Instead of throwing out your old jeans, upcycle them into one-of-a-kind jean quilts that will look incredible and keep you cozy.
Check out these denim quilt ideas for inspiration.
Who doesn’t love wearing jeans? They’re comfortable, go with pretty much everything, and are durable! Over time, though, your favorite old jeans may wear out, get too small, or become otherwise unusable.
When you get to that point, do you throw them out? No way!
While you may not be able to wear them forever, the good news is that they still have plenty of life left in this versatile fabric.
You can upcycle those worn-out pairs of jeans into your new favorite quilt. Beautiful denim quilts come together very quickly and are beginner-friendly.
If you’ve ever thought about turning your jeans into a denim blanket (not the same as a quilt but if you are a beginner you are forgiven!), you’ve probably realized that there are tons of different patterns and ways you can design your quilt.
You can cut out square blocks in the size you want and sew them together in rows, or cut out triangles or other shapes and create more “traditional” pieced-together quilt blocks. Or you can make a blue jean rag quilt.
There are so many denim quilt ideas out there to try!
What is a denim quilt?
A blue jeans quilt is where you gather up different kinds of jeans that have been used, abused, and otherwise worn out to the point of not being able to wear them. Rather than toss them, you turn them into a quilt.
A quilt, at its core, isn’t just a blanket. It’s a 3-layered blanket comprised of the quilt top (the detailed part that quilters spend the most time on), batting, and the quilt backing.
FAQs about Blue Jean Quilting
I know how hard it can be to take an idea as simple as creating a jean quilt out of old jeans and making it a reality! With that in mind, I’m answering some common questions about making blue jeans quilt tops. Then I’ll share a few denim quilt ideas for inspiration.
Does a denim quilt need batting?
Short answer: no. (although I almost always do use batting myself – read on)
Long answer: it depends on your quilt design and the fabric you want to use as your backing, as well as if you want a heavy quilt to cuddle up with on an autumn day or something lighter for warmer months.
Since denim tends to be a thicker material, cotton batting can make the blanket heavy and stiff once it’s all put together.
Backing material options can include cotton, a flannel sheet, fleece, and Minky.
If you choose to use a lightweight backing like cotton, your denim quilt could benefit from adding batting for more warmth.
However, if you use a thicker (and warmer) backing material such as flannel or fleece, adding cotton batting could make your quilt too hot, thick, and heavy.
If you use a backing such as flannel and want to add batting without making your quilt too thick, consider adding another layer of flannel, a very thin cotton batting or a low loft polyester.
All that said I tend to use a medium to high loft polyester batting in my own denim quilts as I love the weight of a heavy quilt and I like the softness you can get from polyester batting in a quilt like this.
How do you make a quilt with denim?
Although the basic creation process is the same, blue jean quilts tend to be more casual and straightforward compared to intricate quilts. You need to:
- Gather your worn out jeans (if you don’t have enough material, you can grab some old jeans to upcycle from the Thrift Store or eBay!)
- Cut out the usable portions of jean material with a rotary cutter or fabric scrissors
- Sew them together with a sewing machine using a straight line stitch
- Add your batting and backing
- Finish it off by quilting or tying
I like buying a variety of denim scraps for a unique look in my quilt designs.
I have had a lot of luck getting old denim for fairly inexpensive prices at a local thrift shop and on eBay.
Here’s a video I made showing my last ebay haul so you can see the kind of denim available:
You can also make a memory quilt by saving and collecting old denim skirts, shirts and pants that your children have outgrown. It’s a good use of old, worn out fabric, and with enough fabric will make an heirloom your family will treasure!
How many pairs of jeans does it take to make a quilt?
This question is a little tough to answer because there are many factors to consider, including:
- The size of the quilt and how large you want your quilt to be
- The width of the panels
- The size of the jeans you are using
- How large your quilt pieces are
- If there are holes, frays or other items you need to cut around in the fabric
With that said, I can give you a rough estimate. I would recommend aiming for getting material from 8 pairs of jeans for a small to medium project. You might find that six is enough, or you might need 10, but 8 is a good starting point.
The first denim quilt I made (see below) I used a traditional quilt pattern and ended up needing 10 pairs of jeans for a throw size but I had a lot of scraps leftover that I used for the back so potentially if I had cut more precisely I could have used less!
Remember to keep the size of your quilt in mind as you are ‘shopping’ for jean squares. If you want to do larger projects, you’ll need more jeans!
How do you wash a denim quilt?
You can throw your quilt into the washing machine with cold water on the gentle cycle. If your quilt is quite large, you may need to take your quilt to the laundromat. Many people will dry a quilt in the dryer on low-medium heat. I personally hang them to dry outside.
If you are sewing a rag quilt, you may need to repeat this process a couple of times to achieve the look you want.
If you are washing your quilt for the first time (any quilt not just a denim one) I recommend using several color catchers in the wash to catch any color bleeds, yes even for used jeans – just to be on the safe side.
NOTE: When washing your beautiful denim quilts, you’ll likely find strings or cotton thread bits in your washing machine drum. Let them dry and wipe them out. Also, your dryer lint trap will probably fill up with strings quickly. Stop the dryer every 15 minutes or so and clean out the lint trap.
How do you cut denim?
I’ve outlined how I cut up and use my old jeans (or even new denim) to get the most out of them. I even give ideas for using the “odd” parts such as cuffs, waistlines, etc. This is an excellent way to upcycle!
Here’s a video showing you exactly how to cut up denim to turn it into square pieces for quilts. There are a few tricks I show in this video to get a good number of denim squares, so watch carefully.
What else can you make with jeans?
There are so many things you can make using old jeans! If you get creative, you can use every part of your old jeans in some way.
Old jeans also make terrific DIY Denim Handbags! And don’t forget to check out How to Make a Bedside Pocket Organizer from Old Jeans.
If you have a dog, you may want to take a look at this easy No-Sew Denim Dog Toy.
DIY Denim Quilt Examples
I’ve rounded up a few examples of quilts made from old jeans to give you some ideas of what you can create.
I made this Reversible Picnic Quilt Blanket by following a pattern for the quilt top and doing a little improvised quilting on the back of the quilt.
I love how it turned out! The edge of the quilt (called the binding) has a colorful detailing that really makes this one pop.
I’ve included a full explanation of all the steps of making a quilt in this post as well in case you want more details than this post contains.
If you want to take your upcycled denim picnic blanket to the next level, try making it water-resistant!
I also recently made this Quilt-As-You-Go Denim Quilt that used up some other brightly colored quilting scraps too! I posted it over on our sister blog Scrap Fabric Love.
Crafting My Home has a great idea to keep you dry when the ground is damp. This is one of my favorite practical denim quilt ideas, and I love how she threw in some back pockets for fun.
Sustain My Craft Habit went simple with this design, but it looks fantastic. She even cut close to the seam allowance of the waistband and created a tie to keep the blanket rolled up when it’s not in use.
This Quick Denim Improv Quilt was a lot of fun to make. I combined denim pieces with scraps of other fabric I had sitting around to create a colorful quilt I love to use. This is possibly my favorite denim project!
I also put together a video for this quilt to share the quilting process and how to work with the layers of denim. This is helpful if you are a visual learner like I am…I always appreciate video tutorials!
I hope this post of denim quilt ideas has inspired you to try making your own denim quilt from old jeans! It’s only slightly addictive once you make your first quilt!
I’d love to see your finished quilt or any other new projects – please tag me once you post them.
For more quilting fun and ideas for using other fabric scraps and reclaimed materials in your quilts do also check out our sister site Scrap Fabric Love.