Quilts from Old Clothes? - Frugal Quilting


A Quilting Forum Discussion, continued from page one

This discussion on frugal quilting and making quilts from old clothes was begun in the Quilting Forum in August 2002 - I've selected some of the useful comments - to read the complete thread of discussion, see what has been added and to comment yourself - if you've thought about making quilts from old clothes to practice frugal quilting, here are some ideas.

For Grandma, during the depression buying fabric for a quilt was unheard of. There was barely enough money for food and no money for the fire wood to cook it with. Fire wood was scavenged from the Columbia River driftwood by horse and wagon. Clothing was made from flour sacks and other garments.

Mom's dresses were pre-depression and were saved until the 1960's to be made into a quilt.

Most of the stories from the depression are from my Mother. It seems Grandma was always poor having come from a Idaho homesteader family and 'one just made do'. Barely getting by was a life style and not the stuff for story making.

Grandma is alive but is in a nursing home and not mentally with us. Mom is sharper than a tack and going strong.



frugal quiltingOne of my grandmothers made all my clothing, the other was a quilter. Long story short, I got a wonderful quilt made with fabric from all of my favorite and "important" (first day of school dress, etc) clothing. Unfortunately, the quilt begin to deteriorate almost immediately. A small wall quilt might be OK, but I'd be dubious about using clothing for a quilt you expect to function as a quilt.

I have a pattern for a raggy one, just squares. I'm putting red bandana fabric on the back, thought the red would look cute fraying with the blue denim on the front. I'm making a couple for the bunk beds at our mountain cabin. I thought they'd be virtually indestructible (what we need up there) and yet washable when they get mountain dirt on them!! The right "look" for a rustic cabin too!



Hi, Just thought I would let you know that I have made quilts out of used denim with flannel for the back for my grandkids as they go to college. One was a rail fence and two were log cabin. They turned out really nice and the different shades of denim were so subtle. I made them twin size and had them machine quilted. After college they can use them for a sofa throw and after that they can go in their cars . I use mostly the backs of the pant legs and have not had any problem whatsoever.

I have used a few pieces from my oldest daughter's first dress I made her but other than that I use new fabric because I am afraid if I use old, the quilts will not last as long.

I did read one post about using used oxford cloth. Yes, that is a very sturdy fabric and if I had some, I would use it.

I have heard that the materials are not as strong when they are used, however, I really wonder if used material/scraps is how quilting began. I have a few library books that I'll look through for the answer. I think that my desire to try used clothing stems from wanting to conserve on finances, be resourceful, and still enjoy the art. I am learning to (and enjoying) "recycling" everything that I can.

I am just in the process of trying to complete my fist quilt. My DD and I are doing it together. We're using a kids quilting book with a lap, "hop scotch" type pattern. It's very basic, but I think that it's just what we needed to begin. We are using fabric that I've had for a while (for another project), that is new. It has surprised me how much effort has to go into washing, ironing, and cutting the fabric before we can get to the sewing part. But, we have really enjoyed it. Because it is such a basic design, I thought that it could be completed in one day. It will take several (smile.) I know that the use of old clothes will take even more time and effort but, I think that it will be worth it. I don't plan to use clothes that are totally worn. I will try to use clothes that have holes or are not fit to pass on to someone else to use. However, I think that I will try to make serveral quilts before trying it.;-)
The first quilt I ever quilted, had been a wedding gift (top pieced only). IT was all old clothes etc. which was what they used to make quilts of! Some were fortunate to be able to buy NEW fabrics.

Since -- I have wished often that had kept some of my son's clothing to make memory quilts of or my own over the years. But alas...did not.

However, if you are wanting a quick scrappy quilt, go to the resale shops when they have those $1 a brown bag sales.. quick way to get some CHEAP fabrics. LOOK for shirts etc that are NOT worn too badly!! could be a FUN adventure.



Thanks for the advice. I live near to a very cheap resale store. I know that I could find all kinds of "good" old clothes their ($1 or $1.50 per bag.) One positive thing is getting right to the cutting and sewing part with "used" fabrics. I can save the washing for when the quilts are finished.;-)


Well, I think I'd still want to wash the old clothes before cutting and sewing. Seems that a lot of used clothes have an odor -- maybe they're just musty from being stored, but I'd rather wash them and get rid of that before working with them. Still, it wouldn't be any more trouble than doing a load of your regular laundry.


Hi, glad to see that you are starting to quilt. I have been a quilter for almost 30 years and it has been a happy and very rewarding pastime. I used to teach quilting out of my home back in the early eighties. It helped give me extra money to support my 4 kids.

If you use old clothing, use the parts with the least amount of wear, like the top part of the sleeves of a shirt, or the back of a shirt.

I would take the old fabric and give it a tug both side to side and top to bottom and see if it shows any sign of tearing or weakness. If not, then I would use it. It would be very heartbreaking to put all of the hours of labor into a quilt and then have it fall apart in the first or second washing.

I would not mix flannel and denim in the same quilt (on the top). They will wear differently and the flannel will shred before the denim will. You can use flannel on the back that will not get as much wear.

It is difficult to know how to tell you how many jean pieces you will need and flannel because you have to know the size of the quilt you want to make and the size of the jeans that you are cutting up to make it. I just cut about 30 pair up and store the legs till I need them. I think having a pattern would help you determine what you need.

I'd love to show some photos of quilts old clothes and FRUGAL Quilts in the Gallery here - if you have a photo of a quilt to share and can email me a scan or digital photo (plus include a little explanation about how you made it) to quilting -at- equilters.com


Susan Druding

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