Instructables

Recycled Denim Shopping Bag

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Save the world - one pair of jeans at a time.

Take your old jeans out of the closet and turn them into a useful shopping bag!

Lets face it, we all have a favorite pair of jeans that won't fit anymore, but we'll never throw them away. Simultaneously, we use hundreds of disposable plastic shopping bags every year, which are really not good for the environment, even if we do recycle them.

Keep your sentimental old bluejeans, give them new life, and help the environment at the same time.

This bag takes about three hours to make, if you have sewing experience. If you don't have experience, it might take a little longer, but you WILL be able to do it!

To make a bag using this pattern, you will need:

One pair of old jeans with a 26 inch inseam or longer
Small piece of velcro (optional)
Thread
Scissors
Ink pen or marking chalk
Shoelace
Measuring tape
 
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Step 1: Cut the outside seams

Picture of Cut the outside seams
Cut a strip, 3 inches wide, from the outside of each leg, centered on the seam.

In this case, the jeans are cargo pants, so the strips will be shorter than they would for a pair of regular jeans.

If you have regular jeans, go all the way up to the waist band. Just cut the whole seam out of the outside of the leg, keeping it 3 inches wide.

Step 2: Cut off the pantlegs

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After you cut the outside seams, the pants will be really floppy, which makes this step a lot easier.

Lay each pant leg out flat, and cut it off as closely to the crotch as possible.

Trim off the bottom hem.

Step 3: Cut out a pocket

Picture of Cut out a pocket
Cut a square, as large as possible, from the remains of the jeans, to be a pocket.

OR cut out one of the back pockets, leaving about one inch of cloth all the way around.
joshfromga2 years ago
this is a really cool project. overalls also make good bags. they already have carrying straps made up for you.
A nice touch is to stitch with red thread. I bought a box of 6" denim squares from a thrift shop ( I guess someone began a project and changed their plan) and did a number of patchwork bags using the different shades of faded denim and red thread. Triple stitch the bottom of the bag.
sarawelder3 years ago
As I find men very difficult to buy presents for I have been making a variation on this theme which I call "man totes". I use old shirts, mens XL best ,must be cotton or linen not synthetic. I sew front closed. I remove buttons but no real need to. The breast pocket makes a nice small outside pocket for shopping list. Sleeves used for handles.
The handles are very strongly attached by sewing a square of about 1.5 inches ( turning fabric at each corner) then sewing diagonal lines of stitches inside square.
with any spare fabric I can make a small storage sleeve. High quality cotton folds very small in a briefcase and this bag can take as much weight as you could carry.
jenbair3 years ago
I recycled my old favorite jeans after they started to wear out and got some weird brown stain on the front that won't come out. AND I didn't have to spend $10 buying a denim tote bag pattern! Thanks for helping us all be green and reduce, reuse, recycle. Mine looks great so far and is about half done.
Jenhaas3 years ago
I just made this bag and I love it! I can't wait to make a few more. What a great idea and a great instuctable. Thanks so much
Jaelle3 years ago
This is a great instructable! I was looking for something to do with some old jeans... this bag would be perfect.
debbie_044 years ago
hi weiblem.c..thank you so much for your great tutorial! i really likes..now i can using to making a new shopping bag by myself  without spend  any money by using my old jean .:)
chanshan5 years ago
awesome!
sew-sew-sew5 years ago
I have found a gadget from junk jeans site that makes sewing over heavy seams a whole lot easier. You put this under the presser foot when you are coming to a seam so the presser foot is the same height as the seam and then you switch it to the front as you have sewn over it. It sure makes your sewing easier. Happy recycling
HiOnLife935 years ago
Sewing Over those thick seams can be a problem. I was taught this trick by my mother. Take the seam that you are getting ready to sew over and give it a couple whacks with a hammer before trying to sew over it. This flattens out the seam and your machine will sew through it a lot easier. Also good for all those pent up frustrations -- be careful you don't hit your finger though. I work with recycled blue jeans making one of a kind hand crafted purses and this always works for me. Good luck with recycling those jeans.
I made your bag, but used a 2nd pair of jeans for the sides to give it more width. What kind of sewing machine do you use? Mine had a difficult time getting through the seams. It was fun to make something useful!
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weiblen.c (author)  Very Interesting5 years ago
Great! I'm so glad. And thank you for the picture! Yes the pattern is definitely open for modification. I'm glad that you were able to make something that will work for you. :) I sew with a cheapo Singer machine that I got for $100 several years ago, so it doesn't like the seams either, but I just go slow for the thick parts. It also helps to turn the wheel by hand in the really tough spots, so the motor doesn't even have to try - this will also save you from breaking needles. You probably already know this, but another thing that helps is getting the special needles for denim and leather, they're strong and very sharp, so they go through the fabric more smoothly and that helps the machine. Thanks again for the photo. I'm really thrilled. -CW
Ok, I don't feel so bad. (I have the same machine.)I finally found the jeans needles and can't wait to try them out.I hope more people make these. I use mine daily!
weiblen.c (author)  Very Interesting5 years ago
Yay! Me too. It will hold LOTS of groceries.
kailee566 years ago
Great bag. I like the thought of making longer handles that wrap around the bottom for extra strength when being used as a grocery bag. AWSOME step-by-step instructions.
Awesome! Bag those bags!
Dandy! Join the battle against the plastic bag scourge! You'd be surprised (and probably appalled, as I am), at how many people just toss their old jeans (and other clothes) into the garbage. I'm not just talking about stuff that's too worn to wear either. Perfectly good clothes going to a landfill, just because people are too lazy or pig-headed to find a donation box.
Very cool. +1 rating is all to say.
CementTruck6 years ago
This is great! Since I'm a guy I would use this as recyclable grocery bags. I would probably do something a little different for the handles though. I would probably loop them under the bag for extra weight. Kudos!!
weiblen.c (author)  CementTruck6 years ago
Thanks! I've been using my bag for exactly that: carrying heavy groceries. That's a great idea to run the handles under the bag if you have enough fabric. So far, mine's holding up very well even without that extra step, but it would make the bag pretty much bomb-proof if you could add that. You could carry lead weights! Cheers, CW
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