September 16, 2010

Jean Purse - Jean Tote - from Recycled, Upcycled Jeans!

I have been holding on to a few pairs of pants that are in good shape, but no longer fit my shape:)  I have had the idea to make jean purses out of them, but wanted them to be more than just jean - with bright colored fabric and decorative elements to add character. 
So I'll show you how I lined it with colorful fabric, sewed flowers to the outside, added a pretty belt - and made the whole thing outstanding!
I took my original jeans... 
And cut off the legs, right at the top of the inseam.   
They were completely open at the bottom, like a little mini skirt.  At this point, I knew I wanted to decorate the outside of the bag, while I had the open bottom which made it easy to manoeuvre. 
I took some matching bright fabric, and cut uneven squares. 
Onto three of the squares I sewed flowers, like this:

I took a long strip of fabric (about 2.5" wide x some random length) and sewed it into a tube. 
(To make a tube, fold the the strip in half lengthwise, right sides together, and then sew up the raw edge of the long side.  Turn right side out, and you have a long 1" wide tube.)
*Sewing the flower down to the square of fabric is not a precise thing*
Fold under the raw edge and set the end of tube somewhere away from the middle of the square.  Sew it down, along the inner edge, spiraling the tube in a circle toward the center... 
...until you have finished the flower in the middle.   
Fold the raw end under and sew it down at the middle of the flower.  This is a very forgiving process, and meant to be imprecise.  It makes for a shabby chic look. 

Then, sew the squares into an aesthetically pleasing manner on to the front of the jeans.  I sewed about 1/8" from the edges.   Note: *Be sure to fold the inside of the front pocket up and out of the way so that you don't sew through it.  This way your pockets will still be functional after the bag is made!*
I only added these 3 flowers to the front side, but you could applique anything to the bag - initials, any fabric with fun pictures, fabric cut into shapes of anything you are interested in - the possibilities are endless!

Turn the bag inside out, and pin the bottom of the bag together.  At the crotch, the fabric will probably need to be folded to make it lay flat - just be aware that some finagling is required. 
Sew along the bottom, and finish with a zig-zag stitch.  I also rounded my corners because I think the corners are too pointy otherwise.  The bottom of the bag already flares out - and pointy corners accentuate this. 
Look closely to see the rounded corners
Next comes the inside lining.  Measure your bag to find an approximate size to cute your fabric. 

It will be wider at the bottom and tapered at the top.  Add on 1/2" to the length and 1" to the width for seam allowance.   Cut two pieces of fabric to the specified measurements. 

With right sides together, sew the bottom and 2 sides with 1/4" seam allowance.  You have a nice big pocket. 

Fold and iron the top edge out by 3/4". 

Turn your jean purse right side out.  Keeping the right side of the fabric on the inside of the pocket, tuck your pocket into your jean bag.  Pin the fabric pocket right against the edge of the waist as shown. 

Sew along the edge of the fabric - however - ** Make SURE you mark where the metal rivets are, and where the belt loops are.**  You are going to have to start and stop your sewing a few times to "hop over" these sections that you dont want sewed down (or in the case of the rivets, would break your me.)  Since I wanted to put a belt through the loops, I did not want to sew across the belt loops. 
After you have used a machine to sew most of the pocket in, hand sew the few gaps you had to "hop over".

Next the handle.  I used one leg of the jeans, and cut two 3" strips as long as I could get them.  I left the bottom cuff to use as a finished edge.

Cuff of bottom of jean for part of the strap
At the raw (non-cuff) end, cut the strips at an angle to make them more decorative. 

Cut 2 strips of colorful fabric the same sizes as the jean strips.

With right sides together, sew along the 2 long edges and the angled raw edge.  Do this for both the sets, turn right side out.

Using the cuff edge, pin one length to each side of the bag - jean side facing out.  You may have to fold the sides under slightly - but not the end, because the cuff edge is finished.  Overlap the strap onto the bag by about 2". 

Sew in down very well, all the way around the square and in an x through it.  See picture below. 

Do this on both sides of the bag, one strap per side. 
Then, tie the straps in a knot at the end to make a finished shoulder strap.   See picture below. 

The last thing to do, is make a simple belt for decorative purposes.  I used the same style fabric as I did on the handle.  Cut 2 long strips of fabric - so that they will fit through through your belt loops, and be long enough to tie at the end.  Mine were just under 3" wide (to account for seam allowance) and about 45" long.  You may have to sew 2 lengths together to make it long enough.  Cut both ends at an angle (as shown below), to make it more decorative. 

With right sides together, sew the 2 long sides together, and 1 short angled end.  Turn it right side out, iron flat.  Finish the final short edge by folding the fabric under and hand or machine stitching closed. 

Pull the belt through the loops and tie the ends in a knot on the side of the bag.   

Here is a picture from the back of the bag: 
And a picture of the finished inside lining.  I love how bright it looks! 
It turned out pretty bright, stylin' and fun!  Can't wait to make many more!

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  1. HI there! I'm your newest follower from the Friday Blog Hop! Lovely Blog!You can find me at

  2. Love this one too Linds! Your directions are great. I think I could this!

  3. I have several pairs of old jeans just waiting for project like this.

  4. Nice bag. I have made some of this type of bag but found the lining very tricky. As you hint, it is easy to break your needles while sewing in the lining! I upcycle jeans into all kinds of bags which I sell for charity. Have a look on my blog if you have time - I have posted lots of photos and a lot of tutorials as well.

  5. I just found your site by googlling denim projects; went to one site, another, another, and found your kick-butt site. I just inherited a wonderful Singer sewing machine from a church sister who can no longer sew. I have no clue; I'm still learning how to thread the darn machine!
    In light of this, I read through your tutorial and I understood each step. First time this has happened. I commend you for your supurb writing skills.
    I have several pairs of old denim jeans, as well as denim shorts and short skirts. I am going to start this project soon. Also, I shall keep an eye on your site for more gems.
    Thanks so much. Love in Christ, Sister.

  6. Thanks for such a thorough explanation. Your purse is absolutely darling!

  7. merci beaucoup pour ce tutoriel. je vais essayer d'en faire un pour offrir à ma soeur