Denim jeans have a lot of character and style, even if they’re worn out or outgrown. You can transform that style into a unique purse. All you need is an old pair that you can cut up.
Obtain an old pair of jeans that you have permission to cut up. Jeans come in all shapes and sizes, so if the old ones in your closet aren’t the size you prefer for your bag, look around at thrift stores and garage sales for an inexpensive pair in a style that suits you. Don’t forget kids’ jeans, if you want a smaller bag.
- Wash the jeans before beginning.
Cut off the pant legs level with the beginning of the legs. Save the legs (you’ll need them later). Cut at least half an inch (2cm) below the bottoms of the back pockets and below the zipper, for seam allowance. Jeans may be cut a little wider in back than in front, so line up the waistlines in the front and back before trimming. You can cut straight across the bottom, as shown, or round out the corners, according to how you’d like the finished purse to be shaped.
- Make an internal divider (optional).
Cut a panel from one of the legs to use for this purpose. Use the bottom and sides of the cutoff jeans as a pattern.
Turn one edge of the divider panel under and stitch it down. This will form the top of the divider.
- Select the color of thread you would like to use. Most blue jeans are sewn with brown or tan thread, so match that if you want. Otherwise, use blue or white to blend in, or choose a contrasting color if you prefer.
Turn the jeans inside out. Pin the divider panel in place if you are using it. Sew across the bottom to shut the leg openings. Also sew up the sides of the divider panel to secure it.
It helps to offset the thick seams in the center, so they’re not right on top of each other.
- Put your stitches about 5/8 inch, or 1.5cm, from the edge of the fabric. This amount is called the seam allowance.
- If the fabric tends to unravel, sew a line of zig zag stitches between the seam and the edge of the fabric, in the seam allowance. You will probably notice that the seams already in the jeans have similar reinforcement.
Cut a strip at least 2 inches (5cm) wide down the length of the leg to make the strap. The outside of the leg is usually a little bit straighter. Cut the strip to the length you want, so that the purse will hang where you want it to. Leave the strip a bit wider than you want, so that there will be a seam allowance for the next step.
Turn the strip inside-out, so that you are seeing the wrong side of the fabric. Sew it closed along one side, trying to keep the seam as straight as possible and parallel to the seam you already have.
Turn the strap back right side out. This step will be easier if you cut a generous width. It may help to use a dowel or other long, slender object to push the fabric through itself.
Sew the strip to the inside of the purse, near where the hips should be.Sew a sturdy joint at this point, since it will be holding up all the weight in the purse. A square or criss-cross pattern will help keep the sides from flopping.
- Modify and accessorize the purse any way you want.
- Attach a zipper or other closure to the top.
- Sew on buttons, beads, sequins, bows, or patches for decoration.
- Fray some SMALL holes and fringes on the fly, handle, or the former thighs of your purse for a skateboarder look.
- Paint or draw on the fabric.
- Add pins.
- Glue on some glitter.
- Dangle a bandanna out of one of the pockets for a color accent.
- Decorate your purse with applique or embroidery.
Put your stuff in the purse, making sure that none of it falls out of the bottom. Don’t forget that you have built-in pockets.
Wear the purse around your house to test the seams. If anything comes apart, reinforce the place where it came apart.
- Sew the purse inside out so that when you are done, you can turn it right side out and you won’t see the stitches.
- Make the stitches on the bottom (near the crotch) tight and close together.
- Use a skirt if you would like. Using skirt helps widen the variety on size.
- It might be helpful to add a simple fabric liner to the inside of the purse. This can easily be patched or replaced when it gets soiled and/or torn, and the purse remains intact.
- Put Velcro or a zipper on the pockets for a unique look.
- Instead of using a strip of denim for a strap, you could use an old belt. You can even cut the belt in the middle and leave the buckle for decoration and length adjustment. Just make sure it doesn’t end up right on top of your shoulder.
- There’s nothing special about using jeans for this project. Most other pants or shorts would work just as well, as long as the fabric is pretty sturdy.
Below are some ideas I have found to give you some inspiration!
Laptop case or old lady’s knitting bag? Ann Frye’s deftly constructed stuff sack, woven from recycled denim on a Leclerc Nilus “Medico” loom, is a stealth operator that will keep everyone guessing. (The needles are decoys, natch.)
Talk about a split personality. This fully reversible tote features workhorse denim on one side and frou-frou florals on the other. Designed by Nicola Mesham of Pouchbags to function sans visible seams, the bag offers two holdalls for the price—and materials—of one.
The aptly monikered Miranda Chance gives dunzo denim a do-over by reworking the material into high-end handbags, with embellishments gleaned from secondhand leather jackets.
Chance may be more alchemist than designer. Here, salvaged denim and leather make a shift from demure to rugged when wrestled into the shape of a utilitarian duffle.
Betty Mathers whipped up a sturdy laptop carryall from a pair of old jeans, padding it with plenty of room for stowing cords and peripherals. Bonus: The fly opens up to reveal a zippered pocket. Is that a mouse in your pants or are you just happy to see us?
Disguised as a folded pair of pants, Cas de Nîmes by designer Adrian Jankowiak is a laptop sleeve on the down-low, complete with working pockets for tucking away your high-tech paraphernalia.