I love denim quilts made from old blue jeans. They are great when used as a picnic blanket or just as a nice heavy warm quilt on a winter’s day.
In this denim quilt tutorial, I am going to show you how I join and assemble a jean quilt using quilt-as-you-go.
There is a Part 1 to this post.
Visit the first post to see how to make the quilt-as-you-go denim and scrap quilt blocks and then come back here to read how to put the quilt together.
Table of Contents
- How to Make a Denim Scrap Quilt
- Alternative Options for Joining and Attaching the Backing
- Denim and Scraps Quilt Video Tutorial
- Top Tips
NOTE: As well as the written pattern/tutorial below, if you prefer video tutorials check out the video version of this post that you can find here:
How to Make a Denim Scrap Quilt
How Many Quilt Blocks Should I Make?
My finished quilt size was 62.5″ x 75″ – so a large throw size essentially. But you could easily add more blocks to make yours bigger.
To make the same size quilt as I did you need to make 120 of what I am calling ‘quarter blocks’ – these are the blocks in my first post about this quilt.
4 of these quarter blocks combine to make 1 wonky diamond block.
I’ll explain how to join your quarter blocks to make a full block below.
My quilt pattern had 6 rows of 5 full blocks.
How many pairs of jeans do I need?
Okay, this is a hard one because it depends a bit on what size your jeans are!
However, I was getting from 4-8 quarter blocks per pant leg when I cut for this quilt. You can also use other denim fabrics.
The variation is because some of the jeans were bigger than others. If the jeans are too tapered at the ankle and calf they won’t be big enough to cut the size needed.
So an estimate would be somewhere between 10-15 pairs. If you don’t have enough look at a thrift store, eBay, or family and friends have always been a good source of blue jeans for me!
I have a post on my other site about How to Cut Up Old Jeans for Upcycling which should be useful to make sure you get the most fabric out of each pair of jeans.
You will have a lot of denim fabric scraps after your cutting so make sure to have somewhere to store them away for other fun denim projects.
Step 1: Making the ‘Diamond’ Blocks
Before joining your quarter blocks we need to trim them down as things often shift in the quilting process, especially with small blocks like these.
The quarter blocks started at 7″ and I trimmed all of mine down to 6 & 3/4″.
At this point, I made a style choice. I decided to try to (roughly) pair up the blocks with scrap strips closer to the corner of the blocks with each other and pair up the blocks with scraps further from the corner with each other.
Regardless you are not trying to match points here, these are meant to be ‘wonky’ diamond-ish shapes so don’t worry too much about that I just liked how those groupings worked.
So choose 4 quarter blocks that you like the look of together and sew the two top quarter blocks together right sides to right sides followed by the bottom two.
I used a regular 2.0 stitch length and a standard quarter inch seam allowance. I also used my walking foot which I think is essential for the joining process (or a dual feed system if you have that on your sewing machine instead!).
As I said in my previous post, it is probably best to use a denim needle but depending on your machine it isn’t always completely necessary.
I chain pieced them so I had a stack of pairs to press and then join into full blocks.
Pressing your blocks at every stage of the process is super important for this quilt!
Once you have your pairs of quarter blocks joined you need to press open the seam allowances.
I use a wool pressing mat and a hot iron on a cotton setting.
As well as pressing as normal I also let that iron sit on the open seam for a few extra seconds while applying some pressure to really help flatten that seam so there is not as much bulk.
I then flip the pair of quarter blocks over and press the seam from the front as well.
To Pin or not to Pin?
I am not a pin (up) girl! Get it?
I like low-faff quilts so I don’t like to over-pin things.
To join my pairs of quarter blocks to make a full block, I start by putting the pairs I like the look of together right sides to right sides.
I take care to line up the two seam lines in the middle of the pairs.
I then use one wonder clip to hold that center point in place as I start to sew.
Once my presser foot is about to hit the wonder clip, I stop, take the clip off, double-check the seams are matching up, and sew on.
If more pins would help you here there is no harm pinning more – you do you!
I’m going to mention again that you need a walking foot for this step. When you get to that middle seam you are going through a lot of layers. Most good sewing machines can handle this fine so don’t stress about it just use the right foot!
Repeat until you have 30 full blocks.
Step 2: More Pressing!
Before joining your quilt blocks to make rows we need to do more pressing. Did I mention pressing was important for this quilt?
Use the same technique as above (see the video tutorial as well if you want to see me do it) to press open your seams on the back of your blocks and then also press from the front.
If you take the time to press at this stage these blocks will come out much flatter than you would imagine for a denim quilt block with so much batting in it!
Step 3: Quilt Layout
It’s always a good idea to lay your blocks out somewhere like on a floor or a design wall to test out your layout before joining your blocks into rows.
I laid mine out on the floor and played around a bit with distributing any repeated fabrics and keeping the different-sized diamonds distributed around the quilt top.
I didn’t use any labeling system for my rows though and I kept changing my mind so in the end, my layout was a little more random!
I joined all my blocks into a full quilt top before adding the backing using the false back quilt-as-you-go method but see the post below and the suggestions at the end of this post for other options if you can’t handle putting a full quilt top through your machine.
Step 4: Joining Quilt Blocks into Rows
NOTE: I didn’t trim my full blocks before this step as I was too eager to get the quilt top assembled, but if you want a super crisp finish with all your points aligned it would be a good idea to trim your blocks down to a uniform size. Mine worked out fine without doing this but…do as I say not as I do :)!
I chain-pieced pairs of blocks leaving 6 blocks unpaired as my rows each had 5 blocks.
Once you have all your pairs you then pair those pairs and then add the spare 6 blocks to finish your rows.
You should have 6 rows of 5 full blocks if you are making the same size throw quilt as I did.
Now you need to press open the seams between all the joined blocks in your rows…I know not the most fun…but so necessary!
Step 5: Joining your Rows
Note: There is a section at the end of this post for alternative suggestions for joining your blocks to form your quilt top if handling a full quilt top is not going to work for you.
It’s a good idea again to play around with the placement of your rows before joining.
Once you are happy with your layout pair your rows into sets of two and place right sides to right sides.
You can pin the whole row if it helps you but what I do is pretty similar to what I do when joining blocks.
I put one wonder clip at the points where the seams need to match and once I’ve passed each seam matching point I stop sewing, move the wonder clip to the next seam matching point and continue. So I’m still only using that one wonder clip! (see the video if I haven’t explained this process well enough – there is a demonstration!)
Repeat until you have joined all your rows.
Step 6: Pressing the Quilt Top
This is the worst bit of the whole process. You know need to press open those long seams that just joined your rows….sorry! But still…so necessary!
Do this on the back of the quilt top and again on the front.
Step 7: Adding the Backing
Choosing a backing
I cut apart a double duvet cover and used one side as my quilt backing (I often use duvet covers or finds from the local thrift shop for affordable ways to back my quilts).
Hopefully, you will have something in your stash that will work as an easy quilt back for this one!
If you want your quilt to be extra warm you could even use a flannel sheet or fleece backing too!
Once you have chosen your backing fabric use your preferred basting method to temporarily secure it to the back of your quilt.
I used safety pins this time but in hindsight, I might have preferred using my microsttich tagging gun. Feel free to send me info about your favorite basting techniques as I still haven’t found a technique I don’t dislike in some way!
At this point, all you need to do is add enough rows of quilting stitches to secure the backing to your quilt.
We have already quilted the batting when we made our quarter blocks so we don’t need to worry about that.
- Stitch in the ditch.
- Stitch to the right and/or left of each seam line (I did this essentially just in a complicated way!)
- Use more diagonal straight lines to echo some of the diagonal lines in the quilt blocks.
I used a 30wt variegated Orange colored thread that was very similar to the one I used in my blocks but not quite as thick (that one was 12wt).
For the bobbin, I used a neutral-colored thread that would blend into the backing fabric.
My stitch length was set to 4.5.
See the video version of this post for my ramblings about how I attached my back which became a bit overcomplicated (although I do love how it turned out!).
When you have down enough additional quilting to make you feel like your backing is secure, go ahead and trim off the excess backing fabric to get ready for binding!
Step 8: Binding & Finishing!
I have always wanted to try binding a quilt with black and white striped fabric. I’ve seen other quilters do it and it always looks fab, but I’ve never had a quilt that quite suited it – until this one!
I used 2.5″ binding strips. I didn’t calculate how much I needed, I just joined binding strips until I ran out of the remnant of stripy black and white fabric that I had and laid it out around the quilt to check I had enough. I had more than enough so I have a little extra left over for a scrappy binding on a future quilt.
I used my favorite combination of Karen Brown and Melanie Ham’s binding techniques which I described in this post (my first quilt!).
I also like to label my quilts, so I added a small label out of denim at the end too.
Finished Denim & Scraps Quilt
I love how this quilt turned out! It is the end of June as I write this and I am calling this my favorite quilt finish of the year so far.
Alternative Options for Joining and Attaching the Backing
- Divide the quilt in half either lengthwise or widthwise. Join the blocks for half the quilt top and cut half the backing fabric. Repeat for the other side. Quilt each section & finish the back, in the same way as I did for my Queen Size Quilt-as-You-Go Quilt.
- Divide the quilt into quadrants or whatever size you can manage. Add the backing and quilting lines for just those sections. Join the other sections right sides to right sides and hand or machine stitch an additional strip of fabric to the back to hide the raw edges on the back. See this post to find this technique.
- Add a square of backing fabric to each finished block and sew blocks together wrong side to wrong side – this is what you do for a denim rag quilt. Note you will see all your raw edges with this technique including the backing and batting. You could add additional strips to the front to hide these (see the post linked to in the bullet above for this technique too).
I hope you have enjoyed these instructions and that it has given you some inspiration for your own blue jeans quilt.
Denim and Scraps Quilt Video Tutorial
- Needles marked 100/16 are best for heavy fabrics like denim.
- If you want to match the look of the stitching used on jeans use polyester jeans thread, it’s sold as jeans thread most often in quilt or sewing stores.
- Since denim is such a heavy fabric, pressing the seams open will decrease the bulkiness of the seams so you don’t have thick ridges in your finished quilt.
- Quilts made from jeans or denim shirts make a wonderful memory quilt.
Denim makes a very heavy quilt. If you would like to decrease the weight of a denim quilt you can use a very lightweight cotton batting or omit the batting altogether.
You can use any type of fabric for the backing of a denim quilt. In addition to standard quilt backing, I have used sheets, duvet covers and random pieces from my stash.
You can use denim from a pair of jeans or denim shirts. If you use stretch denim you can consider using interfacing so the quilt blocks keep their shape (note – I rarely do this and haven’t had issues, but it is the common wisdom that interfacing is the safe bet).
Below are some posts of other denim quilts I’ve made that you might be interested in too!