Anita's quilts and quilting

A professional longarm machine quilter for hire and some of the work I've done.

Go green! Recycle clothing into quilts

Ok, everyone seems to be saying we should go green. I’ve been doing this for most of my life and now it seems there is a new name for it. I always called it being frugal or recycling. If you’ve noticed the cost of new fabrics lately you may be reconsidering those clothes you take to the thrift store. Yes, they make really nice quilts. You think our ancestors knew a thing or two about going green? Well anyway I thought I would post about how I create simple and quick clothing quilts. These are not contest quilts by any means. They are simply to keep warm as our ancestors used to make.

Start with a bunch of clothing you no longer wear. Use those old fashioned fabric cutters called scissors to cut off all the seams. Don’t take the time to pick out seams. It will only take lots of time and you wouldn’t want to use seams in the quilt anyway. For this quilt I’m using fabrics that don’t need stabilizing.

** special note: This quilt belongs to a customer but it happened to be a good example for how clothing can be recycled into quilts. The design of the quilt was his idea. What the customer wants…. the customer gets.

When you have a big pile of odd shaped fabrics like this…. you are ready to begin cutting the fabric into quilt pieces. My pile of fabric has a bathrobe, work pants, jeans, wool shirts, cotton shirts, and a suit coat or two in there.

The next step is to start cutting out shapes. For this quilt I am making 10 inch squares. Well dang…. who would have thought…. the odd shaped pieces are not big enough for 10 by 10. Ok, I’m kidding. But I’m still planning on 10″ by 10″ blocks. So I pick up one of the jeans pant legs. I can’t cut a 10″ piece this way.

But I can cut 10″ this way. So I concentrate on just cutting 10 inch sections. Not a 10″ by 10″ square. I’ll cut the other direction later.

Oops! This one got cut wrong. When I checked it; I still could cut it into a 10 inch section.

I continue cutting sections until I get a whole stack of them. At this point I know every piece is 10 inches in at least one direction. Now it’s time to deal with the other two sides.

Using the previously cut 10 inch side as a guide I cut the other two sides at what ever distance I can get and be straight cuts. It might be 3 inches or it might be 9 1/2 inches. I usually stay with even number or halfs only…. no 1/4 or 1/8ths… it gets too confusing. I try not to cut anything smaller than 2 1/2 inches either. The seams will be too bulky for smaller than that.

I continue cutting the pieces into what ever width I can get from each one.

Ok, in order to keep things separated into the right size, I use my machine table. It’s right behind where I’m standing to do the cutting. This makes it a convenient place to put cut pieces. I put masking tape with numbers written on it so I know which stack is what width. In this picture the piece is 6 1/2 inches.  Everything is 10 inches in the other direction.

Sometimes I get lucky and a piece turns out to be 10″ by 10″. These pieces usually come from shirt sleeves or backs.

Shoot! I didn’t take a picture of the stacks of cut pieces. Well anyway I continue cutting until I get stacks separated into 10 inch by what ever width. Now it’s time to sew the cut pieces into blocks. This method will not always come out to an even 10 inch square. I will have to do some squaring up later. I take the stack of largest pieces (9 1/2) and sew them to the pieces of the smallest stack (2 1/2). If one stack runs out before the other I simply pick up the next stack in line and start using it.

This is not the right picture of the sequence but it will give you the idea. See the squares on the right and left of the lucky find square? Those have been sewn together then squared up to 10″ by 10″. When I have enough blocks made they are then sewn into rows like any other quilt. Sometimes a fabric will stretch when sewing the seams. Those I pick out and re sew while easing in the fullness.

Here is the finished top all quilted. Not ready for entering into a contest…. but certainly ready to keep someone warm when the thermostat gets turned down lower this winter. And more importantly…. the customer is happy with it. He says it’s just like he wanted it to be.

Here’s a close up of the quilting. It’s simple to go with a simple quilt top.

Are you wondering what happens to all the little odd shaped left overs I cut away when making the pieces? Well I certainly don’t like throwing away good fabrics. I save those to use in crazy quilt blocks or string quilts for charity. Hmmm… maybe it’s time for me to think about a go green quilt for my own bed. I don’t have one to call my own. Someone in need always gets the quilt intended for my own bed. It doesn’t look good for a full time quilter to not have a quilt on her own bed. I’m going to have to change that before winter gets here this year!


One comment on “Go green! Recycle clothing into quilts

  1. Carol
    May 3, 2008

    Love this! Thank you so much for the inspiration to use up some up some old flannel shirts I have had around for too long.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on April 13, 2008 by in Clothing quilt tutorial, QUILTS - PIECING.

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