Freebox Jeans Quilt Progress

January 29, 2008

NOTE: All posts on this project are tagged with “Freebox Jeans Quilt.”

Up until now, there were 24 squares worth of material cut, waiting to be pieced. The weather was finally bad enough, and I was finally bored enough to sit down at the sewing machine and put everything together.

Piles of cut fabric
  Piles of cut fabric on my sewing table, ready to go.

Cut pieces
  Cut fabric for one square

Sewn square
  One square sewn together

Squares laid out
  Sewn squares laid out

The squares went together in nothing flat. Piecing them together is the easy part, I guess. It takes a lot longer to cut them out, and I’ve only done about a third of what I need to. And then there’s the actual quilting. Bleh.

Looking at the picture above, I’m amazed at how much it actually resembles my preliminary sketch below.

Roman Stripe


NOTE: All posts on this project are tagged with “Freebox Jeans Quilt.”

Worsted Wool Apliqué Quilt

January 15, 2008

This page was originally published at

Posts about this project are tagged with wool aplique quilt.

Worsted Wool Apliqué – near future

Aplique Quilt

Over the years, I’ve outgrown quite a few navy blazers, and I’ve kept many of them around for… some reason. Maybe this is it. I love the patterns of Hawaiian apliqué quilts, with a solid background and a single, large, interesting shape in a contrasting color sewn on top. The navy wool would be a perfect background and contrast beautifully with vivid colors, producing a simple but dynamic piece. That’s the theory anyway.

Hawaiian Aplique Quilt
  Hawaiian Aplique Quilt

Alternately, I considered a very simple design of lines, as above. Or possibly a quilt stitched in squares with smaller apliqué pattterns on each block, something like Adrinka symbols. Those may be beyond my skill level, but maybe I could use up some of the Harris tweeds I packed away. Talk about multi-cultural. A traditional Hawaiian-style quilt, featuring an African Adrinka symbol, worked up in handmade Scottish tweeds.

  Andrinka symbols

Pendleton Quilt

January 15, 2008

Originally published here:

Posts about this project are tagged with Pendleton Quilt.

Pendleton Quilt – next up in theory

Pendleton Blanket
  Pendleton blanket

Since living in Portland, I’ve collected several ruined Pendleton shirts and have been looking for a way to use them. I like the idea of making an authentic Oregon quilt, and those hokey, earnest woolen shirts were made in the state. They’re a genuine institution. Made here; worn here; worn out here. Now they’ll be refashioned here into a memory of this place.

Pendleton Blanket
  Pendleton Blanket

Unfortunately, plaids, much as I love them, are hard to work into a pattern. The answer came from a book of Turkish carpets, of all places, where I saw a collection of riotous but paradoxically hamonious mixed patters on individual rugs. Everything was simply arranged in neat bands across the field, and in that way they reminded me of that other Pendleton institution, their blankets (like those above). How perfect.

Pendleton Blanket
  Pendleton Blanket

So I’m (theoretically) going to use pieced strips, with the plaids cut at a 45 degree angle, creating dynamic diagonals in the stable and symetrically aranged parallel bands.

I’m not so sure about this idea, and I need more shirts before I get started anyway. We’ll see.

Freebox Jeans “Roman Stripe” Quilt

January 15, 2008

Originally published at:

All posts on this project are tagged with “Freebox Jeans Quilt.”

Freebox Jeans “Roman Stripe” – in progress

Frebox Jeans Quilt

One of the most common — and useless — things I see in freeboxes around Portland are “old” jeans that were fashionable a few weeks ago. But alas, that was a few weeks ago; so out they go. The durable denim is still perfectly useful; so I wanted to find find a way to use it.

I was also thinking about a quilt pattern in monochromatic light & dark contrasts, rather than different colors. Faded and unfaded jeans would lend themselves to that reasonably well. So all of last summer I collected them — a couple of dozen pairs at least.

The design, which is a traditional pattern, is called “Roman Stripes” and was inspired by one of the Gee’s Bend quilts. The image above is a sketch of it. On the left below is how I think it’ll look when done, and on the right is the one that inspired me.

Roman StripeGees Bend Roman Stripe

Old Pants Quilt

December 30, 2005

Originally published here:

Old Pants Quilt – 2003-2005

Old Pants Quilt

The “concept” for this quilt came to me long, long ago. Since I’m short, I often had to hem the cuffs of my dress pants and cut off some narrow strips of fabric in the process. I hated to throw those little strips away (Surprise!), figuring that our thrifty forebears would have pieced them together gradually into a fine quilt, which would then, of course, win first prize at the county fair. So for years I had random scraps of dress pants floating around, waiting for their day to come.

Long before I had saved enough two inch wide cuffs, however, I had amassed a large collection of old pants and shorts that no longer fit. Since they were all neutrals or dark colors, it seemed like they’d go together pretty well. So I decided to green light the quilt of pants.

Slowly, I pieced together unique individual squares, never making the same combination of fabrics twice. Also, I wanted to be sure that I used up those saved cuffs, which I did, and that I used other random scraps that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away.

Thus, there are two squares with a sour green corduroy that used to be the collar of a Burberry waxed-cotton coat. I wore that ragged old thing for about ten years, and, sadly, all that I could salvage from it was the collar. There are also a couple of squares with battered pumpkin-colored canvas. Those were from a pair of Carhart overalls that I just happened to find on the ground at a bus stop. They were worn completely out, and there were used hypodermic needles in the pocket. But the fabric had so much character.

After I completed the top for this quilt, there was a two year pause. Life kept getting interesting. Then, wanting to clear the decks and get some “old business” out of the way, I sewed a label for the back of the quilt with “2005” on it, effectively forcing myself to finish by the end of the year. Though it’s a thin, summer-weight quilt, I just had to put it on my bed (with three other blankets) in the winter when it was finally done.

These days, it’s living in Georgia, with my parents. I also blogged about this quilt here.

Street Sheets Quilt

October 15, 2004

Originally published here:

Street Sheets Quilt – 2004

Street Sheets Quilt

Just what it sounds like, this is a quilt made from sheets that I found on the street in Portland. Instead of tossing it in the trash, people here often put stuff they don’t want anymore out on the sidewalk for others to pick up. I wanted to experiment with a faster construction method, and these offered the perfect materials. So when my roommate asked me to donate something to an environment themed art show, I (foolishly) volunteered to make a quilt out of “recycled” fabrics.

With only a couple of weeks to go, I chose the simplest pattern — stripes –and tried out my new technique, which involves piecing the front while simultaneiously quilting all the layers together to a sturdy old blanket in the middle. It worked just fine, though it would probably be better for a traditional “crazy” quilt, where there are a lot of random, odd shapes.

Not surprisingly, no one at the show was really interested in buying the quilt. But as luck would have it, the holidays came soon after, and guess what my boyfriend got for Christmas. (He had already been sleeping under it for a couple of months anyway.) Since we’re not together anymore, I’m guessing that this quilt is now slowly deteriorating in the belly of a landfill somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Ah well, lesson learned.

Double-knit Polyester Suits Quilt

March 15, 2002

Originally published at:

Double-knit Polyester Suits Quilt – 2001-2002

Double-knit Suits Quilt

This is one of those stories that will date me. This quilt is made of my old suits from when I was a little boy–about the time I was in kindergarden. Since they are made of double-knit polyester and in intensely colored patterns, it’s obvious that they’re from the seventies. So you do the math.

I found the pile of these adorably small outfits when my parents moved. My mother had saved them all, but after years in the basement, they were mildewed and discolored. I was torn: Should I continue to save them indefinitely for no good reason, or should I secretly toss them? Aesthetically speaking, I’ve always found the seventies particularly horifying, and these little suits were a reminder of all that was bad about that time. On the other hand, they were my clothes when I was a kid, and they were adorable.

My solution, in the jargon of today’s huggy, self-affirming pop psychology, was to “honor my history” and to “respect” my mother’s feelings by saving them. But, I would “reclaim” the suits for my adult self by 1) using them in the practice of my own craft, 2) refashioning them into something more visually attractive than decrepit artifacts of a mercifully bygone era, and 3) transforming them from burdensome objects of nostalgia into something truly useful.

But then isn’t that what quilters have always done?

The backing fabric is another story. It’s a vibrant chartreuse color and used to be a sheet that my sister let her dog sleep on in the car. Eventually, It got so stinky, that she left it in my parents’ garage, where I found it and claimed it. After many washings, the smell went away, and now memories of my sister and her dog are part of the work as well.

That’s really what I like about homemade quilts: They’re personal histories. Sacred objects, really.