Saturday, June 1, 2013

Upcycling Jeans

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 individual jeans upcycling projects, I 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The fabric was originally made in Nimes and was called Serge!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.

Using the denim fabric from jeans

First of all some ideas for simply using the denim fabric from jeans. There is plenty of it - mostly in the legs:

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!

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!

Using particular parts of jeans

Next I wanted to show some ways to upcycle particular parts of the jeans - so making use of the structure of the clothes in what you make.

1. Using the main part - or 'body' of the jeans:

This is a great way to upcycle a pair of jeans, as it requires very little alteration other than removing the legs and it keeps all the features and pockets of the jeans intact!

Here are some examples:

2. Using the entire front or back of the jeans:

Cutting the front or back portion of the jeans and stitching the legs together gives you an unusual rectangle of fabric which can be used, perhaps like this:

3. Using the legs:

The ready made tube of the legs makes them perfect for bags and baskets:

4. Using the Pockets:

The pockets can be used for all sorts of things that require...well a pocket, or somewhere to slip your hand...

5. The leg seams:

The seams are good sturdy strips that could be re-used in many this:

I braided some seams together to use as a bag strap:

And I also use pieces of the seams when making various things I want to attach to keychains:

6. The Waistband:

A great way to reuse the waistband and also the top part of the jeans is to make them into a cute skirt:

I've also seen waistbands stitched together to make bags and rugs and even a cushion cover which look really effective!

To see pictures of these plus LOTS more fabulous jeans upcycling ideas - including denim jeans art and furniture you can check out my 

I hope this post have given you lots of inspiration and ideas for upcycling your jeans! They are my favourite thing to upcycle and you can find lots more denim upcycles - many with tutorials if you explore my blog too!

For lots more ideas and inspiration on upcycling clothes - check out the ongoing

There are over 600 ideas linked up just now and more are being added all the time. Please feel free to add any of your own clothes upcycling projects too!

Happy Upcycling.


  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!


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