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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.


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    Dec 24, 2011, 10.13 AMby efbh

    Everything about this is horrible!

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    Jun 14, 2011, 06.32 AMby susu2u

    Great ideas! I’d love to win this! I’ve made bags and rag quilts out of old jeans before, but would love some new ideas, thanks

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    Jun 12, 2011, 03.27 PMby najwa1

    thank you for the great idias

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    Jun 9, 2011, 09.06 PMby sterstikka

    Oooh I want to try the duffel bag! :) When I was a kid my mom made us lots of stuff out of denim – I had a denim markers case, scissor case, book cover, etc. :) Now I am working on making a denim picnic blanket.

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    Jun 9, 2011, 05.08 AMby ruthw

    This would be a good article if it were not for the “exclusive” tone: “our national consciousness”? Who are “we” exactly? Oh, yes, Americans. So this is for Ame ricans, then. Ok, the rest of us should go elsewhere…..

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    Jun 8, 2011, 09.20 PMby goodwink

    This is an oldie but goody – use your old jeans to patch jeans with holes in them! I know holes are in and all, but I think patches will make a comeback. Patchwork has a cleaner, but still fun look, and I can wear them in more situations.

    Also, it’s really inexpensive to pick up pairs of old jeans from St. Vincent De Paul or Goodwill for projects. When I’m getting project materials, I like to watch for their 50% off clothing days. Then I can find pairs of jeans for about $3 each. One more tip – look in the men’s jeans! Often, women’s jeans are accidentally stuck in there, plus there are a lot of smaller men’s sizes that don’t sell well – if you are going to modify some jeans to wear yourself this can work well.

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    Jun 8, 2011, 05.51 PMby vmarengere

    When I was in High School, I always used to cut out my old jeans to make new things. My mom didn’t own a sewing machine, so I just made myself a new purse, a new skirt and new 3/4 pants… sewing by hand. The left over pieces were always kept to patch up my newer pair of jeans.

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    Jun 8, 2011, 04.32 PMby JanMadeIt

    I made this cute little purse from a pair of size 2 denim shorts. http://janmadeit.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/size-two-denim-shorts-purse/ They were a garage sale find my son wore one summer. He’s 21 now, and when I came across them recently I decided to do something besides pass them along to someone else. Next project, the huge pockets of his baggy skate jeans. (That’s skateboarding).

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    Jun 8, 2011, 04.25 PMby mimistuddy

    This is such a timely post for me. My husband just cleaned out his drawers and handed me a large bag of too worn to wear jeans. I am cutting some down for shorts and may use the scraps for a purse.

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    Jun 8, 2011, 12.42 PMby kina

    Denim is great! I’ve just redesign an old dress by my mother into a skirt for me, and also dyed it in black. And skirts made from old jeans was a classic of my childhood. The book sounds very interesting, thanks for the giveaway!

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    Jun 8, 2011, 12.34 PMby PurplePeril

    I’m relatively new to sewing, but have ‘converted’ a pair of jeans into a skirt like the one you showed. It;s great sewing practice, without having to pay for lots of fabric to get started.

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    Jun 8, 2011, 07.27 AMby pogotown

    I made tent-pole bags with jeans! And bags for dirty laundry when you travel. Easy and fun! Kathleen

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    Jun 8, 2011, 06.08 AMby tudorrose69

    Denim is truly an ageless fabric, once in awhile they still find a pair intact from the 1800’s that had been used in the frontier days of mining. Americans have always had a love affair with denim – it is durable, yet softens with age.

    Amy and Indygo Junction recognized this love affair a long time ago, and successfully incorporated products using denim as part of their incredible designs. I love their patterns and books, and love to sew with denim, especially to construct quilts or patches to pre-existing jeans that have ripped.

    My grandma Alice used to be the family sewist, and could patch anyone’s jeans that they brought to her house. She had a natural ability to sew, with and without patterns, and I always admired her creativity and great construction skills. She is my denim hero, and I know she would enjoy this wonderful new book by the talented team of people Amy employs.

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    Jun 8, 2011, 04.02 AMby Tasronyola

    Thanks Amy,

    I’d love to try one of those bags! I’ve made a jeans skirt like the one in your picture which was quite successful but the redesign project I’m most proud of is the pinafore I made for my small daughter – I cut the bottom of her older brother’s faded bib denim overalls at hip length (just below the fly) then added a gathered skirt in darker denim and an appliqued heart in the same on the front and back pockets. It looks so gorgeous with her red and white striped tights :)!

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    Jun 8, 2011, 03.59 AMby Story Boyle

    What an awesome book! I myself have done a number of awesome things with denim scraps. I had a pair of jeans too small for me, but I absolutely loved the the embroidery on the pockets. It would fit my waist, but not over my hips. I made two things out of it. First, I cut off the legs and made a bikini top of them (lined with flannel), more of a costume/special events piece than beachwear, and second, the waist part I cut open at the back, and bias bound the edges. Adding grommets on either side, I made a waist cincher of the old top half—preserving my beloved pockets.

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    Jun 8, 2011, 03.30 AMby nckyle2

    I made tote bags to use as graduation gifts. I received 3 requests for bags after the first party. still have not decided if I want to make that time commitment.

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    Jun 8, 2011, 02.59 AMby sumac67

    I would dearly love to win this prize……………so many wonderful ideas. Denim never goes out of style. Also is a great fabric to sew with. Sumac67

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    Jun 8, 2011, 02.34 AMby runningwithscissors1

    My first sewing project last year (after a hiatus) was taking two pairs of my old jeans (1990’s- sans stretch), cutting the legs off and opened them up. I used them as panels, attaching them to the waist band from one of the pairs. It’s the first project I posted on here. I plan to make another skirt, I didn’t get the measurements right, and I should have used a zipper instead of a buttons. Otherwise, I love it!

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    Jun 8, 2011, 01.54 AMby looper

    I would love a way to use jeans other then a quilt! There is too many jeans going to the dump with good material going t waste. I don’t need more quilts ad would love a book to allow me more options.

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    Jun 8, 2011, 12.33 AMby sha365

    Flying by the seat of my pants, I have made some basic totes and turned a couple of pairs of shorts from my brother in law into skirts that fit great…I am always looking for different designs to use old denim for. This book would be just the addition I need to take my jeans to a new level!!!

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    Jun 7, 2011, 10.56 PMby joycec

    I love the new patterns, especially the Boulevard Bag!! WOW!!! When my kids were younger I recycled the jeans a lot- the easier thing I did was add a dart on each side in the back to make my son’s jeans fit my daughter so I could get more wear out of them. I also made skirts for my daughter by cutting off the legs and adding a panel of fabric that was gathered at the top- it made the cutest skirt and all her friends LOVED it!! I have also made the quilts from denim with the flannel on the back. My cousin’s wife had weaved rugs made out of her dad’s old bib overalls and quilts also made! It’s amazing what can be made out of denim- the ideas are endless! Thanks for all the new ideas!!

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    Jun 7, 2011, 10.10 PMby sergerqueen

    I save denim jeans/fabric that have some character to them. I sometimes make purses and totes out of them. Other times I embroider on them to use in another project. I love Indygo Junction designs and would love to own this book.

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    Jun 7, 2011, 10.05 PMby kgrdnr

    I love denim so much, especially denim shorts, so I always take really old Levi’s and cut them off, destroy, dye, alter, and stud them to make really good pairs of shorts. A lot of the time I will just go to Value Village and buy some for under $5 and they just make the perfect use for any of my denim projects!

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    Jun 7, 2011, 09.52 PMby sammi357

    “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.”

    Is that “Felted” or “Felled”…two different terms meaning two different processes.

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    Jun 7, 2011, 09.51 PMby LauraH3

    What great ideas! I’d love to win this book! Thanks!

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    Jun 7, 2011, 07.32 PMby joanz22

    I made a buttercup bag for my daugher….I would LOVE to try out the duffle bag w/denim! We are cleaning out the kids rooms and have a bunch of clothes they can’t part w/and have begged me to make something out of them. The duffle bag would be so perfect! Oh, you can see the buttercup bag here: http://mrsjoanz.blogspot.com/search?q=buttercup+bag

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    Jun 7, 2011, 07.13 PMby Ramona Kuhn

    Purses and bags of course but some the cooler things I have done are: Travel bag that is meant to be worn next to the body – took a fancy jean pocket cut off a section sewed it to very stiff interfacing, with cotton pocket and sewed it all together, turned right side out and then took suede and knitted a long handle. It’s perfect for the pass port, room keys and anything small needed. This keeps your hands free and your mind off someone taking your precious possessions.

    I also made a cloths pin basket to hang on the line – lasts much longer than just cotton.

    I made several recycled jean quilts with polar backing and skipped the batting. The kids love the pockets that were every where. I even put some little hidden treasures for them to find.

    Pot holders made with the heat resistant batting. They really take the heat and last for ever.

    Your patterns and books are a great inspiration to me. Thanks for all you do.

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    Jun 7, 2011, 07.02 PMby jwgrendel

    I have a whole pile of old jeans, just waiting for a project — my problem is always picking which one to do! I was going to make one of those clipped-edges quilts with denim squares on one side and flannel on the other, but that duffel bag is really tempting.

    1 Reply
    • Missing

      Jun 10, 2011, 05.51 AMby Cytheria

      I made several recycled jean quilts with polar backing and skipped the batting. The kids love the pockets that were every where. I even put some little hidden treasures for them to find.

      Pot holders made with the heat resistant batting. They really take the heat and last for ever.

      Your patterns and books are a great inspiration to me. Thanks for all you do.Rolex Replica Watches

    • This is a question
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