Sunday, October 11, 2015

Accidental Gees Bend-ish Jeans Quilt

Don't you love those Antiques Roadshow episodes in which people happened to look around in their attic, spied an old metal helmet, and it turned out to be a Roman antiquity worth $6.2 million?

It happens regularly on AR, but never to me. Until last week.

I opened a seldom-viewed closet near our front door - can't remember why.  I noticed crumbled denim stuffed into the top shelf.  Denim? I don't store jeans or my denim stash in that closet.

I pulled it out and realized it was a giant rectangular tube stitched from jeans parts. What the heck?
 Then I remembered: It was the former cushion cover for our former log porch swing.

To digress a moment, I love log cabins,both fabric and wood. We can't live in a log cabin (rare in Los Angeles), but at an art show I spotted a porch swing much like this one:

We bought it, and of course, it was uncomfortable, So I bought upholstery foam, and cut it to size for a bottom and back cushion. I made  covers from my husband's old jeans.

It made it a great conversation piece, until a couple of years ago, when we noticed neat little mounds of sawdust on the floor below it. Termites! An exterminator assured us that the critters would soon switch over to munching on our house. So he hauled it away,  I tossed the foam, put the denim covers through the laundry, shoved the seat cover into my front hall closet, and forgot about it.

So this was about three years later. I opened my closet, and spread it out.When I ripped the seam that joined the two ends, it looked like this:
It's about 54" x 76". My first thought: OMG, this is a priceless Gee's Bend quilt, except not brilliant!  Gees Bend quilts have had a powerful influence on me (and on the quilt world in general). I could stare at them for hours. I made the cover long before I'd heard of Gees Bend, but there were similarities. Below are three of my favorite authentic Gees Bend quilts, made from old work clothes, Learn more about them and view many more here.

Wonky, check.  Pockets, check. Sun fading, subtle hue changes, assymetry, check, check, check. Genius composition? Well, not in mine! But that's a small matter, no? I wasn't aiming for composition! I was aiming for cushion coverage! 

Also, no wonder that swing was so uncomfortable! We were sitting on zippers and rivets and belt loops, oh my! 
Not to mention labels! 
It weighs a ton. I'm not sure whether to line it. Either I keep it in the back of my car for picnic emergencies, or bring it to Antiques Roadshow. 

A lot of people have made Gees Bend-inspired quilts. They're usually incredibly relaxing. One wasn't so relaxing: An artist was hired to make 65 American flags from recycled Levis. They wound up using 3,000 pairs of jeans and it took four months! Read all about it here.
One of my earlier,  too-symmetrical-to-be-Gees-Bend denim-and-corduroy quilts, blogged here:
Wavy denim stripes, tutorial blogged here:
What have you made from old jeans?


  1. Love Gees Bend quilts! There was a show of them at our local art museum a few years ago. Some of the quilters spoke at the opening.
    Love looking through your blog and seeing your art!

    1. Thank you so much Ms. M! I saw them in Boston, and was completely blown away!

  2. I like the shibori effect you get from elastic denim waistbands, once the elastic is ripped out. I've used these to make a chatelaine and a very pretty hatband for a straw hat. You could call it "cowboy shibori."

    1. I love the term cowboy shibori! Works for me! Thanks, Dot!