My Love of Indigo Denim Quilts
Indigo denim quilt circa 1980’s, above. (I LOVE the pockets!) Found via.
Pictured above is one of my very first upcycled quilts, Facets. Made with denim jeans, it was originally designed for and published in the now folded Stitch Magazine back in, I think, 2010. It now lives in New Mexico and I get to visit it on occasion. Maybe because I worked in the apparel industry for years (the 1990’s), designing jeanswear lines, I have a real love for denim. (Francois, a true denim innovator, taught me a lot about what denim can do.) I was lucky enough to be working in the Southeastern US during a time when denim mills such as Cone, Burlington, and Avondale (which were all local to us) had denim looms weaving around the clock in order to produce enough cloth for the industry. I sat in dye houses to watch and approve the denim cloth that came through wash cycles (we may have taken a pair out back and shot them with bb guns to abrade them once). I really came to understanding appreciate the subtle differences in denim weaves and the way the cloth changed based on the wash, level of abrasion, and manipulation. Besides finely woven men’s shirting weight fabric, it remains one of my favorite fabrics both to wear and to work with in my quilts.
Denim Lone Star, made by me, 2016
Improvisationally pieced denim pillow, made by me, 2015.
While I don’t search high and low for the perfect fit, wash (or nonwash) and selvedge treatment these days, I still have a huge appreciation for it. In quilts, I can manipulate into fussy piecing, improvisational piecing, use different washes (as well as the backs of the fabric) to create patterning. Its very durable and yet can still drape as a quilt fabric. Plus its warmth is hard to beat. When it gets soiled or dirty, you can depend on the idea that it will wash up beautifully.
It was only fitting that I put at least one denim quilt in my newest book. Titled “Indigo” (pictured above), its meant to pay homage to denim and all the qualities I love about it. I encourage my students to make any quilt they want with denim, don’t be worried about how if it will be bulky, etc. It may take a little more thought, but its worth the effort.
I have a stack of denim in my studio waiting for a new quilt. I haven’t decided on what it will be yet, but I’m having fun gathering inspiration.