I am assuming a 1/4″ seam as you would use for most patchwork but if you are nervous about denim and you are a scant 1/4″ seam kind of person then maybe make it a straight 1/4″ seam for this project (just to make yourself feel better if you are nervous – not because you really need too!;))
All that to say – don’t be scared of denim! Unless you are sewing through thick side seams, back pockets or multiple layers of denim at once you should have no problems.
Step 1: Prepare your Denim & Batting Squares
Cut your batting and denim squares to the same size.
You don’t need backing fabric yet as this block is designed for the false backing quilt-as-you-go method (see post below for more info on quilt-as-you-go methods).
Also, see this post if you aren’t sure how to cut up old jeans for upcycling.
I am the first to nab any pair of jeans off of my husband that is looking worse for wear and spiriting it away to become something else. I’ve also bought bulk loads of other people’s old denim jeans off eBay on more than one occasion.
Step 2: Pick your Quilting Scraps
Next, it’s time to pick your scraps. You need one strip per block.
I love mixing quilting cotton with denim – it gives a great pop of color and a different texture.
It can be any width as long as it is wide enough to fold the raw edges under (see steps below or the video for a demonstration).
The length is determined by where you place it.
I placed mine at different diagonal angles across the block.
Shorter strips will need to sit closer to the corners than longer strips (see step 4 for more on this).
I picked one multicolor scrap and used other scraps in similar colors to coordinate but you can go totally random too!
Step 3: Quilting the Denim Blocks
Quilt 3-4 evenly spaced lines through both the denim and batting. We add the scraps later!
I used a 12wt variegated thread and a 4.0 stitch length.
I used the side of my walking foot presser foot to evenly (ish) space my quilting lines.
I changed the placement of my quilting lines for each block- some in the centre, some diagonal, some off to the side.
I also put the quilting lines closer together on some blocks than others. The point is to have some variety.
Your quilting lines will go edge to edge – no need to leave space around the edges. This means you can also chain piece this step if you are making a number of blocks at once.
Repeat for all your blocks.
I’ve used straight stitching for my quilting lines but this idea could easily be adapted to use decorative stitches on your machine or even free motion quilting.
Step 4: Adding the Scraps and more Quilting!
To add the scrap fabric strips or leftover binding strips you can try one of two methods.
I used a combination of both methods for my blocks.
Method 1 – Stitch and Flip
Place or pin your fabric right side down at an angle on your denim square (see video or photos if unsure).
Stitch at 1/4” to secure the fabric to the quilt block.
If using binding strips – keep folded and stitch at the raw edge side – you will fold the rest of the strip over this stitch line so check it is oriented how you want it.
Flip binding strip or fabric strip and finger press down.
Sew a top stitch style quilting line as close to the edge of that strip as you can – like when you are machine binding.
Add additional quilting lines over the strip as desired and either stitch close to the folded edge (for binding strips) or fold under and stitch down (for unfolded scraps) to stitch your final quilting line.
Method 2 – Fold Under and Top Stitch
The only difference in this method is that you don’t do the initial stitch and flip.
Instead, you fold under the raw edge on one side of your scrap, then pin or hold in place to topstitch down close to the fold line.
Continue your quilting lines as in Method 1 and fold under the final raw edge before topstitching down near the fold to finish.
If you are making more than one quilt block at a time and you have long scrap strips you can also chain piece to make the process faster.
Step 5: Trim your Quilt Blocks
Trim your block down to your desired size.
Repeat for as many blocks as you like for the quilt size you want to make and arrange so the strips form diamonds or make the layout totally random and crazy!
Here is the post that covers joining the blocks to make the quilt top and adding the backing fabric: How to Make a Quilt-As-You-Go Denim Quilt (also uses quilting scraps!)
QAYG Denim Quilt Blocks – Video Tutorial
If you want to start with an easy jean quilt tutorial (not that this one isn’t easy too!) you can also check out this improv denim quilt pattern.
More posts you might enjoy:
- Quick Denim Quilt (Improv Quilt with Instructions)
- Reversible Denim Quilt from Old Jeans – My First Denim Quilt!
- 7 Quilt as You Go Methods (No Hand-sewing!)
- Quilt as You Go in Sections – Queen Sized Quilt
- Scrap Fabric Quilt Block Tutorial for Floral Scraps!
- Improv Braided Quilt Block – Use your Scraps!
- 9 Quilt Backing Ideas – From Super Simple to Super Scrappy!
- How to use Fleece for Quilt Backing
- 8 Ways to Label your Quilts – and why you should!