Quilting

Tips for Quilting With Denim Jeans

15 Things I Learned From Making a Quilt Out Of Old Blue Jeans

Making a quilt with denim is not quite the same as with other fabrics, and there are a number of things to keep in mind. These tips for quilting with denim jeans can help you out.

I practically live in blue jeans and I’m pretty sure almost everyone does. Of course, once they have worn out, or don’t fit anymore, they basically just take up space.

As a result, you have to decide to either donate them, throw them away, or repurpose them. If they cannot be donated, then why not try making a quilt.

My First Full Size Denim Quilt

Over the years I have made a number of items with recycled jeans, but I’ve never attempted a full size quilt and I learned quite a bit during the process.

It’s not as hard as you may think, but there are some things to consider.

Watch the Video: Tips For Quilting With Denim Jeans

1. Clean Your Machine

Full disclosure here, I’m the first to admit that I don’t clean my machine as often as I should, but working with denim creates A LOT of fabric dust. For this quilt I ended up cleaning my machine every time I changed the bobbin.

2. Wash and Dry the Jeans

This might be a no-brainer for some, but you want to run those old jeans through the washing machine and dryer so you are starting with clean fabric. My husband tends to get oil on his clothes when he is working in the garage, and I would hate for that to get on the other fabric.

3. Use Heavier Sewing Needles

Denim is pretty heavy-duty fabric, so it’s worth it to use sturdier sewing machine needles. I used a 100/16. Many manufacturers have needles labeled specifically for denim.

4. Change Needles More Often

What can happen to a needle when sewing through denim

My needles seem to dull fairly quickly when I am sewing with denim. I like to change mine every so often so I don’t run into problems.

5. Press Seams Open

I have made smaller denim items and pressed the seams to one side. It was tough sewing through all of those layers. I also did that with part of this quilt. Mistake! I started pressing the seams open and it made a huge difference.

6. Stabilize Stretch Jeans

Stabilize stretch jeans when quilting with denim that has stretch

If the jeans you are using are the stretchy ones, it’s probably worth it to stabilize with a lightweight stabilizer. It can help with sewing and avoiding stretching.

7. Slow Down

Because denim is so thick, if you sew too quickly you run the risk of breaking a needle.

8. Avoid Using Your Favorite Fabric Scissors

I don’t know about you, but I watch my fabric scissors like a hawk and I don’t use them when cutting denim. Blue jeans fabric can dull scissors, so you may want to use a pair that you aren’t too worried about dulling.

9. Think About The Quilt Batting & Backing

I thought long and hard about adding a thin cotton batting. In the end, I did. I also used fleece backing. Needless to say, my quilt is warm, really warm. I don’t think that the batting made it much harder to quilt through.

As far as backing goes, it’s your quilt so you can use whatever you would like, but, depending on the size, denim quilts are pretty heavy and dense. In addition, denim is not the softest fabric, so if you are planning on using it as a blanket, you may not want to use denim on the back.

Think about backing it with quilting cotton or fleece. I used fleece and my quilt warm and toasty.

10. Think About the Binding

There are a couple of things to consider when binding a denim quilt.

First is the type of fabric. You can use denim, which would look great, but it is super thick to sew through. I can only imagine how hard a mitered corner would be with blue jean fabric. It may be better for you to bind with fabric other than the denim. I used cotton quilting fabric and it worked out well.

Second is the width of the binding. When I bind a standard quilt, my binding is 2 & 1/2 inches wide. Because of the thickness of denim, I bumped the width up to 3″ for my quilt. Before you decide what width you want to use, test out a few different ones. I liked the wider width for the denim quilt because it was easier for me to sew down.

11. Hand Quilting versus Machine Quilting

I love hand quilting, but not with denim. If you can do it, that’s awesome. I think it would look great, especially if you used big stitches and incorporated it into the design. I know from experience that it is tough to hand quilt through blue jean fabric.

However, give it a try and see what you think. You may not have any problems with it at all.

12. Longer Stitches

Because of the fabrics’ thickness, you may want to increase your stitch length. That can help the needle go through more smoothly and avoid any skipping or other problems with your machine.

13. Think About Thread

Consider the thread you are using. I find a stronger thread works well, especially for heavier denim. I used a 30wt cotton for my quilt. Finer thread may break or get tangled.

14. Consider Grain

Denim, especially jeans, has a pretty obvious grain and it is something to think about. That being said, I am notoriously bad about paying attention to grain and I did not have many problems. It’s also not always easy to get a large piece of denim out of a pair of jeans without going against the grain.

15. Weight

Denim quilts are heavy, heavier than you may think. I checked and mine weighed about 7 pounds. I like that heavier feel, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The bulk also makes it harder to quilt together the layers.

If You Aren’t Sure About Taking Jeans Apart

I made this video demonstrating how to take apart a pair of jeans. It isn’t hard, it just takes a little bit of time.

Items That May Help You Make Your Denim Quilt

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Why Denim?

I hope these tips for quilting with denim jeans have not deterred you from giving it a try.

Tips for quilting with denim jeans.  15 things I learned from making a full size quilt with blue jeans.

Jeans quilts look great and, because of their weight, they are nice and cozy.

Additionally, they are earth-friendly. You are keeping a few pairs of jeans out of the landfill.

Lastly, they are cost effective. Not only do you get to wear the jeans, but now you have a new use for them. And you don’t have to go to the quilt store to buy new fabric.

Happy Quilting!

Tips for quilting with denim jeans.  15 things I learned from making a full size quilt with blue jeans.

Some Of My Other Denim Projects

Cute little fish for all sorts of projects.
Handy denim coasters are easy to make
Recycled Denim Drawstring Bag Tutorial - createwithclaudia.com
What a cute gift bag this would make!
Love this denim pillow!
These denim ornaments look great on the tree and are easy to make.
The various hues of denim really make this throw rug sparkle!
The back side of a pair of jeans makes a great apron!
Show off your patriotic pride with this easy denim table runner.
Tips for Quilting with Denim Jeans

38 Comments

  1. Uta Hill

    February 5, 2020 at 1:22 PM

    I totally agree. I used pearl cotton No 3 to hand quilt my denim quilt. I needed several needles and gloves to pull it through the denim – but it looks great.

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      February 6, 2020 at 6:49 AM

      I bet it’s lovely with the hand stitching.

  2. Sandy

    February 5, 2020 at 5:53 PM

    Thanks. Claudia! I have a large tub filled with jeans, ready to repurpose!

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      February 6, 2020 at 6:48 AM

      Awesome, have fun

  3. Dianne James

    February 15, 2020 at 11:55 AM

    I would love to make a denim quilt. Can you tell me how many adult jeans it would take to make the various sizes of quilts. Thanks and love your site by the way.

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      February 18, 2020 at 7:10 AM

      Thank you so much. The quilt shown used about 8 pairs of adult jeans, but there where plenty of smaller scraps leftover which I will use at a later date. I used larger units so I needed larger pieces of denim. It would be hard to give you specifics for various sizes because it depends on the pattern and the sizes of the jeans. Good luck making your jeans quilt.

  4. Debra Eggleston

    April 16, 2020 at 7:25 PM

    Do you have a pattern for this quilt?

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      April 17, 2020 at 5:35 AM

      I don’t, but I’m working on one. It’s basically freeform with 3 different units. Thanks for reading.

  5. LCT

    August 13, 2020 at 2:11 PM

    Claudia–thanks so much for these tips. I made my first denim quilt early this century and just love it. However in every subsequent denim quilt I am careful to make wider seams (1/2″). I quickly found that with washing and use, the 1/4″ seams began to pull apart. This led to post-laundering repairs: whip stitch closed, fabric glue for permanent mend, then appliqueing denim labels to hide the mend. (I save every part of the jeans when i render a pair!) When I run out of labels, I use sturdy ribbon. I button-tufted rather than quilted, so I also find myself replacing buttons with each wash as well. (Live and learn!) The extra attention seems to renew the quilt as it changes all the time. Thanks especially for the tip for stabilizing stretch denim–that’s a keeper as have been at a loss for a solution! Best, LCT

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      August 15, 2020 at 7:02 AM

      Thanks for your tips as well.

  6. Chris

    September 9, 2020 at 12:21 PM

    Outstanding layout! I love the effect you achieved using the 3 units. Genius!

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      September 10, 2020 at 5:40 AM

      Thanks so much!

    2. Diana Alden Gatchell

      March 24, 2021 at 9:13 PM

      I made a queen size. Cut 6″ squares. If there was a hole I put fabric behind it. No batting. I used flannel. We used it for picnics and for our dogs. And yes it surprised me at how heavy it was. 🤪

  7. Cathy

    December 10, 2020 at 10:00 PM

    Please consider using a half inch seam when using denim. It’s what I did for my first one. The second denim quilt I made in a class. The instructor corrected me about the quarter inch seam and since I was there for her knowledge, I didn’t argue too long about it and I regret it. Face it, denim frays easily: when you cut off your winter jeans into summer shorts, the fraying is the best part. It is NOT the best part after you’ve tossed your denim quilt into the washer for the first time.

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      December 11, 2020 at 5:24 AM

      Thanks for the advice.

    2. Diana Alden Gatchell

      March 24, 2021 at 9:12 PM

      I made a queen size. Cut 6″ squares. If there was a hole I put fabric behind it. No batting. I used flannel. We used it for picnics and for our dogs. And yes it surprised me at how heavy it was. 🤪

  8. Dorothy Mcdonell

    February 19, 2021 at 12:10 AM

    I have made several jean quilts and I also use a wider seam. I like the look of a tied quilt. Need strong hands though.

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      February 21, 2021 at 5:26 AM

      Hand tied definitely can be tough to do. Thanks for stopping by.

    2. Theresa Dinkins

      May 10, 2022 at 1:22 PM

      I cut mine from top to bottom 9 inches I go down the leg of a gene and the width is whatever is on the leg so it varies from 7 to 8 to 9 to 2 that way I can Leave the pocket on and I saw it right into my jeans quilt and I hand tie with cotton yarn

  9. LidaM

    April 22, 2021 at 4:46 PM

    I’ve been wanting to make a denim quilt. Your tips for quilting denim are excellent! Thank you.

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      April 23, 2021 at 5:30 AM

      That’s great. I hope you have fun making your jeans quilt! Thanks for reading.

  10. Debbie

    October 12, 2021 at 9:09 PM

    I use my electric scissors to debone my jeans. I also use a staggered seam pattern so I don’t have so many thicknesses in the corners. HTH

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      October 13, 2021 at 6:08 AM

      Good tip. Thanks.

  11. Michael Jones

    March 13, 2022 at 7:17 PM

    Hello Claudia,
    I’m curious to know if my mother’s old Singer sewing machine from the 1950’s would be able to stand up to denim quilting? It weighs a ton but hasn’t been used in decades, although I think that it can do a number of kinds of stitches (Model 99 I think). I thought that I might try my hand at creating a small denim quilt in the near future. Thank you!

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      March 15, 2022 at 8:23 AM

      Oh wow, that sounds like a nice machine. Unfortunately I don’t know if it could handle the denim. I’m unfamiliar with older machines and their capabilities. Maybe contact a sewing machine center or something and they could help with that question. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

  12. Myrissah

    March 18, 2022 at 3:36 PM

    Hi, I’ve never made a quilt before so I don’t know any logo but what was the pattern you used for this quilt? I really like it.

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      March 19, 2022 at 7:50 AM

      The quilt in this article is my Freeform Denim quilt and here is a link to the tutorial. https://www.createwithclaudia.com/2020/06/freeform-denim-quilt-pattern/ Glad you like the quilt.

  13. Dona

    March 25, 2022 at 12:08 PM

    I just made a queen size quilt. I did a Irish chain. the solid squares I put a pocket on. It weights 10 lb with out borders. For the borders I was going to buy denim the 4oz because the quilt is so heavy now. I thought that the 4oz denim would hang better than using more jeans. Do you think it could be quilted on a long arm machine? Do you think the 4oz denim is ok.

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      March 29, 2022 at 9:04 AM

      I’m not a longarmer so I’m not sure if it can be quilted on a long arm machine. Sorry. Maybe ask your local quilt shop. My jean quilt is definitely heavy too. I don’t see why the 4oz would not be ok. I used all different jeans in my one quilt and I have combined denim with quilting fabric in the past as well. But to make sure, do a quick test block to see if you like the way it turns out. Thanks for stopping by!

  14. louise

    April 1, 2022 at 9:24 PM

    I used 1/2 inch seam allowances and opened the seams on my denim quilt. I then used a printed ripstop nylon fabric for the backing without batting between the layers and quilted it with my sewing machine. For the border I used a poly cotton twill fabric and found it sturdy enough to go well with the denim. It makes a great picnic blanket to use on a grassy field or a sandy beach

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      April 2, 2022 at 8:37 AM

      Gret tips. Thanks!

  15. Owen B Prince

    April 2, 2022 at 8:58 PM

    I have some very heavy duty scissors that will cut a penny in half but I do not use them on blue jean denim. The thing that
    works best is to get a new pair of tin snips that have a long blade and one with a short blade. You will be able to cut
    the seems of the blue jeans with less trouble and save your hands for hand sewing. Only use those tin snips for
    cutting blue jeans and not for tin and they will last a long time. I hope this helps you enjoy working with blue jean projects
    as much as I do. I have about 200 pair of used blue jeans that I am going to make quilts with. I also made a block of wood
    for my mother so she could cut out quilt squares. The wood template is strong so you can use a cutting wheel and keep
    all your quilt squares completely square.

  16. Owen B Prince

    April 4, 2022 at 11:31 AM

    I do a lot with blue jean denim. I have a pair of very heavy duty scissors that will cut a penny in half but I do
    not use them. I got a new pair of tin snips with the long blade and they work best for denim. The shot blade
    tin snips are best for cutting the thick seems on blue jeans. I hope that helps your tips for denim.
    Owen B Prince

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      April 8, 2022 at 8:14 AM

      Thanks for the tip!

  17. EnvoyTextiles

    June 22, 2022 at 6:40 AM

    This is my first time I visit here. That’s really helpful. Thanks for the tip! Keep up your good work.

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      June 22, 2022 at 6:45 AM

      Welcome and thank you.

  18. Leanne

    June 28, 2022 at 1:24 PM

    I saw a quilt that had 6 inch (or bigger) denim squares alternating with corduroy. Flannel sheet for batting and a regular sheet on the back. It was for a boy’s graduation….good heavy “car quilt” in snowy Minnesota!

    1. createwithclaudia_7j76hs

      June 29, 2022 at 7:31 PM

      That sounds really nice. I bet it would be nice and toasty!

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