I am up to things they are just small things. I started a new ender leader quilt. My denim ender leader quilt is nearly finished, the top anyway, needing only a border then to be quilted. I am following in the footsteps of Deanna over at Wedding Dress Blue. She is on her second leader ender quilt with two inch squares. When I began to cut these, I thought, “Wow, these are tiny squares!” And Deanna is already on her second quilt. That’s why I am inspired by her!
So on the larger side of things, this cathedral windows quilt is slowly plugging along. I have combined it to the point I only have eight components. I have cut the next set of insert squares. I am trying to put it together in a way that I don’t have too much to stuff under my sewing machine. It is a heavy quilt and is becoming huge. As I have said many times, my quilts end up the size they end up and this one ended up BIG!
So, not much happening on the sewing field. The new job, while really great, is kind of wiping me out. That old dog, new tricks thing they always talk about has come true with me. Not that I can’t learn new things, it just takes more of my brain’s processing power than it used to. It’s going very well and I am excited to learn new things. Unfortunately, my learning-new-complicated-things part of my brain and my thinking of new-things-to-sew part are mutually exclusive. Or maybe it’s the same part with a limited memory. Anyway, I have been working on some blocks for Paul’s quilt that were already started. I finished these two blocks yesterday. Again, I don’t have any idea how they will fit into the overall quilt yet. In fact, all of the completed blocks are different sizes at this point. However, they were the first two blocks I made for him that he didn’t find some fault with so I’ll take that as a success.
So, I am starting a new job, so not much happening in the sewing room. But some pretty important milestones. Here’s my brand new 13 year old! Thank goodness they are only teenagers together for two years!
And here is the first day of 7th grade. Cool looking guy!
Yesterday I was so productive. I woke up at six am and really worked. I got all of the orange centers put in the denim quilt. Now the next step is arranging the squares, making decisions about what other colors to put in. I already know that the very outer edge will be yellow and the very center will be yellow, but besides that anything can happen. I love this part of the process. (Also, notice our new sidewalk. Shovelling will be a breeze next year.)
I worked some more on Paul’s quilt and have one denim pocket square done and another crow’s beak square nearly there. Made the decision yesterday that finished block size will be 12 inches. Other than that the game is wide open.
I did a little cross stitch on my ufo. I am slowly making headway on it, trying to work on it every day. Cross stitch is so slow going.
So I am starting a new denim quilt. It seems like a good time to talk about working with denim in quiltmaking. The first few were sampler quilts. I actually used denim to do some triangles, and very detailed blocks. I was experimenting with learning to put together blocks and measuring, sizing and sewing different shapes. The last quilt I finished for my son was a denim top. I am working on a cathedral windows quilt and a leader ender quilt.
Why work with denim?
I have many reasons to work with denim. It is plentiful. Without any effort, about every three years I have enough worn out jeans to make a twin size quilt. And I hardly ever wear jeans myself! And, any jeans that don’t have holes in them, I usually pass to good will. Even if part of the fabric is worn or has holes there is usually plenty of sturdy fabric left.
Denim is very sturdy and strong. It is usually dyed with indigo, which has a unique way of fading. Through wear, it fades unevenly. I love that unevenness, and the way that no two pieces are the same even from the same jeans. The front and back of the fabric is often different shades also, and can be used equally as well.
Jeans have detailing that is really fun to recycle. One of my favorite kinde of blocks is jean pocket blocks. I always think they are good places to put secret wishes. Jeans sometimes have embroidered labels that are fun to include in blocks.
When I make a denim quilt it is very heavy and warm. I love quilts that have heft in the wintertime, I find them very comforting.
Drawbacks to denim
Many of the same reasons I love denim are the same reasons it is hard to work with. The heaviness of the fabric can be difficult for a sewing machine to deal with. This becomes especially true when crossing seams. My Bernina comes with this nifty little tool, but you could also use some folded cardboard. In essense, the tool is placed behind the presser foot to level the presser foot when going over several layers. I demonstrate its use in my video, How to Narrow Jeans.
It is difficult to get perfectly accurate corners with denim. Sometimes they come together, sometimes they don’t. This is part because of the thickness, and part because denim is stretchy. That’s why people love to wear it, because over time it melds to the shape of your body. New denim is awful, but jeans you have had forever fit like second skin. Also, much modern denim has Lycra or Spandex in it to make it form fitting. You can somewhat avoid this by checking the labels of the jeans you use. If there are no labels, or you are buying denim in a thrift store, men’s denim tends to have less Lycra than women’s, and jeans meant for teenagers more Lycra than jeans meant for adults. Simple patterns work best with denim because of this stretching.
One of the things that makes denim great: it’s heft, can make it hard to quilt. That’s why my last denim quilt I used polar fleece for the backing. Because I used polar fleece, it required very little quilting. I did a combination of machine quilting, tying and hand quilting with very coarse thread. Quilting as you go is also an option.
I have been quietly working on a Leader Ender quilt. When you begin a chain of piecing and you end chain of piecing, it is best to use a scrap of fabric. When it sewn that way, there is no thread waste on the chain. These scraps are called leader enders. So instead of just using a scrap of fabric, someone had the idea to cut blocks and assemble them into quilts. These are usually simple quilts because they are made in between. I got the idea from Deanna over at Wedding Dress Blue. So while I was cutting out the circle denim quilt, I cut these squares with the scraps. I have been sewing them together when ever I piece and this is what I have so far. T