Introduction: Denim Bag From Thrift Store Materials

Completed bag with recycled belt for handle. Large vintage button added for trim.


Materials used included denim shorts from thrift store, fabric scraps and short zipper for inside pocket and facing, plastic canvas (optional) to stiffen rim, two key-rings (optional) where handle attaches to bag, thread. You could add any other trim you like, such as beads, embroidery, buttons, ruffles, etc.

You will need something for the handle. Read on for suggestions. Handle can be made from remainder of the same pair of pants, if desired.

I used a sewing machine for most of the assembly, but hand-sewing is very possible, just a lot slower. If you use very stiff jeans, you will probably need an extra-large sewing needle and a thimble to help protect your fingers in hand-sewn areas.

Step 1: Begin With a Plan.

Sketch out a general idea of what you are making. If size of bag is important to you, take measurements of items you will carry in it. I started with denim cargo shorts, kid-sized. For large bag, you would need adult-sized jeans. One leg provided the bag material and larger front pocket. Pocket from the back of the shorts used for other side of bag.

Step 2: Choose Sections to Use.

I cut off one leg and pocket from back side. Leave room around edge of that pocket to turn under as a hem and seam allowances in next steps.

Step 3: Lay Out Flat. Pin As Needed.

Here we see rough placement of where the back pocket will be sewn on.

Step 4: Add Pocket.

Turn under top edge for narrow hem and stitch. (I used the back yoke seam as the top edge.) Turn in side edges and press or baste, as needed. Place pocket at bottom, right sides together, and pin for seam.

Step 5: Mark Seamline and Stitch.

I drew a line on the pocket to be sure I sewed it where I meant to. After you sew the bottom, turn right side out and topstitch side edges of pocket to main piece.

Step 6: Camouflage Glitches If Needed.

I used a Sharpie marker to "color" the raw edge ends at the top where it was too thick to turn under and stitch.

Step 7: Sew the Bag.

Right sides together, mark desired width and stitch vertical seam (into a tube). Cut off any extra fabric. Turn right-side out. Stitch across bottom twice, for extra security.

Step 8: Front and Back, So Far.

Notice: When I stitched the hem, I followed the line of stitching already there from the hem of the original shorts. If you use longer pants/jeans cut off, you will want to stitch across the bottom once with right sides together, then turn and stitch a second time from the outside.

Step 9: Hem Top Opening.

I had very little seam allowance, so I did a narrow hem, stitched twice.

Step 10: You Can Fix Any Glitches With a Sharpie.

Notice that I was using up old bobbins of random thread. Light blue stitching showed, so I darkened it with a marker. Later on, this got covered up anyway with the facing, but at this point I hadn't decided on that yet.

Step 11: Decide How Strap Will Attach.

I wasn't sure yet what I would use for the handle/strap, so I made loops for attachment points. I cut a strip from scrap (from the leg) and made a turned tube for the loops. If you sew in some ribbon or heavy cord when you make the strip, you can pull on that to help turn the tube right-side out at the end. In the first photo, you can see a closeup of what I did with the strip, folded in half and stitched down at ends, with key-ring added to attach strap later. The ends of the attachment loops are tucked under the plastic canvas (next step).

Step 12: Stiffen Top Edge, If Desired.

I didn't want a saggy bag, so I hand-stitched plastic canvas strips around the top (opening) edge. You could also use interfacing or heavy ribbon, if desired. You can see the canvas and another view of the handle loop in these pictures. The plaid fabric is the facing, coming next.

Step 13: Consider a Facing and Inner Pocket, If Desired.

I did this in part the wrong order. I didn't decide to add the pocket until _after_ I had sewn on the facing. It would have been much simpler to make the pocket, sew it to the facing, _then_ sew the facing on the bag. (You will be smarter to do it that way...)

Step 14: Inner Pocket With Zipper.

I used some scraps from another project and a recycled zipper for the pocket. Decide whether you want zipper to show, plan accordingly. Sew zipper to longer edges of pocket pieces first, then turn right sides together to stitch bottom and sides. Be _sure_ the zipper slider is in the middle when you do the final seam, so you will be able to open it and turn the pocket bag right side out!! I use a fork to help turn the corners.

Step 15: Attach Pocket to Facing.

I topstitched the pocket to the loose lower edge of the facing. The facing had to be hand-sewn to the bag because of the plastic canvas already added. The facing covered the canvas.

Step 16: Dimensions.

My bag is just under 10 inches wide and not as tall, so not quite square. That's just how it worked out, given what I started with. Yours could be whatever size works for you.

Step 17: Recycled Belt for Handle.

You can see here how I took apart the belt from the thrift store and fastened it to the key-rings. You could use ribbon, or woven braid, or make a strap from the remaining fabric in the other leg of the shorts.