How to sew a recycled denim handbag.

I was trying to think of an eye-catching, mysterious title for my blog post.  I couldn’t.  I have too been immersed in bag making lately – sewing creatively, instead of blogging creatively!  

The only other handbags I’ve made I posted about here and here.  I made one of them for my sister – she’s seems to be happy with it.  I made her’s by copying something she already had.

This time I wanted to make a handbag for myself out of 100% recycled materials, specifically denim.  I have been collecting a few images on my Pinterest and I’m quite inspired by this recycled denim Chobe Bag with the denim strips sewn together.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

After a bit of rummaging, I managed to find three pairs of jeans in the house that needed a new life.  

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Cutting up jeans is actually quite fun!  I wanted to save a few features of the jeans, for example the pockets, so I had to put some thought into it and not just slash away!

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

I made 1 1/2 ” denim strips out of the legs.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

I was quite pleased with all the material I salvaged.  This was only from two pairs.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Simon was quite pleased too.  My husband, Mr. Green Thumb, told me he was finding denim strips all over the house.  So I stuffed everything into some zippered plastic pouches I had stashed away.  You know the kind … those plastic things that you get when you buy bed sets, duvets, sheet sets, etc. from the stores.  They’re very handy!  I’ve even put my cut future sewing projects in them.  They are great for keeping all the pieces together.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!
The brown fuzzy thing is his rejected toy – he’s prefers running around with denim strips now.

I’m also in the habit of salvaging from my worn handbags, the zippers, hardware, etc.  I am determined that this handbag will be large enough to hold my iPad.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

So let’s see if my salvaged zipper fits.  Not quite.  I’ll have to save it for my next handbag, or whatever comes to mind next!

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

I sewed up my handbag on Amber, my Singer 421G.  You can read more about her  here.  Supposedly she can sew through anything.  And what better way to sew recycled materials than on a recycled sewing machine!  I used regular polyester thread and Jeans/Denim size 14 sewing needles.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Strips sewn together and pressed for the one outside piece.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

The sides are trimmed to the right measurements.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Fusible interfacing applied.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Voila!  So much fun!

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

The other side, the front, is pieced together, pressed, trimmed and fusible interfacing applied.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Now for the insides.  I want one zipper pocket inside my bag.  I found a lightweight 7″ zipper in my stash.  My welt is drawn on the wrong side of my pocket piece and I pin and sew my pocket piece onto my lining piece, right sides together.  Then I carefully cut the welt open.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

I turn my pocket piece though the welt opening and press.  I apply “Wonder Tape” to my zipper.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Stick my zipper under my welt opening and sew it on.  I just heard on a Craftsy course that the instructor didn’t like using a zipper foot as the width of a regular sewing foot following the zipper made a straighter and more uniform stitch line.  It seemed to work this time for me too, if I moved my sewing needle to the far left position.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Zipper attached, almost done!

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Next I folded the pocket piece in half and sewed around its edges to close the pocket up.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

That worked out well.  🙂

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

On my other lining piece I attach a simple pocket, with single fold bias tape sewn around the edge first for a cute finish.  (Yes, that’s a remote control – I watch TV while I sew.)

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

For the topstitching, I changed to my straight stitch needle plate, a topstitching needle and topstitching thread on top, regular polyester thread in the bobbin.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Amber performed beautifully with these thick denim layers.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

How’s that?

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Look how thick these layers are for the bag strap – again Amber topstitches right through them.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Well I guess this is the end of Part I – How to sew a recycled denim handbag … stay tuned … next week, I will have the finishing steps and final photos!

So if you ever come across an old pair of jeans, or an old handbag – send it my way and I’ll give it new life …  unless you need it for your own projects?  Do you salvage, reuse and recycle old clothes, etc?  If so, spread your ideas here!

Happy Sewing!


35 thoughts on “How to sew a recycled denim handbag.

  1. That is such a great way to recycle old clothes! I usually just hand mine down to my sister haha!

    1. I have lived with hand me downs from my older sisters through to my younger sister – it’s nice to do something else for a change! 😂

  2. That looks awesome, I can’t wait to see the final steps. I’ll definitely use this tutorial!!! Hopefully I can find some brown zips and strap, it’s just perfect with the jeans!

    1. I found my brown zippers to be too small, so I switched to some greyish ones in my stash. The strap is made out of the same denim fabric. Have fun planning out your’s!

  3. That’s looking so good ! I love the strips of denim idea.

    1. Yes, they make it so unique, don’t they! I wonder who thought of it first!

  4. I’m really liking the look of this Linda! A great recycle. Amber is a star machine isn’t she. My machine would lie down and give up at the sight of that thickness of denim!

    1. Thanks! Yes this old Singer is doing well. The last bag I made wasn’t denim but my modern machine had to be hand turned through some of the thicknesses and it still broke needles and missed some stitches. The lack of plastic parts really makes a difference!

      1. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished bag!

  5. . Brilliant to save the pockets too,

    1. I stole the idea from Pinterest! 🙂

  6. Not sure what happened to the rest of my comment there so I will try again! I just bought jeans to do the same thing so your post is so timely. Can’t wait to see your finished bag!

    1. Did you buy some used jeans from a second hand store? I have a lady here at work who says she is going to go through her kids’ closets. Bonus! Free denim! I’ll be watching for your bag too!

      1. Yes! They were really cheap they’re all a little different. I haven’t started to tear them apart yet! Free denim would be nice, though!

        1. That’s great – at least you got a good price. I found cutting them apart to be quite fun! Have fun!

  7. I really like your inspiration photo. Old jeans are something that I can never bear to throw out but don’t have a use for. Really looking forward to seeing your bag. Xx

    1. These jeans are the ones that don’t fit me – one’s too small and one’s too big – I was hoping (but gave up) to be able to fit into the smaller ones!! LOL

  8. So, I clicked on your post and thought…Hmm, I’m not sure I’m interested in a denim bag…then I read through the steps and looked at the photos and I was riveted as each stage progressed! Can’t wait to see the finished bag. It’s looking so fab!

    1. I didn’t think much of them at first neither. But I do like the thought of reusing old denim and I love the piecing together of the strips and such. It was so funny, today I bought a cup of coffee and the owner (a male) said “what a cool idea – converting jeans!”. I just laughed. Didn’t expect a GUY to like my HANDBAG!

  9. I love having a stash of old hardware just in case I need to use it! That machine is amazing going through all that thickness.
    Looking forward to seeing your finished bag.
    Love how we all go off on sewing tangents, I’m fighting with an armhole shape at the moment!!

    1. I knew that you would have lots of recycled supplies in your collection! That’s great! Just a while ago you were experimenting with sleeve shapes. It was lovely! I can’t wait to see what you do with armholes!

  10. I once tried to sew jeans and constantly got stuck. I never knew that there were that many needles out there to adapt to all these projects. Purse looks great so far, can’t wait to see it all together.

    1. Things have definitely gotten better for the home sewist. There are tons of gadgets out there! Almost done!

  11. Amber is a real champ, and that bag is a unique (maybe not any more lol) idea that is a great recycle project.

    1. Thank you! Amber is a champ! And I have seen so many “unique” denim bags on Pinterest, but I still think every one of them is truly unique because each sewist has put her own twist on the project. I invite everyone to give it a try! 🙂

  12. Brilliant idea!

    1. It is a good one, isn’t it! Congratulations to whomever thought of it first!

  13. looking forward to the next post 🙂

  14. Amber did a terrific job. I can’t wait to see it. Also I tried to come up with a creative alternate title for this post. The best I could do was “Simon gets a handbag”… no wait, they call them “manbag” for men, how about “Simon gets a manbag”…? 🙂

    1. I’m almost finished! And that’s a perfect alternative title. I think I have some editing to do! 😂

  15. Can’t wait to see how this turns out! Thank you for putting this together.

    1. Bag done! Love it! 😍 Photos almost done! 😂😂

  16. Looking forward to your finished bag. Are you actually using the Chobe bag pattern. I recently made a bag of this pattern using black upholstery fabric. It will be live on September 11th.

    1. No I didn’t use any pattern for my bag. I just wanted to have a bag where my iPad fits in easily, so I started measuring from the iPad/opening/zipper area and pieced it from there down. I’m am already thinking of another one where I start from an oval bottom and work my way up. I couldn’t find a free download of the Chobe bag so I didn’t bother with it. I did use the idea of making denim strips from that photo though. I’ll be watching for your’s to see how it turns out!

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