How to reuse my grandfather’s old jeans.

July 15, 2008
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I have a quilt in the making right now, but I’ve been procrastinating on it for the past month or so. I like making things, but I find that it’s hard to get from the “cut, cut, cut” stage to the “sew, sew, sew” stage. I may have gotten over my fear of cutting up fabric, but there’s still the fear of making horrible mistakes while I sew things together. But never fear, I’m getting over that too! I’ve now gone from cutting larger pieces of fabric into smaller pieces of fabric, to sewing small pieces into a larger piece. Quite an odd thing to do, when one looks at it…

However, there’s joy to be found in both destruction (or de-construction, in this case) and creation. And quilting certainly combines the two together. πŸ™‚

The quilt I’m working on is an experience in reusing, repurposing, and recycling. It’s a “circle jeans quilt”, made from jeans that i’ve gathered from some family and friends, and my own closet. I’m also using non-jean materials, such as old shirts, scarves, bandanas, and more. Most of my fabric came from raiding my grandmother’s stash, a rummage sale, and through the kindness of a friend of mine. I will admit to buying a few pieces here & there though; the remnants bin at JoAnn’s is a hard monster to fight.

An idea of some of the materials I used. If you look at the bottom left corner, you’ll see pockets – there are 11 pairs sitting there, waiting for a use! I ripped them off all the jeans I cut up, to increase the fabric I could use, and showcase color differences.

Thankfully, this quilt is a “quilt as you go” design, which in this case, means no batting, and some unconventional layering to achieve quilt status. I found the design and tutorial at the Blue Jeans Quilt Gallery, and fell in love. So far, I’ve only got eight blocks sewn together, out of the 30 I’ll eventually need, but this is quilting: I don’t expect instantaneous results…even if I want them!

To create this quilt, I cut out circles from all the jeans I gathered. For the twin-ish sized quilt I’m aiming for, I needed 270 circles. That ended up being 11 pairs of jeans, plus some extra pant legs, left over from another project of Grandma’s. I was shocked! I thought I would need at least 20 or so pairs of pants. But since I mostly used older men’s jeans, I was able to get a large amount of usable fabric; up to 20 circles per pair, if I was lucky. The girl jeans I used didn’t give me as much material, but I was still able to harvest a lot more than I anticipated. I also had to cut out an additional 270 smaller squares from the non-denim fabrics, which will be layered inside the circles when I quilt everything together. I know that sounds confusing, but it works. πŸ™‚

I’ve only sewn together eight blocks of circles at this point – the squares won’t be added until I actually do the quilting. Each block consists of a basic nine patch pattern, and is about 15 inches square, when completely finished. Because of the variety of denim used, there’s a ton of variation in the colors and look of the blocks.

Two views of the blocks. The one at the bottom of the photo is actually going to be the back of finished quilt. The other view, with the rounded flaps, is the top/front. Crazy!

Here’s a close up of the “top” to be. The smaller squares will be inserted under the flaps, then the flaps will be sewn down with a tight zigzag stitch, holding everything together. I’m excited for the finished result; I’m thinking it’ll look slightly kitschy and/or retro. I’d almost say it may have a vague Urban Outfitters feel to it, but I don’t think it will. Too round. πŸ˜‰

This is just a fun little note that I’d like to show off. A couple of circles were purposefully cut so that they’d have holes (worn in or cut out) in them. I patched them up with differing fabrics to highlight them. and the other side will have another pattern as well. This really shows the point I want to make with this quilt – it’s created from used, loved, and worn items, and will continue to be used, loved, and worn once it’s completed.

I’m no where close to being done with this project, though my goal is to have it ready to use on my dorm bed once school starts up again. But the process, and the thinking it inspires, is fun. As will be the finished product, I hope!


Recycled Snail Mail

June 26, 2008
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I’m on summer break from college right now, and what that means – at least in my group of friends – is sending letters and checking the mailbox. I know, seems odd for college students these days! However, one of my friends loves writing letters, and many of us have caught the bug, including me. While we still connect through Facebook, and keep current on each others lives through IM and phone, there’s still this tangible joy you get from writing and receiving letters by post.

What does all that, though, have to do with recycling?

Well, my same friend who loves letters, also loves reducing, reusing, recycling, and being green in general. I found myself lacking an envelope that fit a card I wanted to send her, and decided to combine both interests into one useful package: I made an envelope!

As much as I wish the story ended there, it didn’t. Turned out that the template I used to make the envelope wasn’t quite the right size for my card. I ended up scrapping the card (it’s back in my stationary stash), and searched for something to write a letter on. I like using unique and/or reused papers, and I hate sending the same stationary to someone twice. πŸ˜‰ I happened upon some psychology notes from this past fall semester, and finally felt this letter coming together.

I typed up a letter, and printed it on the back of my notes, and found, on another page, a hand I doodled and colored in. It looked cool, so I cut it out, and glued it to the flap of my envelope (which was printed on paper from another letter sending enterprise). I like how everything turned out, and was happy that I found a way around the whole lack-of-an-envelope annoyance, and came up with a more unique letter presentation.

This morning, I was trying to think of ways to increase my stationary stash, since that was one reason why I was having problems with finding something to send. I decided to continue with my recycled theme, and went off to make more envelopes. I ended up making them out of a Bath & Body works bag, which turned out neat, and bright. Then I dug through some of my old high school papers, and gathered up a couple of piles from my senior year Japanese class. If I’m going to reuse old papers to make envelopes and send letters, why not use stuff that looks cool, right?

So far, I’ve only made one from my Japanese classpapers, but it fits the card I was missing an envelope for. Good enough for me!

The drawn on lined paper is going to be used as stationary – the other side is blank for writing. I found an AP project I did, visually summarizing Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man. Two years later, and I can still remember the majority of the book because of that! I didn’t want to use the original, so I scanned it and printed it onto the lined paper. I think it looks cool, and I like that it’s more than just a piece of paper – it’s a part of my personal history that I can share when I send my friends letters. πŸ™‚

This initial foray into recycled letter writing has been fun. I hoping that reusing all this papers I lying around will really increase my stationary stash, and get rid of some stuff without it all going into the trash.