Thinking Big… Maybe Too Big?

I have a bad habit of always going big when I take on a project. My first quilt project was to contain 2,000 different fabrics in a charm quilt to celebrate the new millennium. (That one isn’t done, BTW). The first time I wanted to really try a cross stitch project, the canvas was two feet by three feet (that’s big for cross stitch). That one too, isn’t done. My first (faux) stained glass project was about six foot by three foot… that one did get finished. The American Girl doll house I built was 48 square feet and stood over seven feet. Also done (and sold)! Even if the projects are quite so big, I tend to go a little overboard on the project materials… you’ve seen photos of my sewing/quilt room, yes? I literally have enough fabric to open my own shop. 🙂

So, one of the more recent projects that is in progress is a braided denim rug. One of the things I like to try to do is having little projects within the bigger one that I can write posts about. So, this one started with how to harvest the most denim from old blue jeans. I actually wrote that one up as an “instructable” and you can see it here. Then over the course of a couple of months, I collected used blue jeans and harvested as many three inch strips as I could.

DSCN4263.JPGIt was a long process, but I was able to do most of the deconstruction while watching old movies or binge watching my favorite television series. Over a hundred pairs of jeans (lost count during collecting) were used and I was able to sell the carefully removed back pockets on eBay for almost a hundred dollars!

The next step was to create long strips… I wasn’t – and still aren’t – sure how long the rolls should be and what would be the easiest length to work with. After all, braiding tends to tangle while working… I will just have to be conscious of it while working. I ended up creating mostly the same length… just guessing at it while I was sewing. Some ended up longer than others and there are a couple of kind of short ones. The should be easiest enough to shorten when I start braiding if they turn out to be too long.

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After this, I rolled all the strips into coils… this photo is most of them. Whew! This alone was the endeavor. I rolled about half by hand… just round and round. The Kid, being inventive and with a slight allergy to repetitious work, came up with the idea of rolling them using a power drill. I just love the way his brain works!

The next step is to turn these strips into the “yarn” for braiding. I am basically turning it into binding… folding the edges in and “setting” them with an iron. Then, I fold this in half and sew it with a long stitch. It took some time and trials to figure out how to sew over this much bulk, especially the seams, without constantly breaking the threads but using a heavy duty thread – actually a hand quilting thread – finally was the answer. That and coaxing the seams through by hand. I then let it fall over the edge and into a basket on the floor:

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So, far, I’ve managed to empty the with the least amount of coils. It is a bit of a long slow process. I don’t have the slightest idea of how to estimate the amount of yarn that I will need to complete the rug. Actually, I’m not sure how big I even want the rug to be!

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What I want to do is do a smaller, controlled experiment. Choose a specific number of pairs of jeans, say, 5 or perhaps ten and harvest the denim and create the yarn. That way, I know exactly how much will be needed to create the braids and how much it will produce as far as a rug size is concerned.

I’m also planning a very detailed tutorial, from start to finish. I guess this post is an attempt at trying to explain why lately I haven’t been able to post regularly. All the projects that I have in progress follow the same template… much too big to complete quickly or easily! And definitely too big to write about easily in a single post. 🙂

But, and speaking of this blog, I do have a milestone to announce. I don’t really actively promote this blog and it was really an experiment to see if I could do this as well as learn about the technical aspects of creating, producing and maintaining a blog. Sort of helps me in my “normal” nine-to-five job. But I always am doing creative type things and if my writing and photos help or inspire someone else, then great!

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 1.54.02 PMSo, I’ve surpassed the 100,000 mark with visitors! To be honest, I thought if I could maintain the blog for a year and have 5,000 visitors, I’d be successful. Who’da thunk?

Deconstructing A Pair of Jeans With the Least Amount of Waste

I recently found instructions on how to create a rag rug. Of course, I want to try to make one with denim. And not new denim, but the soft, broken-in denim, like your favorite pair of jeans. And the best place to find that is, in fact, an old pair of jeans. Or rather, in a lot of old jeans.

So I started collecting old pairs of jeans. Off to my favorite thrift stores and second hand shops. Actually, I wanted a nice variety in the colors, so I picked some that looked new and were dark blue, and I picked out some that had wear and fading and were almost white in some cases. Then there were pairs in the middle, a nice hue of blue, some with fraying and some with spots – like the thighs or knees or butts. I started looking for the larger sizes and the lower priced pairs.

Side note: Even thrift stores have sales! The stores that we visit seem to have a color rotating method. It keeps stock fresh and making room for new arrivals. Always check at the front for which color is discounted.

So, The Kid and I had hit a GoodWill store on a different side of town while we were out delivering a dresser. The colors of the day where white and yellow -50% off – so I headed to the men’s jeans section. I found ten pairs of jeans in sizes larger than 42″ waist sizes marked at $2.48… so I walked out of there with lots of denim material and only spent about $12! Couldn’t buy that much new material in a store and this was soft and had a variety of colors.

Then it was time to take apart the jeans. I searched the internet for instructions, but I either found ways to do it that were inefficient (taking the seams apart with a seam ripper – yeah, right) to those that wasted too much fabric. I had instructions for using other portions of the jeans, like the waistband and outside seams, so I didn’t want to waste anything.

So, I decided to write my own instructions as I took apart the pants. There are a couple of terms that I will use that might not be obvious to all readers:

a. I will refer to the thread as gold, although it may be a different color.

b. If you’re not comfortable handling a single edge razor, a seam ripper could be used, but it will dull very quickly. In fact, the razor blades that I use are really only stay sharp through two to three pairs of jeans. Once I find some resistance in pulling the razor blade, I switch for a new one.

c. I will refer to seams as “inner seam” and “outer seams”. Inner seams are folded in and have no outside stitching, while an outer seam has the bulk on the outside and will have decorative gold stitching:

Inner:Outer SeamsOkay, let’s take apart some jeans:

1. First up is removing the brand label. Not all jeans have these, although I have found that most do. I found a cute use for them, by re-attaching them all to a denim pillow. May or may not do this, I guess when I’m done with the rug, I’ll see if I have enough.

DSCN34752. I have found the fastest way to take apart almost everything related to the jeans. Slide the razor blade at a corner and carefully pull towards you. Continue all the way around.

3. Jeans are tough. And one of the things that make jeans so long lasting is the reinforcement at stress points. Like the back pockets and belt loops and bottom of the zipper. The key to making it easier to deconstruct a pair of jeans is in tackling these reinforcements. Cutting through the reinforced seam is the most straightforward and easiest way to loosen the remainder of the seam.

DSCN34744.  I start by cutting through all of the belt loop reinforcement – just the bottom, where it actually connects below the waist band. Then, one by one, pull the belt loop away from you and using the blade, cut just the gold threads.

5. Next, we’re going to remove the waist band. I actually have a project that will use the waistbands and the belt loops attached (at the top), so it is important for me to cleanly cut the seams.

6. I find a spot where the seam isn’t reinforced or that it has more than one row of stitches. And then it is just a matter of cutting all those seams. I find this to go pretty quickly, the two areas you will find that need more attention is at the the ends – where the button hole and button come together. Just keep pulling back on the seam to reveal the stitches.

7. Next we’re going to remove the zipper and all of its components. I know some would like to keep the zippers, but in my case, I know that I would never reuse them. I rarely use zippers, but when I have, they have been much longer than the ones that come from these jeans. This is the first waste product.

Using sharp scissors, cut as close as you can to the outer seam.

DSCN3515Continue all the way down around the curve to the seam.

DSCN35168. Then repeat on the other side of the zipper.

DSCN34909. Now continue cutting to the side of the ‘out’ seam. This will continue around to the waist in back (between the pockets).

10. Now you have essentially two separate legs. Now you want to split the seams to capture as much of the fabric as possible. Start by cutting along the outer seam all the way to the bottom hem. Cut through the hem.

DSCN349311. Now cut off the hem and set it aside. I actually have used all of my hems in a very special project. It is SO cool! Just because I keep and use something, doesn’t necessarily mean you will, so keep only what you want and can use.

12. Now, lay the pant leg out. Then fold it in half, right sides together based on the inner seam. Now, cut off the inner seam, keeping as close as you can to the seam.

13. As you cut the inner seam, you will fun into the pocket as it is incorporated into the seam. Translation? Many layers of fabric! So once you have reached this point, open the fabric and cut with as few layers as possible. You also may have to contend with rivets at the pocket site. These can be heck on scissors, so be careful!

14. On the front (with the pocket) cut the outer seam to remove the pocket. I have a project in mind for the mini-pocket (or change pocket) so, I cut away most of the pocket construction and the white portion. I try to leave some fabric around the smaller pocket, so I can accomplish this other project.

15. Now time to remove the back pockets. You could actually do this at any point in the project, but I like to have everything already done and then sit down on the couch with my box of razor blades and remove the pockets while I watch television.

2015-05-12 21.11.10Again, pull the sharp edge across the reinforcement at the both corners, once or twice. Once you’ve gotten past the reinforcement seam, the remainder of the pocket is pretty easy.

I’ll share with you my little secret. Some of this fabric is going to be used to upholster a wing back chair. And removing the pocket reveals a darker fabric underneath and adds more visual interest. Even if you are cutting the fabric for use in a quilt or some other project, the difference between the faded and not-so-faded fabric.

16. Steps 10 through 16 as necessary to complete the deconstruction. When you’ve done, this should be the total pieces from a single pair of jeans to be discarded. I save the outside seams but the not the inside seams.

DSCN3518And here is my bounty. This pile represents about 30 pairs of jeans, ranging from size 30 all the way up through 54″!

IMG_4209The fabric shown in the photo above, is to be cut into strips and then braided into the denim rag rug.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 4.19.00 PMI actually have much more that I am deconstructing slightly different as I am using it for a upholstery project. I got the idea from the photo above. I just love the juxtification between the formality of the chair yet informal fabric of salvaged denim. The small hints of pockets and seams just adds to the overall delight.

My chair is a little different than the style above, the back has a tufts rather than a flat surface. And this is where the different shades of blue will bring such a uniqueness to it.

Here are some other images that influence me:

Okay, that’s it for today. If you have further questions, comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

julie

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