Quilting With Denim Jeans September 26 2018

Denim Tutorial

Quilting With Denim Jeans by Charlotte Noll

I’ve been saving old denim jeans since high school.  In 2017, Sherri Lynn Wood came to the Broward Quilt Expo to teach her Improv and Make-Do style of quilting.  She put out a Make-Do challenge to construct a quilt with what you already have.  The South Florida Modern Quilt Guild joined in and it gave me a great reason to finally make a blue jean quilt.

I unboxed the jeans I had been saving, sorted by color and weight and made my first denim quilt called Blue Jean Butterflies.  I choose light weight jeans so the seams wouldn’t be so bulky to sew.  Using Ombre fabric scraps from the Tessellation quilt that I made for Red Thread Studio to improv piece the butterflies, I then big stitch hand quilted with hand dyed variegated #5 perle cotton thread I had for many years.  I was very happy with the resulting quilt and so glad that I had kept those lightweight denim jeans I wore in college combined with my son’s high school skinny jeans in several different colors.  I entered Blue Jean Butterflies in 2018 QuiltCon and was excited to have it juried into the show.   I was then over the moon happy when it received a Judge’s Choice Award Ribbon, and I was able to attend the show in Pasadena.      

I have many jeans, and I wanted to make more quilts. Along came a challenge from another local quilt shop to use the provided fabric to create something to be judged/exhibited in their shop. The challenge fabric was blue/white and looks like water.  I was swimming when it started raining - raindrops in the seams instead of butterflies - voilà another denim quilt!

Denim Tutorial

Jen asked me to write about my denim sewing experiences so I took lots of pictures to describe my process for you if you wish to make your own.  You don’t have to have lots of saved jeans.  You can purchase them at thrift shops like Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. Just Google “thrift stores” and you’ll see them in your area.  Or you can purchase denim fabric.

Materials you will need:

  • Sharp Scissors - the  large Clover Serrated scissors are easier on your hands and Karen Kay Buckley's Perfect Scissors work as well
  • Rotary Cutter and mat - use a new blade. The 60mm is great for cutting thick layers
  • Rulers - for this quilt I used long, medium and square rulers
  • Iron - love my vintage dry heavy iron to press those seams flat
  • Used ⅛” masking tape to mark quilting lines. Performance masking tape sticks better than regular.
  • Love Sue Spargo Eleganza Perle Cotton threads and these Denim speciality packs are perfect.
  • Needles and Thimble


  • Wash and dry jeans - hang or fold flat so no big wrinkles
  • I start by using the large scissors to cut off the inseam seam
  • Cut and save the nicely stitched side seams leaving @½” on each side for a possible future project
  • If the hems are damaged trim them off. Sometimes I like to use patched/damaged parts for interest
  • Cut off the top section saving pockets you like and zippers

Denim Tutorial

Cutting Patchwork

  • The legs of the jeans are perfect to make the long diagonal strips using the long ruler
  • Used the square ruler with the 45 degree diagonal line to cut the seams. Save leftovers to make HSTs.
  • Or cut into pieces according to your desired design. Search for denim jean quilt images for ideas.
  • See how many 4” and 3” strips I got from that one pair of jeans
  • Cut up all the jeans the same way and organize by color and value

Denim TutorialQuilt Design

  • Using my design wall, I placed the strips on a 45 degree diagonal with the dark towards the top left and getting lighter towards the bottom right
  • I created a simple raindrop pattern on freezer paper for the diagonal seams of the 3” and 4” strips
  • Arranged the strips so the seams were in places where I wanted the raindrops to be - not perfectly even but in a pleasing arrangement
  • Sewed and pressed the seams then needle turn appliqued the raindrops over them using the freezer paper as a turning guide

 Denim Tutorial Denim Tutorial

Big Stitch Hand Quilting 

  • Before you start big stitch hand quilting you might want to read my tutorial
  • I wanted to stitch ghost raindrops with diagonal rain like wild Florida rain storms
  • Cut more freezer paper raindrops and places them around the fabric raindrops
  • Using ⅛” masking tape I marked the sideways rain and ghost raindrops
Denim Tutorial

  • These are the threads I choose to use and stitched around both sides of the masking tape.

 Denim Tutorial


I’ve started making my bindings ½” and big stitching them closed.  I love how solid the binding feels, how it looks and how easy it is to do.  I considered the washability at first, but I made a few charity/baby quilts and washed them with no problems!

  • Cut 3” binding strips for the whole perimeter of your quilt. I matched the dark and light areas
  • Press in half and sew a standard mitered binding but with ½” seam
  • Roll the binding over the ½” seam and make sure it goes past the seam line so the big stitching from the front will catch the back. I iron ¼” Steam-A-Seam fusible to keep it in place while I stitch but some people use clips or pins
  • Miter the corners in the standard way but they will be ½” also
  • Don’t forget the label. I named this quilt “Walking in the Pouring Rain”

 Denim Tutorial

Denim Tutorial

Denim Tutorial

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and find it useful. Feel free to leave a comment or question.

About Charlotte Noll

Charlotte Noll

Charlotte has been sewing since she was a young girl and made all her own clothes.  She made her first quilt when she moved to Florida in 1980 and needed something for her king-size waterbed.  She's been hooked since!  Charlotte loves fabric, thread, buttons, and beads!  She can't pass up a challenge or call for entry.  Charlotte has made many traditional and art quilts but now her eye is tracking the modern style.

Find Charlotte on Instagram, and Facebook.

Charlotte Noll Quilts