My husband liked this quilt so much he took it to use in his big truck sleeper.
Making a Denim Rag Quilt
I had been thinking about making a denim rag quilt for a while, but I never really had enough old jeans to have enough denim—because it does take a lot.
But one day, I got lucky when I visited a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. I love going to these kinds of stores because you never know what you will find.
What I found was a huge denim couch cover set. It was in perfect condition and only cost five dollars. So bingo, I bought it.
It was shaped differently than my own couch, so I couldn't use it for that. But I was determined to put all that fabulous material to use. So I set out to cut up the denim couch cover.
The first thing I did was remove all seams and zippers so all I was left with were big panels of denim. It came to quite a bit of fabric, enough to make the quilt I had in mind.
I also had some patriotic red and blue fabric, about four yards of each, so I had plenty of that to use for the back of the quilt. I opted not to use batting for padding for this quilt, since denim is already pretty heavy.
Now that I had the material I had to cut all of it into blocks, I used a rolling cutter and a 6" x 6" acrylic block to cut the fabric. You will also need a small pair of very sharp scissors later to snip the seam allowances.
I used just my plain old sewing machine to put the blocks together, and a 100/16 size sewing needle for heavyweight fabrics.
Step 1: Cut the Blocks
The first thing I did was cut all the blocks. A 6" x 6" block will make a 5" block if you allow a 1/2" seam allowance, so that is what I did.
This quilt was made 12 blocks x 14 blocks, which would be 60" wide x 70" long. This size quilt will be big enough for a twin-size bed or in this case my husband has already claimed it for the sleeper in his big truck.
But using these simple measurements you could add or take away depending on how big you want your quilt to be. This quilt used a total of 168 blocks for the front and 168 blocks for the back.
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Step 2: Arrange the Blocks
Once all the material is cut up into blocks, you will then want to lay out each row the way you want the material to show. In this case, I wanted a complete denim quilt top, with red and blue repeated blocks on the back of the quilt.
Lay out one row of twelve of the backing fabric, with the right sides of the fabric facing down. Rotate the blue, then red, or whatever pattern you wish to accomplish. Then you will layer a block of denim over the backing material, with wrong sides together, this means the right side of the denim will be facing up.
Do this at 10 rows of 12 blocks, So looking at it you should have all blocks to be one backing fabric and one denim.
Of course, this can be adjusted to the number of rows you would like to accomplish.
Step 3: Sew the Blocks Together
Once you have your rows all planned and organized you can start sewing the rows together.
Sew each block with backing materials facing each other and the denim side facing out. Sew a least a 1/2 inch seam allowance, so you will have enough for snipping.
So you should in this instance have at least 12 rows of denim on one side and alternating red and blue material on the bottom with all seams showing on the denim side.
Once all the rows are sewn you may want to press open all seams to make it easier to sew the rows together.
Step 4: Sew the Rows Together
Once all the rows are sewn you should have 12 rows. Now you can sew all the rows together.
Keep in mind as you sew the rows together, that you line up all the seams, and denim does have a little give in it so make sure that you watch that it doesn't stretch too much, while sewing.
This is a very forgiving quilt, so if it is off a smidgen, it won't matter too much. However, you do want to keep all the rows matching up as much as possible so you don't have one row longer than the other.
Once all rows are sewn together you should now have a quilt that is the complete size.
Now sew along the edge of the whole quilt, with a 5/8ths inch seam allowance so that all the edges will be able to fray as well.
Step 5: Snip All Seams
Now that you have the sewing complete you will need to snip the seams.
Snipping the seams will make it easier for them to fray out to get that ragged look you are looking for.
I snipped all the seams, through all the layers of the fabric. And make sure that you snip close to the sewn lines, but make sure you do not cut the actual sewing thread.
I snipped about every 1/4 to 1/2 inch, on every seam. This is the most time-consuming of all the steps.
Step 6: Wash the Quilt
Now that all the snipping is done, you will have to wash the quilt to help the fraying process.
You should be able to wash the quilt in any washing machine, just be sure to clean out the machine once it is washed because you will most likely have some lint in the machine.
But most of the lint will come out in the dryer. Once you have dried the quilt for about 10 minutes clean out the lint trap, and continue drying cleaning out the lint trap after every 10 to 15 minutes of drying because this quilt will fill up the lint trap fast.
You may also need to take the quilt out every so often, and take it outside to shake the quilt out to help loosen even more of the lint.
Once it is completely dry and shaken out, you will see a significant difference in how frayed the seams are.
Some recommend that you take a stiff bristle brush and brush all the seams out and wash the quilt again. But it may not be necessary, and it will fray more and more with each washing.
This quilt will be very durable and should give you years of use.
I hope you have found these instructions useful and will be able to make your own denim rag quilt.
We have certainly enjoyed our quilt and hope you will, too!
Aberdeen45 on August 16, 2020:
Love your tutorial. Very clear instructions. Was wondering if I need to wash my backing fabric (flannel) before I begin the project. Thank you.
Susan on July 28, 2020:
Thanks for this great idea. Do you attach the finished denim layer to the finished patterned layer by sewing around the edges only? I've not made a quilt before
RE on March 23, 2020:
I love this quilt and excited about visiting local thrift stores for good bargains on jeans and getting it started. Thanks for the wonderful tutorial. God Bless
Pam on January 19, 2020:
I really like your demin quilt and thank you so much,for sharing how to make the quilt.
Edith on January 16, 2020:
If I was to make a rag quilt with squares 12 x12 how many would I need for a queen size and a king size ..help
angie on November 26, 2019:
i have looked at a lot of denim rag quilt techniques and found yours to be the best yet.
Joan Fisher on October 28, 2019:
Great instructions. Simple and concise. I am definitely going to make one.......or 2 or 3 or.........
Debra Burkeen on October 24, 2019:
Thanks so much for your instructions. I spent all morning cutting up my old jeans but didn't know what to do with them. This is a great tutorial.
Elaine Mueller on October 19, 2019:
Very good instructions
Ce-Ce on October 19, 2019:
This was a very INFORMATIVE and well versed/illustrated tutorial! Thank you
Cathy on October 08, 2019:
I purchased a denim rag quilt on eBay. There is a name as to who it was made for and by whom for a graduation. Sad that someone gave this up. Much time and love went in to creating this. I enjoy its beauty every time I use it. Many cool evenings ahead.
Beth on September 17, 2019:
I followed all instructions and snipped edges but when it came out of dryer the seams had come undone. Did not snip through stitching. Don’t know what happened.
Abi on September 11, 2019:
I made one of these quilts to go on a floor pillow in a sunny spot in my house...in the winter the sun isn't quite enough.
One thing I did differently - instead of snipping the seam allowances I used a seam ripper. Poked the sharp end in near the seam, then just ripped toward the edge. Much faster and easier, and nicely ragged!
Tanyaewing on May 15, 2019:
I made a denim rag quilt for my niece’s college graduation. I added pictures of her and papa. I used his jeans for the quilt. I also embroidered her name and graduation date and degree. She loves it and will be such a great memory.
Wish I could load a picture!
Joy Keyworth on January 08, 2019:
I make quite a few of these quilts, my family and friends keep me supplied with jeans. My kids and grandkids love them for camping and picnics. The only differences is that I use flannel (camping and outdoors prints) and have the frayed side on the flannel side. This keeps the denim side smooth to throw on the ground without picking up grass and dirt as much. I also cross-stitch all the blocks ausing chain stitching so it goes very fast. I recommend taking to a laundry-mat so that the big washers and dryers pick up the threads instead of overworking my dryer (I learned this the hard way).
Joy Keyworth on January 08, 2019:
I make quite a few of these... my kids love them for camping and picnics. I use flannel with camping and outdoor themes. The only variation from these directions is that I fray on the flannel side. Having a solid denim side makes it easier to throw it on the ground and not picking up all the grass and dirt in the fraying edge.
Susan P Cox on October 26, 2018:
Thank you for the directions. My son wants to make a denim quilt for his wife from her late fathers jeans. these directions will help so much.
Michelle on October 18, 2018:
Great looking denim quilt ! I will make a few of these for my family members.
Terry K on August 29, 2018:
I made 2 of these, one for each of my sons when they graduated high school. You don't need batting, this is a heavy quilt. I used flannel for the back side. It frays more each time you wash and dry, but that adds to the charm. I've had to make some repairs of seams over the years, their quilts have been used continuously for 11 and 12 years.
Gail Self on February 23, 2018:
I enjoyed your step by step guide. Very easy to understand. I appreciate that! I have just started my first blue jean quilt. It is for my youngest grand son. I have all the jeans cut, and now I am in the process of making them into 10" blocks. I suspect it will be my Spring/Summer Project. Wish me luck.
Leigh Myers on January 20, 2018:
I love your quilt. I have a stash of old jeans that I want to make a quilt with but was unable to think of a what to do it till now. I love the way you did this. I just have one question. does is fray at the seams as you wash it over time?
Ada on January 18, 2018:
Thank you Dear for sharing! I have a pretty big stash of old jeans but no idea how to make the blanket/rag quilt. Your tutorial is excellent! Hugs!
Janet Fagg on January 18, 2018:
I have just gone through your tutorial of the denim quilt. Your instructions were so very clear together the illustrations as well. I feel that I can now have a go and do one myself. All I need is a shop like the one you went into and that would be .. job done .. as we say !!! Thanks once again .....
Linda on December 17, 2017:
Did you use cotton fabric for the back or did you use fannel?
Dana VanWay on August 02, 2017:
She said she didn't use batting because the denim was heavy enough.
Hildegard on June 25, 2017:
It doesn't look like you used any batting?
Vanessa on December 23, 2016:
Your quilt is absolutely gorgeous. Can't wait to make mine. I've been collecting denim at yard sales and thrift shops too.
Just a quick note. I have made several rag quilts and when I washed it the first time, many of my seams unraveled. I had to go back and triple seam my stitches. It takes a bit longer to sew, but my quilts will not come unraveled.
Happy sewing my friends
Willie on October 10, 2016:
Thanks for these instructions.
I am now making a jeans rag quilt for a son and wonder - do I need to backstitch for each square or should I double stitch all seams for extra strength?
Thanks for your help.
Mary Watts on April 27, 2016:
For years I have been saving most of my daughter's old jeans, with the plan of someday making her a quilt. Well, this was the year. My original plan was that she take it with her to college this fall, but I may have made it too large for a dorm bed. Your directions were great and easy to follow...which made it easy to complete this project. I am now making pillows with the leftover squares.
Lois on January 09, 2016:
I have just tidied cupboards to find several pairs of jeans that we both wondered if we might fit into again one day. I now have the fabric for my first denim quilt. Even though your tutorial is several years old I think it's the one for me to use. Thank you.
Diane Inside (author) on September 26, 2013:
Hi Julie, sorry somehow your comment got past me. So sorry, but no you don't necessarily have to press open the seams. However while sewing you may want to separate them and line them up just so there is less layers for the machine to go thru either way works. Because in the end you will be snipping them all anyway so the look will be same nonetheless. Thank you all for your comments glad you enjoy this page. Be Safe all of you.
Julie on September 10, 2013:
Are you pressing open the seams when sewing the rows?
Rogene Robbins on March 11, 2013:
I've made lots of blue jean quilts, but never had the nerve to try a rag quilt. You make it look easy.
Catherine Dean from Milledgeville, Georgia on July 28, 2012:
A wonderful hub! I too get a fabric for sewing from second hand stores. It is a great source for cheap material. I love rag quilts and they are perfect for children. I am a member of Project Linus and enjoy making quilts for children very much.
Diane Inside (author) on July 08, 2012:
Sharon, yes you are correct the last row all the way around the quilt is the the denim patches front and back . I'm sorry i didn't mention this in the instructions but it can be done either way really. Thanks so much for the kind words and so glad you enjoyed it.
sharonp123 on July 08, 2012:
I think this is fabulous and can't wait to get started. On your last photo, 'Finished Denim Rag Quilt', have you swapped one complete row of patches back to front? It looks like there is a row of denim around the coloured patches - I think that's a great idea, or is it a trick of the camera angle?
Claudia Porter on July 01, 2012:
Cool project. I have tons of fabric so I might have to try this one.
Susan on June 24, 2012:
Very good find of denim and so much easier to cut out squares from large panels. Beautiful quilt and great tutorial. I really like your selection of fabrics and I know your husband must be lovin it. How nice that it will just improve with washing! Not much we can say this about. Thanks!
moonlake from America on April 19, 2012:
I started this quilt with our old jeans but it's still in my box not finished. I would get it done if I would get off of hubpages. Voted up
kmaskreations on February 16, 2012:
Great hub! Great photos and very well written. The instructions are clear and should be easy to follow by even a novice quilt maker. Thanks for sharing :)
smcopywrite from all over the web on November 09, 2011:
wonderfully done. i used old blue jeans that i was going to put in a yard sale for my quilt. denim quilts are extremely durable and fun to make.
Diane Inside (author) on March 26, 2011:
Hi RTalloni, so glad you like this project. My husband enjoys his very much. I like it but it is a heavy quilt so I don't enjoy it as much as him since I tend to like lighter quilts. But he loves his and now wants me to add patches from every state he delivers to. May take a while for that. Thanks for stopping by.
RTalloni on March 25, 2011:
What a great project. It has my mind going down a new creative path that I can't let detour me at present, but most definitely want to keep in mind. It will be fun to plan one of these, and then enjoy it. Thanks!
Diane Inside (author) on January 25, 2011:
Hi Steven, good to know I am anxious to talk to you, so I can get the scoop hope to see you soon.
Stevennix2001 on January 25, 2011:
Hey Diane, I hope all is well. I decided to end my ban in forums, so hopefully I'll see you around. Hope everything is going well. :)
Diane Inside (author) on January 16, 2011:
So glad you liked it cillam and Kat its been a couple of months now since I made this quilt my husband loves it. it is very strong and can hold up to his abuse so I love it too. lol Hope you guys are able to try it, it is fun to make and so useful. Thanks to you all for stopping by.
My Kat Walkin' on January 15, 2011:
Wow, this looks like a great way to use all of the denim that I was saving to do a crochet rug. I had started it awhile back but only got so far. It was getting very heavy to hold. So it was put aside. Now with all of the quilting going on, I was giving thought to making a denim quilt with the rest of the material. Thanks for the very easy instructions.
cillam on December 31, 2010:
I think this article is very helpful and I will be bookmarking this page.
Diane Inside (author) on December 15, 2010:
Im, so glad you have decided to finish what your grandmother started. I learned most of what I know about sewing and quilting from my grandmother. It feels good to carry on such a wonderful skill, especially since she is gone and I am the only one in the family who took interest in this skill. Good luck with your grandmothers quilt I'm sure she would be pleased that you are finishing it. Thank you so much for your comment.
imatellmuva from Somewhere in Baltimore on December 13, 2010:
Great Hub Diane Inside!!! I'm going to bookmark this hub, to use as instructions to complete a quilt my Grandmother started before she she passed away!
Thanks for posting this!!
Diane Inside (author) on November 20, 2010:
HI Steven, thanks for visiting, I had Thanksgiving Early It was delicious, moms cooking always is. lol Hope you have a great Thanksgiving also.
Stevennix2001 on November 20, 2010:
Wow, thanks for the great tips Diane. I never made a quilt before but if i do someday, then I'll definitely be sure to follow your advice. Thanks again for the advice. You be sure to have a Happy Thanksgiving, in case I don't see ya.
Diane Inside (author) on November 19, 2010:
Thank You RNMSN for the glowing review, I really appreciate it. I never tried crazy quilt style for denim, I will have to try that sometime, I bet it has an interesting look. I really am glad you stopped by, Thank you so much.
Barbara Bethard from Tucson, Az on November 19, 2010:
what a great article!! voted useful and awesome and beautiful as well! wonderful pics and steps so easy to follow!! I love denim quilts...I dont cut even squares to mine though I just crazy quilt it and never have put a backing on one...yours is so much prettier than mine!! it's a blue ribbon for sure!! be sure to enter it in your county fair if your hubby will give it up for a week or so :) way to go!!!
Diane Inside (author) on November 14, 2010:
skye2day, I am so glad you liked this and I hope your sister enjoys it as well. Thank you so much for the wonderful comment.
skye2day from Rocky Mountains on November 14, 2010:
Diane This is so beautful Wow You laid it out in a simple guide to follow. I have never attempted a quilt. Maybe someday. I am open to it. I have linked to my siter, she is so into making quilts. I know she will enjoy this hub of love. You have a fantastic hub here. You are so gifted. To share how to is very generous of you. I pray you are Blessed 100 fold for Blessing others.
Thank You. I love ya already. Peace sister. You have a new fan and I am honored to follow u. ( - :
Diane Inside (author) on November 04, 2010:
Wow Delores thanks a lot. lol, patience, well, when it comes to this stuff yes I have patience, can't say that I have the same patience with some people though.LOL Thank you for your wonderful coment.
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on November 04, 2010:
Voted up and awesome! You've done a wonderful job of showing exactly what to do and how to make this beautiful quilt. You must have some patience!