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DIY Repurposed Denim Checkered Picnic Blanket

I recently finished a spring cleaning of my closet and collected a small pile of outdated, ripped up and no-longer-can-squeeze-into jeans (why was I holding on to these for so long?). I had been thinking of making a durable blanket for an upcoming camping trip. Also, with summer upon us and my family spending lots of time outdoors, a picnic blanket was much needed. 

A checkered picnic blanket made from different colored denim, draped over a chair on a front porch. A basket of pink flowers are in the background.

Rather than heading to the store, I decided to use up all of that great denim fabric to make a picnic blanket. Here are the do-it-yourself instructions to turn a bunch of unwanted jeans into a stunning and useful picnic blanket.

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DIY Repurposed Denim Checkered Picnic Blanket

Stack of old jeans used to make a checkered denim picnic blanket.

Close up view of a stack of old jeans showing different shades of blue and gray denim fabric.

Before taking out my fabric scissors, I had to do some simple math calculations to determine the number of square pieces I was going to need for the blanket. I knew I wanted to do a quilt-inspired blanket. So here’s the math:

1. I chose the size of each of my finished squares to be 6”. I added ½” seam allowance to all sides which gave me a square template measuring 7” x 7”.

2. I knew a good size picnic blanket would be about 60” wide x 70” long.

  • For the width – I multiplied my 6” finished square x 9 squares to get 54” wide.
  • For the length – I multiplied my 6” finished square x 11 squares to get 66” long.

**So my finished blanket would be 54” wide (or 9 squares) x 66” (or 11 squares) long. Close enough to my desired size!

3. Next, I simply multiplied length x width (in squares) to get total # of needed squares:

  • 9 squares * 11 squares = 99 squares (total)

4. I created a square template measuring 7”x7” out of cardstock to use as my cutting guide.

5. I cut up the jeans into usable fabric pieces. I cut the jeans along either the inseams or the outseams to avoid wasting any fabric.

Finally, the preparation was done and I could begin working on the blanket!  I took the template and began tracing it out on the fabric using a washable wax pencil (or any washable pencil like a chalk pencil* would do).  I take the time to make sure I was using the most out of each pair of jeans: my squares were aligned and followed the grainline of the fabric.  Then, continued to mark and cut the squares until I had 99 pieces in total.

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Using a template to cut out denim squares.

Fabric chalk lines of a section of grey denim

I ended up using 5 different pairs of women’s size 10 jeans to make this picnic blanket.

Stack of cut-out denim squares prior to sewing the picnic blanket

Denim fabric squares sorted by color

The next step was the fun part: l laid out the squares in a creative and visually appealing pattern. Or you can do random as well if you prefer.

I marked the back side of the square at the start of each row with a number (1 to 11).  This is important most especially when you are creating a pattern.  I stacked each row the same way working from left to right. And then I began sewing the squares together along each row starting with row 1. After this, I finished the raw edges using a serging machine (zig zag stitching works as well if you don’t have a serger).

Sewing the first row of denim checkers together

Next, it was time to join the rows together starting with completed row 1 and working up towards row 11.  Take care to align the intersecting seams on each row as your sewing. Serge the length of the seam allowance to eliminate raw edges.

How to join together two rows of the denim checkers.

Backside view of all the denim fabric sewn together

The picnic blanket is almost done!  Iron out the seams so they are neatly pressed to one side (you can also do this as you finish sewing your rows).

The next step is to finish the edges of the blanket with a ½” wide cotton binding or by simply turning edges under and topstitching.

And the final step is to add a tie so the picnic blanket when rolled up stays in place. I chose to use one of the waistbands from the unwanted jeans to make the tie. I cut the waistband away from the rest of the jeans, cutting close the seam allowance.

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The picnic blanket all rolled up and lying in the grass, showing the detail of how the strap fastens together.

And done! So who’s up for a picnic in the park?

The DIY checkered denim picnic blanket laid out on the grass.

A bowl filled with watermelon resting on the new picnic blanket

What other ways have you thought to repurpose old clothes? Do you have a favorite picnic blanket you use?

“*This post contains affiliate links which means if you buy any of the products – at no additional cost to you – we make a small commission. *”

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Lynne

Saturday 29th of August 2020

Great use of all the denim! That blanket is also perfect for the beach! Your family can find you easily because nobody else has a blanket like yours.

Edith Hollingsworth

Thursday 21st of May 2020

Thanks for this great idea! I made a dog blanket for my backseat in my Mini Cooper and used the waist bands to loop around the head rests. It holds the dog blanket in place. I used an old navy blue sheet as a backer and then used bias tape to bring it all together on the sides! My husband suggested I take orders but I quickly quashed that idea by telling him the labour hours were about 30! (I'm a slow seamstress!)

Jane and Sonja

Sunday 24th of May 2020

That's amazing and so clever to use it to hold the blanket in place! Well maybe he's on to something...the more you sew, the faster you sew ;)

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