I use fabric from discarded jeans to make messenger bags. I take them completely apart and use all the fabric.
Step 1: Bags Made From Used Jeans
I wanted to make a messenger bag like my favorite one that has worn out but I wanted to add a different closure, more pockets and a lining. I chose to deconstruct a pair of jeans that were being discarded.
Step 2: Deconstruct
First take the jeans completely apart, all parts are usable, even the thread from the serged seams for an authentic look.
Step 3: Pattern
Use a pattern or free style. I used the pattern from my old bag, remember that measurements are approximate as you will custom make to your specifications.
Step 4: Cutting the Fabric
Some pieces will be too large to cut from existing fabric so you may have to piece them. Be creative and use the serged edges or worn coloration patterns to your specifications. Here are two pieced sections for example
Step 5: Cut Out Your Sections
Go ahead and start cutting, when you are finished cutting its time to sew.
Step 6: Assembly
To assemble start with the main body, front and back. Some bags are made with the front and back as one continuous piece with the strap as the side piece. Mine is a separate front and back with a gusset that joins the front and back and a separate shoulder strap is connected to the gusset. I wanted outside pockets so I will sew them to the front now. I also wanted a strap closure so I will sew that to the front at the same time. Lastly, I wanted snaps to close the pockets so they should be applied now. The back was cut from the back of the jeans and re sewn to make the unit smaller so I could use the pockets.
Step 7: Flap of Bag
I am lining the flap and adding decorative stitching before I attach it to the back, the decorative stitching is my way of adding "body" to the piece. You can eliminate it, use interfacing or interlining as you choose. When sewing the flap and the lining insert the top strap with the top of the clip closure between the two parts, sew securely. Stitch the completed flap to the back positioning the flap top about 1 1/2 inches from the top, right sides together.
Step 8: Finish Flap
Turn flap up and away from the back, pressing is a good idea now, the cut the seam close to stitching, don't cut the back, then top stitch, enclosing seam.
Step 9: Lining
I wanted a lining because I liked the look, this can be skipped of course. I used discarded upholstery fabric but old sheets, blouses, pillow cases are also acceptable.
Step 10: Attach Gusset to Front and Back
Pin the long gusset edge to the front, right sides together, pin if you need to and sew then attach the other long side of the gusset to the back edge right sides together and sew. Sew again around each sea line to ensure your project doesn't come apart later.
Step 11: Inside Pockets and Lining
Cut out another front and back from your lining fabric. Cut out whatever kind of pockets you want. I am adding a zippered pocket from my old bag since the bag is too worn to use but the pocket is good also adding plain pockets. I am adding elastic to the tops of some of the pockets to keep items secure. Cut out a gusset from the lining fabric. Attach the pocket(s) to the front and/or back and attach the gusset as you did with the outer front and back. Sew the seam twice for strength.
Step 12: Gusset and Strap
I made the gusset 4 inches wide. Customize your bag's width to its intended purpose, laptop, baby toys, state secrets, etc. it should be long enough to go around the edge of the front and the edge of the back. The gusset can get a lot of wear and pressure so I interfaced and top stitched it for strength. Also the area from which I cut in the jeans had a lot of wear so this will insure more strength. Now I will attach the strap to the gusset. You can use the denim, webbing, ribbon that is sturdy or whatever you choose. Cut to length for you specifications and attach to gusset. If you want to add adjustment hardware do it now.
Step 13: Final Assembly
Put the lining assemblage over the outer bag, right sides together matching seams. Stitch along upper edge leaving an opening of 2 or 3 inches to turn the lining into the inside of the bag. Turn the bag so the lining is inside the bag and top stitch the upper edge to close up the hole used to turn the bag.