Inside: Over 40 cool denim sewing projects for repurposing your old jeans and many unique ideas you would never have thought of. Plus, handy denim sewing tips.
Denim is one of those fabrics that gets better with age. As it gets older, it gets softer. And I love how they fade over time.
Unfortunately, my jeans eventually wear out on the inner thighs (I have chunky athletic thighs 😂), but I still hang onto them for upcycling.
The kids’ jeans wear out at the knees, but weirdly, they sometimes buy them like that!
There are many no-sew denim projects on the blog, but this post focuses on sewing tutorials. The fantabulous creations can be stitched by hand, on a sewing machine or a combination of both.
It doesn’t matter if the jeans are straight leg, boot cut, skinny, high rise, low rise, flared, boyfriend, mom, cropped or stretch; you can sew many incredible things.
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Best Tips For Sewing Denim
I tackle my denim sewing projects with a 55-year-old Bernina sewing machine. It’s a solid beast that has lived on two continents. It’s dealt with all sorts of crafts and DIYs deftly but is particularly good with denim. But no matter what sewing machine you use, these tips will help you.
Because denim is so strong and tough with thick seams, it’s not the most straightforward fabric to sew. Before starting, practice with off-cuts on your machine to get your stitch length and tension right.
- Use a fresh heavy-duty needle. For sewing machines, those marked as suitable for denim/jeans. A 90/14 needle for lighter weight denim and a 100/16 for thick denim. These needles are strong and sharp and have a reinforced blade to minimize movement and reduce the risk of breaking and skipping stitches. When hand-sewing denim, use larger size four needles.
- Use very sharp tools to cut the denim. A good pair of scissors or sharp blades in your rotary cutter and a sharp seam ripper will make deconstructing your jeans for sewing projects quicker.
- Use heavy-duty Jeans thread such as Gutermann.
- If your sewing machine has one, use a jeans foot to deal with thick heavy denim.
- Denim is a thick fabric and can get bulky around pockets, hems, waistbands and seams. Try to reduce bulk by opening up and flattening seams, mitre any corners, offset seams and using a zigzag or overlock instead of a hem.
- Go slowly, hold the fabric firmly but let it freely feed through the machine, don’t force it.
- Use the handwheel when trying to sew through seams, hems and waistbands. Some sewing machines won’t be able to deal with thick layers of fabric, so you might have to hand stitch those bits.
- Watch out for metal on the jeans, such as rivets, buttons and zips. Sew around them, or they will break your needles.
Unique Denim Sewing Projects
Denim is a hardwearing and freely available fabric versatile and perfect for many diverse sewing projects. Whether you want to repurpose old jeans into bags, rugs, pillows, dog toys, hats, Christmas decorations or plushies, you should find something to inspire you to get the sewing machine out or to thread a needle.
Tutorial for a Great Denim Pocket Organizer
My son has this hanging on his bedroom wall. He loves it. It's a great sewing project if you have a lot of old jeans in your stash.
How To Make Patchwork Denim Placemats
Use your leftover denim scraps from old jeans to make lovely patchwork placemats. These placemats are a unique hexagonal shape made from triangles of denim in different shades of indigo. This creates a cool pattern.
Denim DIY Sunglasses Case
No ordinary DIY sunglasses case, it has a unique pocket feature. It's made from the front right pocket of a pair of jeans, so there is also room for your phone and cards.
DIY Up-cycled Denim Lunch Tote
Carry your lunchtime sandwiches in this handy tote.
DIY Denim Whale
One of the cutest and most whimsical things you can sew out of old denim.
Denim Hexagon Patchwork
Use the English paper piecing method to make denim hexagon patchwork. This can be sewn by hand or machine. Use the fabric for projects such as pillows or denim upholstery.
DIY Tablet Case – Quick DIY Gift
The tablet case made from old jeans is quick and easy to make, plus it makes a great gift.
shrThe Cutest Handmade Dog Toys
You can make these dog bone toys even more fun by including the denim pockets in your design and then hiding treats in them.
How to Make a DIY Jean Skirt Out of Denim Pants
Fancy a change from jeans, then why not upcycle them into a skirt?
Fun Repurposed Denim Fish Pillows
These unique upcycled denim fish would look good in a lake or beach house.
DIY Fabric Mushrooms - Free Pattern
Sew leftover jeans scraps into whimsical mushrooms.
Upcycled Denim Storage Bins
A handy denim sewing project is making these little storage bins.
Sewing Pattern For A Denim Apron
I love the pocket on the front of these aprons. A pair of Levi's jeans for each apron.
Faux Framed Moth Taxidermy
Make a fun piece of wall art inspired by vintage insect displays of the past. Use your denim and fabric scraps to make some cute faux moths and then frame them in an insect display box. A great way to use up denim scraps and show off the different shades of indigo jeans come in.
DIY Bag from Jeans Sewing Project
I made one of these bags years ago. I still use it. The external pockets are handy.
DIY Recycled Denim Baseball – Tutorial & Free Pattern
Make an upcycled denim baseball for the kids or dog. You won't get hurt if you get hit with this ball.
DIY Repurposed Denim Checkered Picnic Blanket
A good sewing project if you have a lot of jeans. The more varied the denim, the better the checkerboard pattern.
DIY Denim Boro Coasters
Combine Japanese hand Sashiko stitches with sewing machine stitches to make these beautiful Boro coasters. Make them a little larger for placemats.
DIY DENIM BUNNY
Not only is this bunny a fun decoration, but you could pop an easter treat into the pocket.
Drop-Dead Denim: One Tough Pouf
Save all those scrap denim pieces and sew them together to make this stunning pouffe.
Denim Sewing Project - World Map Floor Cushion
Place a red heart on your favourite countries to make this pillow even more special. This would make a great gift for those with wanderlust.
Upcycled Denim Gift Tag
These denim gift tags are a gift in themselves. They would make useful bookmarks too.
Easy To Make Unique Denim Handmade Chevron Rug
Create an unusual Chevron pattern for a stripey floor rug.
Denim Circle Pillow Cover
Decorate a dotty pillow cover with denim scraps cut into circles.
DIY Repurposed Jean House Slippers Free Sewing Patterns
These dainty denim shoes look a bit like ballet shoes.
Tablet stand tutorial
I have one of these to rest my iPad. I find it very handy.
DIY Doorstop with handle
I use a few doorstops to keep the downstairs doors in my home open,
Free upcycled star bean bag pattern
Sew a fun throwing game for the kids with these denim star bean bags.
Denim Hearts keychains
Give your loved one a denim heart keychain for Valentine's
How To Make a Teddy Bear from Your Old Jeans
Visit for a full free pattern and tutorial to make the cutest denim teddy.
DIY Upcycled Denim Pot Holders -
I love the handstitched look of these potholders. The belt loops are handy for hanging them up.
DIY Crossbody Bag by Recycling an Old Pair of Jeans
A simple crossbody denim bag is just what I need for my dog walks. Big enough for dog treats, phone and coffee money.
How To Make Upcycled Denim Patchwork Quilted Stars Decoration
These hanging denim stars are a lovely unique alternative Christmas decoration. You can even make larger quilted stars to use as heat mats on the dining table.
How to make an upcycled jeans pocket ornament
Use the pockets to make the most adorable house Christmas ornaments.
Jeans Pocket Turtle
Another cute denim animal you can make from your old jeans.
DIY Denim Pencil Case
Get ready for school with this sewing tutorial for a pencil case.
DIY Denim Curtains – how to make lined curtains
These curtains will keep both the light and cold out.
How To Make A Denim Dala Horse Ornament
Stitch and stencil denim to make these Swedish Dala horse decorations.
Upcycle Jeans into Slippers Free Sewing Pattern
There is also a free pattern for denim baby booties.
Free bucket hat sewing pattern and tutorial
Bucket hats are having a resurgence, you can't get trendier than an upcycled denim one.
Don’t forget to check out my comprehensive A to Z guide to denim crafts, where you will find a mixture of sewing and no-sew denim tutorials. Old jeans aren’t the only clothes to upcycle for the home. Old sweaters and t-shirts are good too. Then, use the leftover fabric scraps for fun projects, including hand-sewn ones.
Wednesday 7th of September 2022
There are so many projects here I'd love to try out, but I suspect I will run out of old denim to upcycle soon, so either I need to be selective or visit a few thrift stores. The second option sounds like way more fun.
Wednesday 7th of September 2022
Thank you, Michelle. My friends and family know I love to upcycle old denim so pass me on their old jeans. Have yo tried asking around if anyone is getting rid of any?