Saturday, June 1, 2013

Upcycling Jeans - part one - the denim

Jeans are one of the best items of clothing for upcycling. The fabric is tough and there is plenty of it, and all the different parts of the jeans can be used for all sorts of different projects as I'll show you with some amazing ideas.  Here was just one pair of jeans I used before Christmas last year to make some gifts..

But before we get to the projects, I first wanted to share some fun facts:

Jeans were initially made as workwear for labourers in America in the late 19th century.

Blue Jeans have an official birthday - May 20th.

Indigo is the dye used to colour blue jeans. It doesn't go through the whole fabric which is why jeans are white on the inside. It also explains the wear 'lines' on denim that appear over time - as the molecules of indigo gradually chip and fall off!

The name denim comes from the French 
'Serge de Nimes'. 
The fabric was originally made in Nimes and was called Serge!

During World War 2, men's jeans had a zip down the front but women's jeans had a zip down the side!

So why upcycle jeans? 

For a start there's the reason to upcycle any kind of clothes - the amount of water, electricity, chemicals etc used in the production of the fabric and the clothes in the first place. The landfill old clothes take up and the same things again used to make new fabric and clothes to replace those old ones.

So upcycle - reuse and recycle!

Jeans are also loved all over the world by all kinds of people. Cowboys wear them, housewives wear them, supermodels and celebrities wear them - even presidents wear them.
They are comfortable, durable and fade and wear in a such a way that they often become more loved the more worn they get!

Jeans are cool, durable and as you're about to see - so, so versatile!

So, let's get to some ideas for upcycling.

This week I just wanted to show some ideas for simply using the denim fabric from jeans. There is plenty of it - mostly in the legs:

(Next week I'm going to look at ways to use the other parts of the jeans - like the pockets, seams  waistband etc.)

Here's some nifty ideas:

A fun and durable idea for kids!

My own Lesa bag, which I made using most of the fabric from a pair of adult jeans:

Aprons - also from Sewing for Utange:

Pencil cases and notebook folders by me:

More pouches:

Finally - cute monster pouches - also from Sewing for Utange:

You may have noticed several of these features are from the site Sewing for Utange. Caroline makes lots of amazing things from old jeans - and also includes tutorials on her blog. All here creations she sells to raise money for The Sure Foundation, which feeds starving children in the village of Utange, near Mombasa, in Kenya. 
So please do go and take a look at her blog - what an amazing lady and such a worthwhile cause!

There are also a couple of links from the fabulous Michele Made Me.  Michele hosted a Drop Dead Denim Recycling event a while back - which has more fabulous ideas for what to do with those old jeans - you can take a look through those posts here.

When cutting the denim fabric from jeans to re-use, the possibilities really are limitless!
But it's just more eco-friendly and of course cheaper to upcycle the denim from old jeans rather than go out and buy a new piece of denim fabric!

Do come back next week to see what you can do with the other parts of jeans - some great ways to use those pockets, seams and waistbands!

I've also pinned lots of jeans upcycling ideas to
- if you'd like to see even more fabulous and creative ideas!

For now - please do add your own jeans upcycling projects to the linky party below - whether it's a project using just the denim fabric or a particular part of the structure of the jeans - anything goes.
The linky will also be on next week's jeans post - part 2, and will also remain open long term to serve as a resource for ideas for upcycling those old jeans!

(By linking up you are giving me permission to use photos from your post in features here on my blog)

There is also another fabulous denim refashioning linky over at Threading my Way - why not get even more exposure for your projects and head on over there to link up too!  


  1. Thank you Jill for this new series!
    I know that a lot of inspiration is coming (I love chair cushions most on this round!)

    1. Thanks! - yes those chair cushions are particularly cool aren't they!

  2. All great ideas, I love the seat covers! Happy Weekend:@)

  3. yay, all kinds of goodies! I am over the moon about the toy roads!

    1. Thanks Mich. Yes those toy roads are cool aren't they! Great for the kids to be able to make the roads go wherever they want! then redesign, and move... Brilliant!

  4. You are SO right, Jill. The possibilities for repurposing jeans are endless. I look forward to seeing the ideas that are added to the collection.

    1. Thanks Pam - me too, I'm always looking for more ideas - I've a big box of cut up jeans!

  5. Hi Jill. I love your blog and ideas. I have several jean SKIRTS that I'd love to re vamp. Are these ideas on your blog in the tutorial section?

    Also, I've been wondering how bloggers get their pics in frames and/or together the way you did in this post and so many others. :-). I hated when blogger changed to where now ALL pictures are underneath. They use to have it where pictures would lay one next to the other.

    Thanks so much! -JC

    1. HI JC

      Thanks for your comment!
      To answer your questions - sorry I don't have any denim skirt refashion tutorials on my blog - but I will be looking at upcycling skirts in particular towards the end of July (I'm working through clothes item by item!)

      As far as borders on photos for your blog - I wrote a post about that a while back that might help. Here's the link:

      Hope that helps!!

  6. Thank you so much for the mention - I really appreciate it. Some great ideas here - I may need to try the pouffe!! Looking forward to the next instalment, and off to follow your Pinterest page right now!

    1. Thanks Caroline!

      Definitely give the Pouffe a go - mine is so well used and appreciated!! My kids now sit on that more than they do the sofa!! :)

  7. Jill I love Denim and I totally learnt something new. Had no idea about the origin of the name.
    I have a recycled Denim project to post on my blog then link up here. Loving the projects so far x

    1. Thanks Ruby! Looking forward to seeing your denim project too!


I love comments and try to respond to them all. Thanks for taking the time !