Denim Chenille Quilt

Page 3 - The Sewing



How many different calico fabrics do you have? Think about how you want them arranged on the back of your quilt. If you only have two fabrics, they will be a checkerboard-type design, and you should stack them in separate piles next to your sewing machine. If you have four fabrics, you will also have a sort of checkerboard. Divide them into two groups - darks and lights or by color (reds and blues.) If you have more than that, they also need to be divided into two roughly equal groups, divided as above into two different groups. Even if your fabrics are all closely related (dark green), sort them by fabric into two separate piles. This helps to prevent the placement of identical squares next to each other. There should be 60 squares is each pile.

Since there are many different shades of denim, you may also want to sort your denim squares into light and dark piles. It's not necessary unless you have a lot of very light and/or very dark squares. Usually, the denim blends together without a lot of fuss. Place the denim in two piles, though, if you have scraps, just to keep them mixed up - so you don't put all the squares from one pair of jeans together in your quilt. If all your denim is the same (you purchased it new), just leave it in one pile.


Gray is a good thread color choice for this project. Use a good quality cotton thread. Wind an extra bobbin so you don't have to stop and do it while you are sewing. Thread your machine as usual.

A denim needle is helpful, especially in the later stages of the sewing, when you are stitching through several layers of denim and over bulky seam allowances. If you donít have a denim needle, use a size 14 or larger universal or sharp needle (not a ball point needle, which is intended for knit fabrics.) It will work just fine, but you may break several of them while sewing your quilt, so have extras on hand.

Set the machine up so you have working space to the left of the machine. If you need an extension cord, use it - you don't want to be tripping over the cords. Use a comfortable kitchen or office chair. Keep a pair of small scissors handy for cutting thread. Get additional light if necessary.

Place the piles of fabric to the left of your machine - two of calico and (usually) two of denim.

These fabrics are in piles. I have a pile of blue calico and a pile of calico in assorted colors. I have put the denim in two piles.


You will be sewing four pieces of fabric at one time. I'm still going to call it a pair, even though it has four pieces. You need to organize the four pieces:

Think of it as a sandwich: the denim squares are the bread and the calico is the filling.

Pick up a calico square from each pile and place them right sides together.

Pick up a denim square from each pile. Place one on the table, wrong side up. Put the calico pair on top of it. Place the other denim square on top, having the right side up.

If you look at your fabric sandwich, the denim (bread) is facing outward on both sides and the calico is in the middle, right sides together.

You can assemble these all before you sew or pick them up one at a time as you sew.

Sew the pairs together along one side with a 1/2" seam allowance. Because the 5/8" seam allowance lines are probably marked clearly on your sewing machine, you may prefer to use a 5/8" seam allowance. Whichever you use, be consistent. If you look closely, you can see that these squares have been sewn together with a 1/2" seam allowance. The gray thread blends well with the light denim.

Open up your pairs as shown. While the denim side is where the seam allowances show, you are only seeing the right sides of the denim itself - the wrong sides of the denim and the calico are forever hidden between the squares. In the second photo, you see only the right sides of the calico, and the seam allowances are on the denim side.



Donít break your thread between units. As you finish one seam, have another one ready to sew and stitch it following the first. You don't want to overlap the units, but there shouldn't be more than an inch of thread space between them. This will conserve thread and save you a lot of time.


Stack the pairs, calico sides up, next to your sewing machine in two piles. Turn one stack around so you have a checkerboard effect. You are going to sew these units together with a 1/2" seam allowance, having the calico sides together so the seam allowances are on the denim side of the quilt.

I am alternating blue fabrics with other colors.

Press the seam allowances together in opposite directions as shown. Your object is to get the center seams lined up straight.The "pressing" is done with your fingers. We are not pressing with an iron at all for this project.

As you sew these units together, you will sew over the seam allowances in the middle, where you first sewed the pairs together. This is a very bulky intersection. The layers will slip and the seams will not line up neatly unless you push the seam allowances in opposite directions. This lets you butt them up against each other and actually helps keep the seams lined up so they match and donít shift. The seam allowances of the pair on the bottom should be pushed toward you and the seam allowances of the top unit should be pushed away from you. This is awkward to slide under the presser foot as you sew, but it's more awkward to have the feed dogs fighting the seam allowances. Look carefully at the photos to see how these are positioned as you sew.

This is still a bulky intersection, so stitch carefully here. You may need to assist the fabric under the presser foot as you approach the intersection, but it's better to lift the presser foot slightly than to pull on the fabric. If you are going to break needles, this will be where it happens.

Sew all the pairs into four-patches. You will have 30 four-patch units.


This quilt has five vertical rows of six four-patches.

It is important to maintain the pattern of the checkerboard as you sew the four-patches together.

Here are two sets of two four-patches sewn together. Note that in the top arrangement, which is WRONG, the blue squares are together and the pink is next to the yellow.

The arrangement on the bottom is correct. The four-patches have been positioned so that every colored square alternates with a blue one. Make sure that all the rows' checkerboards are identical - if your light fabric is in the upper-left-hand corner of row #1, it needs to be like that for every row.

Even if you have lots of scraps, you sorted them into two piles. Keep track of your checkerboard as you complete the sewing.

A completed row has six fourpatch blocks - 12 individual squares in length.

Make all five rows at once by sewing five pairs of four-patches, using a continuous seam. This is the start of the five rows. Add another four-patch to each of those rows, using a continuous seam. Continue until your five rows have six four-patches each (and you are out of four-patches!)

As you are sewing the four-patches together, you will butt the seams together as you did in the previous step. In order to keep the bottom seam allowances facing you and the top ones away from you, you will need to fold them opposite to the direction you did last time. This is not a problem - remember that we will be clipping the seam allowances later.


This quilt is very heavy, and a heavy quilt tries to pull itself off the sewing machine and table as you sew.
I donít advise you to start with one row and build on it - it gets too heavy that way and is therefore hard to sew with an accurate seam allowance.

Instead, sew two rows together, using the same seam allowances and instructions as before. Sew another two rows together separately and add the remaining row to one of those two units so you have two large pieces. Now sew the two pieces together.

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