introducing: the denim courthouse steps quilt

The Denim Courthouse steps quilt is my latest one-of-a-kind piece. This quilt was pieced with thrifted denim jeans and hand quilted with sashiko thread. Each pair of jeans is uniquely shaded and worn, adding variation and interest to the architectural pattern. 

The courthouse steps is an early, pre civil war variation on the traditional log cabin block. The effect resembles the steps of a courthouse which was a central part of 19th/20th century small town life. (Quilts below, from left to right, Folk Fibers, Gee's Bend, Season Evans)

Hand quilting adds texture and variation to the surface. The quilting stitches of every quilter are unique, adding personality and signature to each piece. The back of this quilt is pieced with a variety of scrap fabric and scrap projects.  Many of the small pieces come from the inside of denim pockets that were used to piece the quilt top. I love adding a special pieced back to each quilt, it is important to me that the back of each piece to be in harmony with the front.

q.i.p 09/27/17

current q.i.p (quilts in progress):

The Union quilt

stage of completion: ready to come out of hibernation

to do next: finish hand quilting!


Red and white quilt

stage of completion: coming along

to do next: dye fabric with madder/brazilwood/iron and finish piecing the remaining blocks

Denim courthouse steps

stage of completion: quilt top is looking good

to do next: keep it growing the top until it's big enough (maybe get more denim) 

Madder cabin

stage of completion: very beginning! 

to do next: dye fabric!!!


how to: denim mending

I have gotten multiple inquires in response to my previous blog post asking for a more in depth explanation of how to mend and repair denim jeans.  

When I mended my jeans I opted for using a patch any where the denim was beginning to thin. The inside thigh area was so worn, and would continue to wear... essentially I was building a new layer of fabric under one that was disappearing.

You can see in the photo above that the inside thighs are wearing more quickly than the rest of the denim.

I have lots of denim scraps from my quilting and use those as patches. Place the patch on the jeans to make sure it's the correct size. 

I found that holding the patch in place with a small bit of acid-free glue stick did the trick as positioning the jeans under the machine can be tricky and pins often get in the way. I put the glue on the right side of the denim patch, so if the fabric of the jeans wears away entirely, that's the side that will show through. 

I prefer to sew around the patch to begin; I use a zig-zag stitch because it distributes the weight of the thread more evenly than just a straight stitch. My sewing pattern varies depending on what patch I am sewing, sometimes I opt for a cross hatch, sometimes repetitive lines; my go to favorite lately is a spiral/maze shape. Most importantly you want the patch to be secure and flat. 

Repeat the steps above for any additional patches you need. 

The patches may feel awkward at first, especially if the jeans are a snug fit. Eventually the difference in thickness will be barely noticeable, especially as the outer layer of denim continues to wear. 

Please keep in mind that this how-to isn't a one time fix! The jeans will continue to wear and need mending so long as they're being used. 

If machine mending isn't your thing and you're more interested in hand stitching options, check out Katrina Rodabaugh or Heidi Parkes

Feel free to comment with questions or to share pictures of your mended jeans! :)

On Mending

It is unlikely that upon the first appearance of a hole or tear that a garment has fulfilled its useful life. My interest in mending has developed both out of financial necessity and a growing commitment to sustainable practices. It is estimated that 85% of used textiles end up in national landfills despite the ability to recycle nearly 100% of textiles and clothing. As both a consumer and a craftswoman I do my best to reuse, repurpose, and recycle my textiles, keeping as much out of landfill as possible. Here is a look at some the mending projects I've completed recently. 

A small moth hole appeared in my trusty cashmere hat this winter. Cashmere is a luxury material; getting rid of this hat was not an option for me! The hat is in otherwise good condition and I chose to repair this hat with some roving wool. I chose wool because I thought that felting would be a more stable repair than sewing a patch in place, and I do not have any knitting knowledge. First I roughly needle felted a small circular piece of wool. I then felted this circle to the hat. The mend is visible, but I stopped the hole from growing and continue to wear and love this hat. 

Some mending projects are continuous, as is the case with my favorite pair of blue jeans. These were the first style of jeans I fell in love with, a style that I felt comfortable in, a style that fit me well. I believe I‘ve owned 3-4 pairs of these jeans over the past 5 or so years. Naturally this style was discontinued right as I found myself needing a new pair. I couldn't bear to let the pair go knowing that I'd never be able to purchase another one. Right around the time I started quilting I decided to try and mend these jeans back into existence.

I began hand mending these jeans but found that I couldn't keep up with how quickly I was wearing through them. Unable to let them go, I kept them tucked away for a few months hoping to bring them back to life at some point. I ended up mending them on my sewing machine and think that I can get some use out of them still. Even if this style of jeans had not been discontinued, quality, 100% cotton denim jeans like these that sort-of-actually-fit-me are a luxury purchase that I don’t take lightly. Yes, these jeans are very worn, but only in a few places; most of the denim is intact and still has a useful life. Finding a way to fix the belt loops is next!

Sometimes, objects in our life are beyond repair. Such was the case with a small pillow my boyfriend used for back support while driving. The cotton fabric was extremely thread bare and ripped in multiple places, with stuffing coming out of the pillow left and right. I opted to make him a new pillow instead of mending the existing one and was able to make good use out of some secondhand materials. The pillow cover is made from an old pair of chino shorts that I had over dyed with indigo. I chose to use these shorts because the thick fabric would be able to endure more abuse than a thinner cotton. I stuffed the pillow with batting scraps I had been saving from previous quilting projects.

Please feel free to comment with questions or pictures of your favorite mended items. Next up on my mending list: a pair of canvas shoes and my favorite long sleeve sleep shirts!

Dyeing with dandelions

My expanding interest in natural dyes prompted me to experiment with dandelions and see what types of results I could get from these bright yellow weeds. 

Harvest: Dandelions are everywhere when they are in season. I picked all of mine from a friends backyard. 

Prior to dyeing: I stored my dandelions in a brown paper bag before soaking them over night. The flowers soaked in a glass jar filled with hot water. In another jar, I soaked the fabric I was going to dye in hot water and a bit of alum mordant. 

Dyeing process: I poured the daffodils and water into a stainless steel stock pot I use specifically for dyeing. I brought the bath to a simmer and added a bit more alum before adding the fabric. After adding the fabric, I let the bath simmer for a few minutes before taking it off the stove and bringing the pot outside. I left the fabric in the covered dye bath until it cooled down completely. 

Results: The cotton fabric dyed pale yellow. I also dyed a small piece of silk which captured a darker tan. Time will tell how colorfast the dye is... the color is pale to begin with... a fun experiment nonetheless!