Twenty five years ago, I read a book. I don’t recall the title or the author, but I do remember the main character. She was a grandmother, who crafted denim quilts for her family. Learning to quilt had been a dream of mine since childhood. This grandmother inspired me to turn my dream into a reality.
Worn out denim jeans, not fit to pass onto anyone else, gathered in the laundry room of my home. Three children in various stages of growth, added jeans to the pile on a regular basis. Unsure of their purpose at the time, I placed the jeans into a large cardboard box and buried the box deep in the back of a closet. The worn jean’s purpose came to light as I read this book. I decided I would make a denim quilt for my bed, out of the jeans I had stashed away.
The time consuming task of cutting squares began the next morning. Each pair of jeans I cut into squares, contained precious memories. I LOVE HOCKEY, written in blue ink on one pant leg of my oldest daughter’s jeans, was a reminder of years spent in arenas, watching her play the sport she loved. Another pair of her jeans, contained a well worn hole, surrounded by a Nike and an Adidas symbol. Drawn and coloured in with black, permanent marker; her favourite sports clothing and shoe companies. Colourful flowers, and music notes, etched onto my youngest daughter’s jeans, displayed her passion for the garden, flower arrangements and piano. Grass and grease stained, hole in the knee jeans, worn out by my son, as he built childhood memories on farms of close family friends. Belt loops, pockets and blue iron-on patches added the final touches to the piles of denim squares stacked neatly on my sewing table.
My well worn denim overalls, lay in the bottom of the cardboard box. Pieces of these overalls would transform the quilt from my children’s quilt to a family quilt. The overalls were not written nor drawn on, but did show signs of grass and paint stains in various spots.
When cut, they made an additional three piles of squares. The combination of all the piles of cut squares was not enough quantity to begin a quilt. Into the cardboard box the denim squares were placed and stored in the closet, until such a time that more squares could be cut.
Years passed, and the cardboard box filled to the top with worn jeans and overalls. A second day of cutting squares, was enough to begin the quilt.
With squares pinned together, I felt a small sense of accomplishment. Progress was made on my project. An attempt to make a pattern of various blue denim colours, proved unsuccessful. Colours ranged from dark navy, almost new looking denim, to warm, medium blues, along with light faded blue, that was close to a shade of white. One unique square pile contained light blue denim with white pin stripes, and a few squares of flared denim of various shades of blue. Overwhelmed with colour choices, the decision was made to choose a square from each pile and the idea of a colour patterned quilt was forgotten. Sewing machine oiled,bobbin wound and blue thread slipped through the needle, the quilt top came together with ease.
By week’s end, the completed quilt top lay on the bed. Loose threads were trimmed, seams checked over and measurements made. A sense of accomplishment swept over me. I was one step closer to achieving my dream. A masterpiece to behold, for my eyes only. The folded quilt top was placed back into the cardboard box with the promise that the search for suitable material for a quilt bottom would be completed within a week.
Weeks turned into months and months turned into years. The quilt remained untouched in the closet.
An opportunity to join a quilter’s group should have brought my dream closer to realization. Advice from fellow quilters on sewing, tying, material selection, batting thickness and project completion were other steps in the right direction. The search was on, again, for a suitable piece of quilt backing. Several months later, a piece of navy blue denim, large enough to use for my project was found. The experienced quilters in the quilting group advised against the use of a denim top and bottom as it would be very difficult to tie, due to the thickness of the material. Disappointed, the denim material was placed in the closet to use on another project.
Life moved on faster than the completion of the quilt did. My children were making their way in the world. University, college, apprenticeships, marriage and children became the norm.
Another piece of lighter weight material suitable for a quilt bottom turned up in a pile of material given to me by a friend. Into the closet with the quilt top went the material to be stored until time permitted me to tackle the project.
Time marched on and I became an empty nester. Top priority for me was to downsize my possessions. The quilt had not been forgotten and was put on my to- do list.
Determined to finish the quilt, I took time to re-evaluate the project. In that time the linen closet was sorted and a major discovery made. A faded blue duvet cover, that had been repaired and patched too many times, fell on the floor in front of my feet. A duvet cover was needed, not a quilt. The linen closet held a very old, cotton bedspread that I cherished. It wasn’t needed but I couldn’t part with it. The bright yellow bedspread contained a picture of Charles Schulz’s Snoopy on top of his dog house as he spouted off words of wisdom. Into the not-sure-what-to-do-with pile, I laid it. An idea came to my mind moments later. Why not use the Snoopy bedspread as the bottom of the quilt and change the quilt into a duvet cover? With great excitement , I measured both pieces and found they were a perfect match.
Darkness settled outside as a full moon peeked into the sewing room window. The duvet cover near completion, my thoughts traveled back to the start of this project. Piles of worn out blue jeans and overalls, destined to become a denim quilt and a fulfilled dream, became a much needed duvet cover which still adorns my bed today. Thirty years of precious memories made by denim.