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How To Upcycle One Pair Of Old Jeans

In this post I show how to upcycle old jeans and what you can make with just one pair.

My popular A to Z of denim crafts is full of hundreds of denim upcycles. But many of these ideas, such as denim rugs and quilts, involve repurposing more than one pair of jeans.

I realize that you might not have a stash of old jeans to repurpose but just one pair.

It might be that, like a few of us, you can no longer get into your favorite pair of jeans, due to those extra lockdown pounds. Or you could be one of the lucky ones that actually lost weight, and your old jeans are now too big.

Or they might, just no longer be fashionable and have seen better days!

Maybe you’re not sure whether to put those old jeans in the donate pile or to actually upcycle and repurpose them. Hopefully, after checking out these ideas, you’ll be inspired to upcycle them!

old pair of jeans

How to Take Apart a Pair of Jeans

I will show you how to take apart and deconstruct a pair of jeans into different parts to upcycle. There is a lot more you can make out of a pair of jeans than just bags and cut-off shorts!

And even if you just cut off the legs to make shorts, there is still plenty of things you can make from the cutaway denim fabric.

I’ll think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the number of denim upcycles you can get out of just one pair of jeans. They will keep you crafting for a while. Many of the ideas would actually make great homemade gifts too.

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What You Need And Where To Start

I just use two main tools when taking apart an old pair of jeans to upcycle. And that is a good pair of sharp fabric scissors and a seam ripper.

The seam ripper is used to unpick the stitches in the jeans. Hold the fabric with the seam facing you and then carefully stick the long sharp pointed end of the ripper in between the stitches.

As you pull the ripper up the sharp edge on the ripper blade will cut the thread. Carry along with the fabric until all the stitches are removed. The first stitch is always the hardest to remove.

If you want to go further and remove the rivets and buttons from a pair of jeans, I recommend using a good set of pliers with a wire cutter edge. Personally, I like to keep the buttons on with my denim upcycles, as I feel they add character to my craft.

Before deconstructing your old jeans to upcycle, think carefully about what you are going to make. For example, some denim upcycles just require you to cut the back pocket right up to the seam, like these hanging pockets. Another denim pocket upcycle may also need some of the denim fabric that surrounds the pocket.

scissors and seam ripper

1. Upcycling the Jeans Waistband

The waistband on a pair of jeans is often the thickest part. This is because it is constructed of two layers of denim stitched together, sometimes with a piece of fabric sandwiched in between them.

The thickness of denim waistbands can make them difficult to sew, but they are plenty of things you can do with them that don’t involve stitching.

The belt loops are attached to both the waistband and the main part of the jeans. Before removing the waistband, you will need to use a seam ripper to remove the belt loops from the waistband.

Keep the belt loops as they are great for adding personality to denim upcycles and can be used as hanging loops, like with these denim heart keychains.

Denim heart keychain

The waistband can be removed from the jeans two ways. The first is to cut the waistband from the top of the jeans, as close to the seam as possible.

cutting-waistband-off-jeans

The second is to use the seam ripper to unstitch the waistband from the top of the jeans. With this second method, the waistband will be open at the bottom edge.

Unpicking a denim waistband
What You Can Make With A Jeans Waistband
What you can make from a denim waistband

2. Upcycling the Seams & Hems on Jeans

Seams can be found on the inside leg of a pair of jeans. It is the double-stitched seams on a pair of jeans, that you want to salvage and repurpose.

A long seam can be obtained by cutting the seam up the inside of one leg of the jeans, following it around the crotch, and back down the other leg.

There is another seam that runs across the seat of a pair of jeans, between the waistband and the pockets. The hems on a pair of jeans can also be cut out and also be used for many denim seams upcycles.

Inside upcycled jeans seams
What You Can Make With Denim Seams
Upcycled-denim-seams

3. Upcycling the Pockets on Jeans

You can upcycle both the front and back pockets on a pair of jeans, often both together with the same project.

Before you start cutting away the pocket on a pair of jeans, decide on how you are going to upcycle them. Some projects require just the pocket. Other denim crafts also incorporate a bit of the denim fabric surrounding the pocket.

cutting out a back pocket with scissors.
What You Can Make With The Jean Pockets
Pocket upcycles from one pair of jeans

4. Upcycling the Legs on Jeans

This is the most common part of a pair of old jeans to upcycle. As many people will cut down their old jeans into shorts and are left with the denim legs to repurpose.

cutting the leg off a pair of jeans.

The legs on a pair of jeans provide the largest expanse of fabric to work with when upcycling. A seam ripper can be used to open up the leg to create one big piece of fabric.

Also, the amount of denim fabric you have to work with will depend on the style of the pair of jeans you are upcycling. Flared and boot-cut jeans will provide a lot more fabric than skinny jeans.

unpicked jeans leg.
What You Can Upcycle With Old Jeans legs
Upcycled-old-jeans-legs

5. Upcycling the Left Over Denim Scraps

After you have dissected and upcycled a pair of old jeans, there will be lots of small scraps of leftover denim. Don’t throw them away, as there are so many wonderful things you can make from these scrappy bits of fabric.

Denim scraps have to be one of my favorite bits of old jeans to upcycle. Not all projects require sewing, there is a lot you can make by fraying and gluing the denim fabric.

What You Can Upcycle Scrap Fabric from Old Jeans
Upcycled old jeans fabric scraps
All The Denim Crafts You Can Make from A Single Pair of Jeans

I hope you have found a jeans upcycle that has inspired you to hang on to those old jeans. Here is my suggestion of all the denim crafts that you can make from that single pair of jeans.

  • Left front & back pocket + left side waistband – denim sunglasses case
  • Right-back pocket hanging pocket storage
  • Remaining waistbandfabric key fobs
  • Left jeans legcombine with other fabric to make a Boho pillow or table runner
  • Bottom of right leg & belt loophanging denim planter
  • The remainder of right leg and scraps – dog toy, tags, feathers, flowers, and tassels
More Than One Pair of Jeans

There is a disadvantage in having just one pair of jeans to upcycle. It’s not just because you can make bigger things with more denim and tackle projects such as denim upholstery, it’s because of the colour.

One of the most attractive things about denim upcycles is the shades of indigo that jeans come in. If you have more than one pair of jeans, you can add another element to your upcycle by showing off the different shades of denim, with some clever patchwork.

What-you-can-make-from-old-jeans

Donna @ Modern on Monticello

Thursday 3rd of June 2021

I have one old worn pair of jeans available that I didn't throw out because of your many posts on upcycling jeans. Now I can start making things with that one pair. Thanks for sharing this post. #HomeMattersParty

Claire Armstrong

Friday 4th of June 2021

Thank you, Donna. I hope you have fun upcycling your jeans, there are so many things you can make with one pair.

Melynda Brown

Thursday 3rd of June 2021

This is my personal favorite from last week’s Funtastic Friday, also pinned to the FF board! Thanks for sharing great such great content! Stop by and see what’s new, thanks again Melynda@ScratchMadeFood!

Claire Armstrong

Thursday 3rd of June 2021

Thank you so much, I just love to upcycle denim.

Cecilia

Sunday 30th of May 2021

Claire, you are the queen of blue jean upcycles! Thanks for sharing your creative ideas at Vintage Charm!

Claire Armstrong

Monday 31st of May 2021

Thank you, Cecilia. They are my favourite thing to upcycle.

Deirdre Henry

Saturday 29th of May 2021

Some terrific ideas for using denim. Shall ask my daughter to save her old ones for me. Thank you for the tutorial. Very clearly explained.

Claire Armstrong

Sunday 30th of May 2021

Thank you, have fun upcycling them.

Ann

Friday 28th of May 2021

Great ideas for old jeans. Thank you for sharing at Party In Your PJ's!

Claire Armstrong

Friday 28th of May 2021

Thank you, it is such a great fabric to repurpose.