20 New Things You Can Make With Old Denim Jeans

by Max Wong on 21 February 2014 81 comments

Denim fabric is one of the few things in life that actually looks and feels better as it ages. And, unlike other textiles, denim never falls out of fashion. As a result of its timeless style, used denim, in the form of old jeans, is an inexpensive and easily available craft supply for just about everyone. (See also: Practically Free Upcycled Craft Projects)

If you don't already have an old pair of jeans languishing in the back of your closet, collect a few pairs from your friends and family for free, or buy a stack of them at a charity shop or garage sale for less than $10. With a little planning and creativity, one pair of jeans can be cannibalized into more than one project. Even the grungiest jeans can be turned into something lovely, as spots and holes can be cut out.

Whether you are a novice crafter or a advanced sewist, old jeans are a great starting point for a huge number of DIY projects, that range from charmingly primitive to sophisticated. (See also: Great Uses for Old Ties)

Quilts

There are tons of great examples of denim quilts (with free patterns) available on the Internet.

Rugs and Floor Mats

By the way, denim quilts are very heavy and can also be easily used as area rugs.

In addition to quilted floor mats (AKA the quilt you put on the floor), denim can also be used to create woven rugs, rag rugs, or braided rugs.

Place Mats and Table Runners

Smaller strips of fabric left over from other project can be used to make mini quilts as place mats or table runners.

Pillows

Although denim patchwork has long been a staple of country style, it can look surprisingly modern. I like the idea of making denim pillows appliqued with punctuation marks rather than a traditional monogram.

Jeans have long been associated with the American West. However, a Union Jack pillow, made from vintage denim can inject a little English Punk Rock into any decor. (See also: Home Decorating Ideas for Under $5)

Floor Cushions, Poufs, and Pet Beds

Because denim is so tough, it's also a good fabric choice for floor cushions, poufs, and pet beds.

Coasters

You really don't even have to know how to sew to make denim coasters. Use fabric glue or hot glue to make spiral-shaped coasters from the seams of old jeans. Pro tip: put a thick rubber band around the outer edge of the coaster while the glue cures. It will keep the spiral tightly rolled, and preserve the round edge.

Outdoor Furniture

The woven denim straps on this charpai (Indian string cot) gave me a great idea for refurbishing old-school, fold-up lawn chairs that have lost their uncomfortable nylon webbing. (See also: Simple Tricks to Make Old Furniture Shine)

Director Chair Covers

Instead of buying new canvas, create padded seats and backs from salvaged fabric.

Handbags

The Internet is full of patterns for denim handbags that range from chic to hideous. Use good judgment.

Firewood Totes

This firewood tote would also make a great picnic basket. (Yes, they re-use and recycle in Russia, too.)

Storage Bins

Although craft maven Betz White originally designed the upcycled Do-It-All bins to hold craft supplies, they would also be great for storing toys. Make these as gift baskets for food gifts. They would also be the perfect wine or water tote.

Sewing Machine Pad/Organizer

Keep all your tools handy for your next crafting binge.

Baby Bibs

Because used denim is soft and washable, it's a perfect material for making baby bibs. (See also: Tips for Having a Baby Without Going Broke)

Aprons

Adult bibs, AKA aprons are a good way to use up random pockets. This apron tutorial is in Korean, but the photos show the step-by-step process of turning denim fabric and a washcloth into a cute wrap-around apron.

House Slippers

There are a number of free patterns for house slippers floating around on the Internet, but I thought these were the cutest. Pro tip: To make your own pattern, trace around the soles of a pair of flip-flop sandals for a more custom fit.

Softie Toys For Dogs and Babies

This softie would make the perfect tooth fairy pillow because of the pocket.

FYI, when making toys for babies and pets, make sure to not use buttons, loose strings, or anything else that could be a choking hazard.

Cat Toys and Christmas Decorations

Although these were intended to be cat toys, these would also make very cute holiday decorations.

Christmas Wreaths

Speaking of holidays, a denim Christmas wreath is an easy, no-sew project that even kids could make.

Masks

Carnival is just around the corner! If you have a pair of embellished jeans that have seen better days, repurpose the denim and the doodads into a fabulous mask.

What's the best repurposed denim item that you've seen or made?

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Guest's picture

My dog loves to chew and rip fabric, so I cut strips off of discarded jeans and tie knots in them -- voila! Instant chew toys.

Guest's picture
Guest

HHAAHAHA. I do the samething!!! They make great chews for puppies. I strip alot of jeans to crochet shag rugs.

Guest's picture
Guest

be very careful of fraying bits that your pooch might ingest... we lost our dog because of a bowel obstruction caused by swallowing small amounts of fabric strings

Guest's picture
Person

oh my gosh! i'm so sorry for your dog

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monique

What a great idea-since most pet toys are made from fabric.

Guest's picture
Meagan

I have a denim quilt that I used the pockets on. When I get a new camera I will have to post the picture for you. It fits a king and I still had denim left over. It is also very heavy.
I really like the the belt loops idea, I'll have to try it on the next one.

Guest's picture
Guest

I made quilts for my grandchildren using their old jeans, pockets included, and flannel. The youngest one likes to keep his smaller stuffed animals in the pockets. He thinks they stay warm in there. Just the heads are peeking out and they get to sleep in their own cozy spot. He said they're comfortable in the pockets just like he's comfortable under the quilt.

Guest's picture

I love it!

Right now I'm using old quilt fabric to do some sweet spiral patching up the side of an old pair. They're quite hot now! :-)

I'll have to remember these for when they break down again.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have a friend whose mother made a huge circular outdoor blanket with something like a dozen blue jeans. It is great to sit on and big enough (probably about 10 feet in diameter) to share with friends. Very unique and fun!

Guest's picture
Jonathan T

I think a cool thing to build out of hashed jeans would be a cover for a 3-ring binder. I'm from AZ, so I would put the AZ flag on the front, in different tones, but all blue. It's simple enough as a design, but I don't sew much and I don't know what's required as far as a machine for sewing through denim. It's just an idea at this point, and I am saving my jeans.

I did make a backpacking stove stuffsack, that was padded and perfectly sized. Used all recycled materials, including a pillowcase portion for the inner lining and a shoelace for the drawstring. Plus the patch for variety. Still using it!

Guest's picture
steve

Some lovely ideas there and I was just going to bin those old jeans, silly. Time to try the beer cooler one

Guest's picture
juliet

your thing is so nice i have an idea how to make a bag

Guest's picture
Doc Pop

I made a video to better show some of my new crafts.

You can see it here.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have about a dozen pair saved up. was thinking of selling themm on ebay as destroyed jeans. $10 per pair plus shipping. anybody want them?

Guest's picture
Guest

sorry, I wouldn't pay that much for used jeans, not when I could get them for a buck at a yard sale or just a couple bucks at the goodwill. Lately I have been getting donations from friends when I told them about all my ideas.

Guest's picture
aniket

good use.. send me more tips if u hv.

Guest's picture
Guest

=) In England, a vest is what we Americans call an undershirt, and a waistcoat is what we call a vest. So you're right, too! These are great ideas. I love the idea of a denim quilt. I was just talking to someone today about using toddler jeans to make purses.

Guest's picture
chris

cool that u made the bag out of jeans i have seen he same thing but it was just paper trying to emulate that

Guest's picture
Marie

I was really thrilled to see most of what I do with old jeans NOT on here. And some not very exactly. Is it possible I may have had some original ideas???! Shocking! I live for those salvation army bag sales to get all mine -- jeans, not ideas. Anyway, great info! Thanks!

Guest's picture
Yvy

O wow!! This is totally cool....seeing that I cant fit into MANY of my jeans since I had my little bub. lol :P

Guest's picture
granny

I love some of these ideas. I think I will try the patchwork on an old sweatshirt that feels good but is too paint stained to wear in public. Could even use metallic threads to stitch the patches on. Might be a great jacket.

Guest's picture
Guest

There is a flickr group called Denim Surgery...Reuse, Recycle etc. that has some nice things made from Denim.

Guest's picture
Sara

Wow, nice post! Nice to see a bunch of things consolidated into one handy list, and a number of ideas (useful ones) I hadn't seen before.

I've been working a lot with tie-dyed denim lately. I just made a really fun yoga bag out of my kids' jeans because I needed one and didn't feel like spending $45 to get one! Check it out in my blog at http://blog.amethistle.com/2008/04/mom-where-are-my-pants.html

I've also been doing a different version of simple pet toys: http://blog.amethistle.com/2008/03/recycling-and-dog-toys.html

Hope you like them, and keep these great articles coming!

Guest's picture
Harlow

I was searching for uses for used denim because our RV club makes quilts from old jeans and I stumbled upon your page. You said you'd like to see a quilt made from old denim so I set our club's page as my homepage. Click on "Charities" then "Quilts For CHEO".
You should also look at the link "CHEO Thanks"
The two ladies in front are the driving force for the quilts, the one on the left is the woman with the idea and the obsession for continuing. We make the quilts for CHEO Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. We started a few years ago doing lap quits for seniors and branched into baby blankets for the infants in CHEO.
One of our members spoke to a representative of the hospital and was told that "the older kids are the ones that are missed in the hospital when it comes to receiving charitable gifts." She was told "if there is anything the group could do for them, it would be great". Our member came up with the idea of using recycled jeans. We have made and donated nearly 800 jean quilts using around 7000 pairs of jeans. Kids that are in the hospital have come to expect the quilts and even to the point they ask about them wondering if they will be lucky enough to get one.. The popularity is due to the pockets and so on being left intact. Unique patches with the jean makers name and so on integrated into the quilts.If the pics on our clubs website are not what you're looking for then let me know and I will send a couple of photos.
Harlow....

Guest's picture

Wonderful ideas. I have a small stool that I covered with the leg of a pair of jeans -- the seam goes diagonally across the (square)seat.

You can use denim to make a tube for under the door -- a draft dodger. Fill with sand or fiberfill. I've done this with denim, but not from jeans; however, I don't see why jeans wouldn't work.

I just asked for and got a bunch of unwearable old jeans on Freecycle. They are very long, and I'm hoping to seam them in vertical stripes to cover a padded headboard. If it doesn't work, at least I have a bunch of other ideas now! Thank you!

Bonita

Guest's picture

Hello from Switzerland

I just saw this site with many interesting ideas, what to do with old jeans. I just want to add, that beside all this possibilities there exists also a crazy litte Jeansmuseum in the heart of Europe, which collects vintage denim items older then 1980, but also non vintage raw or extremely worn out denim items, no matter how ugly, just too dirty, stained or whatever for any other use. Those really bad looking items with endless stories in them reflect a long part of the owners life. The jeansmuseum is a possibility for hard worn out denim rag items or real old vintage stuff, where they can retire in a safe place for ever. This Jeansmuseum can also be used for people, who have a very high emotional connection to their beloved jeans or denim jacket and don't want to just dump them or cut them in pieces for some other denim projects.

So if anybody wants to keep alive his denim stuff for ever, feel free to contact me at any time.

Ruedi Karrer
www.jeansmuseum.org (german only)
rkarrer@jeansmuseum.org
Founded in 1973 in a little Swiss mountain village, over 10'000 jeans and denim jackets so far. The Jeansmuseum is 100 percent non commercial and is free of any governmental funds. The little museum is open to the public 2-3 times each month on request.

Guest's picture
Mary Anne

Hi
Thanks for the nice posting about my jackets and the link! I found you thru TipNut and will certainly come back to see what other goodies you have.
Cheers
Mary Anne

Guest's picture
Guest

I wish I had these ideas last week. I just thru out a pair of my GS's jean shorts he ripped in such a way they couldn't be mended.

I took a leg of a pair of jeans and made a draft stopper for my door. I cut a piece as long and wide as I needed leaving 1/4 inch for sewing. I used cat litter for the "stuffing". Nice weight to hold it in place.

Guest's picture
Guest

ciao.
I have see in your blog very very beautiful idea for recycled jeans..
many thanks
ciao
ciao
anna paola Italy

Guest's picture
Liv

I LOVE jeans. All of my friends are in shock when I don't wear them- I don't think there is a day for the past 2 years I haven't worn jeans. (or jean shorts, and occasionally a jean skirt)
So anyway, I was looking for something cool and off-beat to do for my visual arts class homework- and I decided to make a purse out of my old jeans that are too short. Originally I was going to make a backpack but 14 slim jeans don't have a big enough seat to make a backpack that can actually hold things.

Thanks for these cool ideas!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

i enjoyed your list, do you know of any way of making a braided rug from used jeans?

Guest's picture
Guest

I use old blue jean tops and attach a handmade patchwork skirt for a cute little skirt my daughters love. I have a website with some of them along with other patchwork garments all made from recycled materials. Feel free to take a look. www.colorfullygreen.com Thanks.

Guest's picture
lorenzo

I, like everyone, also had a pair of jeans and was about to throw them away until the LIGHTBULB went on in my head.
I cut the the zipper, including the button, out of the jeans. Then set the lenght according to my wrist, then made a whole where the button meets the rest of the zipper. And now it works and a wrist band or so. I'll put some pikshures up in my page.

Guest's picture

Those ideas for old jeans are really good.

Guest's picture
Guest

this is a fabulously creative list of cool projects! I love it. -- my book "Denim Revolution" and my blog has lots more creative hip ways to re-make your jeans into high fashion looks.
http://21centurydressmakers.blogspot.com

Guest's picture
Guest

I make purses and all kinds of things from old jeans. Never waiste a thing on them. I have so many ideas floating around now I can't think straight. Have to go to the church to baby sit right now, but I will definitely be back. Love this!

Judy49.etsy.com

Guest's picture
Guest

i thought some of the pictures were cool

Guest's picture
Guest

That's so cool!

Guest's picture
Guest

I have been challenged by some online sewing friends to recycle something old into somethign new.

I've been looking in Op shops for something to inspire me but so far no luck.

I was about to chuck out my husbands raggedy old pair when I just had a brain wave that I could try to make something out of them! Thank goodness I found this page and found so many good ideas.

I think I'll have enough to make a bag (I have made lots of bags from new fabric before so it should be a piece of cake) and cos they were his jeans, I'll make him a stubbie holder. he will love that :)

Cheers!
Amanda

Guest's picture
Guest

i think it would be really fun to make thong underwear from old bluejeans. i'm talking about a straight-up denim banana hammock. What do you think?

Guest's picture
Kate

Great ideas!!

We used to wear our jeans until they were unwearable and unusable for most projects.
So they became crocheted rugs.
Simple.

Carefully cut off the seams, waistband, fly and pockets.
That leaves you with four long pieces of denim.
Tear or cut those into 3/4in. strips.
You can do that individually or daisy-chain them by not cutting through at the end of each strip.
Sew the strips together, end to end, and roll them all into balls.

With a Size K hook, using just single crochet, you can work back and forth making rows or design squares, rectangles, rounds. Alternate colors or add in strips made from old curtains or sheets.

I takes about 8 pair of old jeans to make a good sized doormat.
Practically indestructible.
And you can wash them in oversize washers at the laundromat.

Guest's picture
Em

http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=...

Here is the link to a pic of a dog bed I made from the uppers while I was making my jeans rag quilt. I put one inside the other and sewed the waistbands together starting from one side of the button/zipper. I then turned it inside-out and sewed the leg/crotch across on each end and turned it back the right way through the zippers. I stuffed it with lots of the scraps from the rag quilt and, voila, Stubby has a new bed!

http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=...

For those of you who think it is sooooo cool and awesome to sew over the beltloops and pockets, there is a reason that most folks don't do that. Sewing through 5 or 6 layers of denim will destroy your machine, IF you can even fit that through. It will certainly break your needle. You'd need an industrial machine and it would still be a chore. Feel free to try, though. I started my quilt by including pockets, but am not bothering any more as I get close to the end.

Guest's picture
Em

Here's my tutorial for a jeans rag quilt that I posted on Craftster. It might help some folks get started. (Warning--pic heavy!)

http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=318697.msg3671143#msg3671143

Guest's picture

I have made 8 or 9 quilts, shopping bags, trash bags for the car, aprons, covered kitchen chair seats, throw pillows, pillow shams, baby quilts, pot holders, place mats, wall quilts and window quilts for warmth in the winter, and probably more that I cannot remember right now.

One of my friends takes strips and weaves rugs on a loom, another one uses the flat fell seams and weaves place mats.

Guest's picture

I use a front load washer at the laundromat. If there is an attendant, they can shorten the cycle for you. These quilts will last for years. I make mine with traditional batting and a good quality cotton for backing. My son still uses his and it is over 20 years old. His wife has patched a few places but he will not turn loose of it!!

Guest's picture
Guest

Love the ideas. I do a Jeans for Genes day fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation every year. The kids at the private shcool where I teach each pay .50 to wear jeans instead of thier uniform and all the money goes to fight CF.

I'm going to extend the Jeans for Genes idea this year and make a quilt from my family's discarded jeans (I've been saving them for YEARS, waiting to figure out how to use them.) The quilt will be auctioned off at a fundraising event that we host every spring. I'll probably make a few of the things from this list to throw into the auciton as well. Thanks for the good ideas!

Guest's picture
bboersen

I am trying to download the gift box link but was unsuccessful. Do you have the directions?

Guest's picture

Hiya!

Soon enough, you may also be able to drive your eco friendly car on ethanol fuel from recycled jeans.
No, really! I'm not making this up. :)

Have you heard of professor Mohammad Taherzadeh?
He is a brilliant scientist at University of Boras, Sweden, who has come up with a way to recycle jeans and turn them into ethanol fuel, using an eco friendly biological process.
Check him out :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsgmwcGWPY0

Guest's picture
naresh

this is really help full thanq u so much

Guest's picture
Guest

HI! these are some amazing ideas!!! :) great job....i have a question.....i am looking at starting a jean quilt but....i don't know how many jeans i will need! i am still a begginger i have so far quilted one small quilt and am working on a twin right now...i would like to make either a twin or qween quilt. How many jeans do you think i would need??? i would really appreatate your help!!!! thanks so much!! :)

Guest's picture
Guest

I have made three denim rag quilts, a scrapbook cover, potholders, and a messenger bag out of old jeans. I just asked my famiy if they had old jeans that they planned to throw away or give away. I think I ended up with 50 or more pairs of jeans! They also give their old t-shirts. One of the denim rag quilts is made with only jeans and t-shirts. It turned out really cute and colorful.

Guest's picture
Caity

u could also cut the legs off and wear it as a mini skirt with mayb if u want leggings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guest's picture

Great stuff...Thanks for these great tips! Come see me for ways to sell these Online.

We're going Green with Home Businesses!

MD

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Guest

i LOVED all these creative ideas!! :D

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Guest

oh my god! i never thought of any of these ideas! I might try the electric gadget protector. thank you for the ideas! :)

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lorena & tajae

those are cool and crazy ideas, but it helped with my apparel construction assignment

from: lorena deleon & tajae caldwell

Guest's picture
m65

Regular Target deal hunters know that it can really be a hit or miss type of deal. Some parts of the country have fantastic deals on high-end items, with no hint of the discount from their sticker price. Other areas never mark these same items down. The only way to really know if an item is on “secret clearance” is to scan it, made handy by the self-scanning stations placed throughout most stores. 

kamagra l acne

Guest's picture
Abby

This is awesome!  So many ideas all in one place, thanks for compiling.

Guest's picture
Guest

I want to see what you do with old jeans please

Guest's picture
Guest

Just found this site today and a few others and tried a 'basket idea' , the jeans are a liner with pockets inside, great for corralling knitting etc. I am always on the lookout for jean ideas. I can't afford to sew (for many years now) and jeans have been my outlet. I've made purses (with patterns and without), pocket coin purses, a beautiful rail fence quilt (using flannel backing, keeps the heavy quilt from moving so much on the bed thru the night), a tool belt for a little boys present, a frayed cathedral style rag quilt, a picnic blanket done in triangles, coasters, ornaments, a beautiful small backpack (it was stolen), a duffel bag, a wall hanging done in varied strips with the pockets sewn on in a random pattern, a similar hanging panel with pockets for a childs bed. Sounds like a lot and yet I still look for more. Can't post pictures because most of it was given a presents.

Thank for new ideas. M.

Guest's picture
Guest

These are some great ideas! Its similar to this other idea I found a while ago. Check it out: http://bit.ly/9ve8Gs

Guest's picture
BroadwayBlondie

This is so neat! can't wait to try some!

Guest's picture
MLK

If you have larger jeans or can sew pieces together use the material to recover chair seats. I did this with a patio set of 4 chairs I had that are white. Looked great. Lined the seam of the leg down the center of the seats which were round and stapled. They held up for 4 years and only just changed them out because of spills and stains. Am sure you could sew pieces together and do square ones too. Perhaps get creative and do 90 degree triangle pieces that meat in the middle of the seat. Embroider designs on them to match napkins or room drapes.

Guest's picture
Guest

@coco and puffs ... dont be a bum !!! -.- o.O if ppl like it then gud! cuz i do .. but it YOU dont keep ur comments to urself ! =P

Guest's picture
burrhaz

Brilliant. I just rescued SEVEN pairs of jeans from my son - he's grown out of them, and they're too holey to give to charity. This list is EXACTLY what I was looking for! Thank you!

Guest's picture
Maddy Han

I love making things from my old clothes. My kids think I'm crazy but I think I'm frugal.

Guest's picture
Guest

Hey, Here is a link to a jean patchwork Quilt. http://0.tqn.com/d/frugalliving/1/0/O/0/-/-/denimpocketquilt.jpg

Guest's picture
guest

i think recycling jeans is important because its not a waste of clothing, it also helps us realize the other importances of jeans apart from only wearing as clothing and swag.

Guest's picture
Jennifer

Curtains. They really keep the light out and look great in a kids room!

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Jewel( my real name)

I just had an idea of taking full jeans and sewing the legs side by side and sew at least three more pairs and put then all together and you have a curtain!

Guest's picture
Jewel( my real name)

it makes me locos that i grow so slowly so i cant use my jeans that often

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm planning on making a utility belt, cutting off the waistband and pockets, and hemming the edge. Kinda like this: http://sadiedeluxe.blogspot.com/2010/06/diy-pocket-belt.html

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Guest

I plait folded strips of the denim before tying at each end to make dog chew toys.

Also strips from old washed denim make nice rag roses/flowers to embelish items

Guest's picture
jonn

They also make great rugs, with or without a loom.

Guest's picture
Guest

I make pursed and things from recycled jeans. The shopping bag/ rag holder is one that I just started doing. Got a few ideas from this.

Guest's picture
me!

Awesome! im trying to start a business to promote saving money along with the earth, and its pretty tricky seeing as how I haven't told my parents yet and I'm really young. I love your ideas!

Guest's picture
J. Pario

I've turned too-tight blue jeans that still fit around the waist into skirts with the help of some thrift store dress shirts. (Also works for too-short shorts.)

Here's the link:
http://paintingontheceiling.blogspot.com/2013/08/finished-country-cute-s...

It's a quick way to get a skirt with pockets, belt loops, and a zipper without having to sew those things yourself!

Guest's picture
Guest

AWESOMENESS!

Guest's picture
Leigh A

Our old jeans get used to make hammocks for our rat cages. Rats love hammocks, but they also chew everything, and denim's about the toughest for making them.

Max Wong's picture
Max Wong

Hi Leigh A!

I need to see pictures of your rats sitting in hammocks! I had hooded rats as a child, so this idea brings back such nice memories. Rats make great pets.