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The current trend to recycle, upcycle and reuse is wonderful to see. However, as sewers this is nothing new to us. Sometimes it’s as simple as a button, other times we’ll tear down a vintage dress and remake it into something altogether different and altogether spectacular. Interestingly, over the years I’ve found that one material has consistently been repurposed more than any other: that material is denim.


Denim’s popularity shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Is there any other material that has woven itself into our national consciousness as much as denim? Although as old as the Renaissance itself, the modern popularity of denim, and subsequently our fascination for the material, can essentially be traced back to five men – Levi Strauss etched denim into our collective consciousness as a reliable and sturdy material; James Dean made an otherwise utilitarian item of clothing sexy; and the Nakash brothers (Joe, Ralph, and Avi) launched Jordache jeans and our wardrobes have never been the same. This triumvirate of sturdy, sexy and fashionable will always keep it at the forefront of the reuse trends.


Over at Indygo Junction, our first pattern for recycling was the Jacket From Jeans way back in 1996. Over the years we’ve gone on to produce several recycled denim jean designs. Today I thought I would take a minute and share some of the techniques we featured in our designs to spark your creativity!!


The first idea: re-use the jean pockets on a purse with the waistband as a strap (you can see a number of variations of this in our Denim Redesign book.


Next, even if your jeans are knee-worn and on their last thread, you can still use them in some fantastic ways. Our Patchwork Purse is made from denim squares, easily harvested from the aforementioned worn-out jeans. It makes for a unique look when you vary the squares from darker to faded in this design.


Don’t forget that you may need to reuse several pairs of worn jeans in a project. Our Placket Jacket is a wonderful example of a classically retro design that can be fashioned from several “scraps” of denim. In fact, with our pattern, instructions are provided that specifically address constructing it using recycled denim jeans (as a side note: if you do make this one, remember that serged, variegated thread adds great detail).


The next example I’d like to share is a darling Teatime Dress and Coat. It features a fantastic jacket design with unique back belt detail and a stencil incased in a raw edged denim frame. The princess style seams in this pattern are created by the felted jean seam placement.


If you don’t have much denim to work with, just use it as an accent. For example, on our Boulevard Bag, we use denim along with other fabrics. The denim band on this bag is a perfect compliment to vintage retro bark cloth.

Combining vintage images and denim.


In addition to using denim as a source material, it’s also great to take denim clothing that you’ve picked up along the way and make them your own using your individual creative touches. A book that might inspire you is our Art to Wear. One of the favorite projects in the book is the denim jeans decorated with vintage imagery; details like pockets with raw edge and seam allowances exposed that are then embellished with images printed to fabric sheets. The possibilities are just endless! If using vintage artwork to embellish clothing excites you, don’t forget you can find almost any type of image you want over at our digital image marketplace, TheVintageWorkshop.


Finally, in one of our latest pattern releases, The Denim Duffle, you’ll find a classic ticking-lined design that is perfect for a deconstructed jeans project. The zipper closure just “fits” with the jeans while pockets provide welcome storage.

I know that so many of you have done fantastic things with denim. If you’d share with all of use some of your ideas, techniques and projects, I’ll draw from the comments and give-a-way a Denim Redesign book and our two most recent denim patterns, The Classic Duffle and The Boulevard Bag!

As always, thank you for letting me share.

~ Amy

Amy Barickman is the founder and owner of Indygo Junction, The Vintage Workshop and AmyBarckman.com. She is a leader in the sewing, needle arts and retail crafting industry having sold more than two-million sewing patterns and published 80 books sold throughout the world. Her recent endeavor is the book “Amy Barickman’s Vintage Notions: An Inspirational Guide to Needlework, Cooking, Sewing, Fashion and Fun”, is already on its third printing since its release in September of 2010. Other best-selling titles include: “Indygo Junction’s Button Ware” and, most recently, “Hankie Style”.

Please note: If selected as a winner, any personal information you provide to receive your prize in this giveaway is subject to the sponsor’s privacy rules. These may differ from BurdaStyle’s rules, so please review the rules before entering your information. BurdaStyle is not responsible for the handling of your data in connection with this giveaway.


  • Missing

    Jun 7, 2011, 06.59 PMby kyrie

    I’m new to sewing but so far I have taken a pair of my FIL’s pants, cut them off below the crotch (no Freudian stuff here!), opened up the inner seams and hemmed them together and added a nice stretchy waistband from a tee shirt (just cut off the bottom 6 inches or so of a snug tee-shirt). I can post a pic later. The book sounds exactly like what I have been looking for! !!

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    Jun 6, 2011, 09.14 AMby Jillinamillion

    Such gorgeous things made from denim! I especially love that patchwork purse! And thank you for offering such a wonderful giveaway!

    I used an old pair of my young daughter’s jeans that no longer fit her to make 2 sets of hanging pockets for both my daughter’s hair ties and clips!

    For pictures and my tutorial:


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    Jun 5, 2011, 07.07 PMby knighttemplar

    I made rolled fabric beads, purses, and bags. I tend to wear my denim out so much that there’s really no useful bits left, or I give them away if they are still useable. If I had a whole bunch of worn out jeans though, I would make myself new jeans, or a jean dress.

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    Jun 4, 2011, 01.35 AMby wildflower31

    My son and my husband both have thrown jeans in the trash recently and I have taken them out and said to myself i can make somthing with these, I don’t know what but it will come to me one day, so i have a drawer full of discarded jeans waiting for project inspiration.

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    Jun 3, 2011, 08.43 PMby Su2y

    Ah love this having in the last week made 2 pairs of my old maternity jeans into skirts for my 4 year old. I wasnt going to do anything with the leftovers but after reading this article I’ve changed my mind!

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    Jun 3, 2011, 08.01 PMby matilda116

    This post is so timely! I have a stack of jeans waiting for me. Iplan to mke jackets for my boys for the fall!

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    Jun 3, 2011, 05.42 AMby rochelle49

    I used my husband’s old jeans to fashion a purse organizer. I kept the back pocket for part and folded areas to hold items like the checkbook and credit cards and/or ID. I had a compartment for my keys, work pager, and change purse. I still have enough left for a small bag. I plan to take another pair for a soft vest that I can embroider.

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    Jun 2, 2011, 07.08 PMby crazydavises

    I cut up a pair of jeans last night to cover a tissue box, and I’m hoping to re-cover my couch cushions in denim too – it’s much harder wearing than whatever home dec fabric is on them now :)

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    Jun 2, 2011, 04.33 PMby lclausewitz

    Hmm. My default method of reusing a pair of worn-out jeans is to cut them up into the pieces for a newsboy cap. Sometimes I even tinker with the cap pattern to incorporate the pockets. Either way, anything but the skinniest cut of jeans usually gives me enough material for at least one cap (and some bloody big “mom jeans” can give me two!)

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    Jun 2, 2011, 03.10 PMby simonewarrior

    I find this ironic as well because recently I just refashioned my daughters jeans. They were too tight arund the waist and they were a very fitted boot cut jeans so I being on a tight budget went ahead and cut the outer side seams of the jeans and then cut a darker jean fabric which I sewed on both seam lines and added 2" to each side there by enlarging and giving new extended life as well as a new look to the jeans for my daughter to wear. She loves them! Her friends loved them! It was easy to do and great solution for our budget needs. I wish I had taken before pictures but I may just post the after results just to show how they turned out…what do you think?

    1 Reply
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      Jun 3, 2011, 01.41 PMby nellyvdb

      That sounds clever, I would love to see the results :)

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    Jun 2, 2011, 01.37 PMby nellyvdb

    What a coincidence this blog post is. I have just “refashioned” my beloved jeans into bermuda shorts, and I am using the leftover leg portions to make a small but pretty purse, combined with some white poly satin and chiffon also repurposed from some loungewear I never really wore… will post pics as soon as I am done, cause I know it sounds like an unlikely combo, but in my head it works :)) Actually, I took up sewing less than a year ago, just so I could one day make myself a denim bag that I have been dreaming about for years, and little did I know when I did, that sewing would become my passion. Thanks for your post Amy.

    2 Replies
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    Jun 2, 2011, 01.21 PMby rogue-cellist

    I love that duffel bag! The other jeans recycle idea I adore is using them to make babies cloth nappies (see http://littleecofootprints.typepad.com/.a/6a00e55397a5c2883401127915d39b28a4-800wi)

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    Jun 2, 2011, 12.33 PMby dottty

    I just love to reuse, I will never throw out old clothes as they can always be made into something else, plus you get to save the buttons and zips for other things too jj:)x

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    Jun 2, 2011, 05.15 AMby alexus1325

    You just gave me a whole whack of ideas! I have a stack of old jeans that are waiting for a new life, and I have to admit I was pretty trepidatious about making a quilt :P I actually recently made a blog entry about cool refashions for jeans, some of which I’d personally love to try! If only I had the time and table space :P


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    Jun 2, 2011, 04.17 AMby wzrdreams

    Back in the 90’s I made a skirt from a pair of recycled Lee jeans. I did the trick (shown middle top) where you open up the inseam and part of the rise and topstitch over a new triangle panel to create a long A line skirt. I wore it quite a bit. It was a maxi skirt with a bit of a grunge style.

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    Jun 1, 2011, 08.14 PMby memmens

    The book sounds fantastic – thanks for the giveaway Once upon a time (13 yrs ago) my husband and I made fitted denim covers for our 2nd hand ‘comfy’ chairs (I have 4 brothers and so worn out jeans weren’t too hard to come by! It was a mammoth task and we broke a few needles along the way – no photo’s sadly. Now I make applique, personalised soft books for babies out of old denim, they are great, soft and strong, chewable and washable, I ‘pad’ the pages with wadding and sometimes a little extra to give it a crackle. I recently ran out of denim but a quick local appeal on facebook sorted that out! Photo’s of some of the books here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tobite/sets/72157625740627714/

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