Monday, January 06, 2014

New hobby, old idea

Once upon a time, about maybe almost 10 years ago, I found the Gee's Bend quilters. Undoubtedly, via Kay at Mason Dixon Knitting, who translated a quilt into knitting. (This was novel at the time; she's done it a zillion times since then, I think.) My favourites of the quilts were the work-clothes quilts, all faded jeans and overalls, pocket shapes showing where the quilter had laboriously picked them off.

I was smitten with the idea of making one of these, and so I began hoarding old jeans, despite the fact that I don't really sew; and I don't really sew, I think, because I've always had hand-me-down machines that messed with me: funny tension, weird ways of bobbins, just frustration from start to finish.

This Christmas my friend was between houses in Toronto and left her shiny new sewing machine (and her serger, a complete mystery object) with me. I had a teeny frustrating second with it right at the beginning, and abandoned it for a week or ten days till she returned. She decided that a new needle was the answer, and said would I like a regular needle or a denim needle! Oh, indeed, sewing denim, could I really? Would that work??

I unearthed the heap of old jeans and started log-cabinning. My limit, obviously, was the length of a pant-leg, so I ended up making 5 squares and somehow having a gap that was not really square-shaped at all, which I filled with strips, in the bottom left here.

The two rows are not yet sewn together, and I have to figure out some sort of backing. We have 2 pairs of black jeans: really faded and not very faded. At least 2 pairs of blue jeans, probably 3, as well as the teeny bits I cut off a pair of jeans the kids wore when I made 3- or 4-year-old Elaine cut-offs! Brown and khaki and a couple of other bits. I didn't pick the pockets off, so there are 2 in there, fancy lady-jeans pockets with embroidery. The single bit with pink stripes, the gold and blue swirls and the bright green and black and white geometric bits were treasures found at the Textile Museum sale, in the tent where you could fill a bag with scraps for $2. I know some of the jeans have spandex in them, but mostly it's all cotton. I think.

My work space is not ideal, so you get the black and white carpet peeking out under the quilt. The iron is downstairs and the sewing machine is upstairs, plonked on a table where there is not quite enough room. But this whole thing has taken me only a couple of days! I have to sew that big seam and back it and I am done. I will get some embroidery floss, I think, and tie it here and there to hold it together. Then I think it will be a beach blanket? Maybe Arthur will want it on his bed? I thought of making it big enough for our king-size bed, but even I have not hoarded enough jeans for that.

So exciting.

We were talking about me actually getting my own machine, but I'm not sure that, having made this thing I've been thinking about for so long, I would make much else! I would love to be able to make clothes that fit me, but these straight seams and winging it with the cutting might be my limit. Will ponder this. I do have the offer of someone's mom's machine, which maybe I could try, with my new-found confidence and experience.

And I've knit half a dishcloth!


  1. How neat! Congratulations. It's amazing the speed of sewing over knitting for sheer area produced.

    S is hand-sewing a stuffed animal, after having completed her knitted one this summer. I think it will take longer (time-on-task, not elapsed) but it is a much fussier pattern.

  2. wow! congratulations! looks great!

  3. Congratulations! I've been hoarding my grandmother's handkerchiefs to make a quilt for about 35 years! Maybe this year?


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