Recycling fabric is a powerful green living and cost saving strategy. Denim is one of the coolest fabrics to do it with. It’s sturdy, gains character with age and can be acquired very inexpensively at yard sales or in your own “old clothes” closet.
1. Pot holders. In my opinion, these look far better out of used denim than the new stuff. And you can incorporate your own style via choice of trim or a patch stitched to the outside. Here’s a link to some tips for making your own.
2. Cool quilts. You can do this in many forms. Different shades of denim patchwork options abound and are certainly sturdy and fun. Unfortunately, one of the coolest ideas I’ve ever seen I’ve been unable to find pictures of. It was done with pieced denim, but they had left on all the details like pockets, buttons, belt loops, etc. It made for a really fabulous unique quilt with a lot of attitude. If anyone has a link to a picture of one of these, please post below in the comments section.
3. Hanging sleeves for storing plastic bags and cleaning rags. This is an idea I came up when trying to find a workable solution for giving up paper towels. I needed something convenient to store my cleaning rags in and made several out of the legs of old blue jeans.
4. Pocket books and backpacks. These are tons of fun as beach bags and particularly popular with the younger crowd. Easily jazzed up with pins various bits of clip on “flair”. Here are one and two separate links for various sets of project directions.
5. Patches. If you happen to have a bunch from different events, great. Otherwise, I’ve seen some really unique custom patches you can make yourself that add tons of style. I personally like the make your own option, because it opens up many more possibilities for self expression and designer style.
6. Embellishments. Sometimes bead stores offer classes on “jazzing up jeans” where they will teach you how to add studs, crystals and various beads as well as other items. Lots of room for individuality with this option as well.
7. Pimp the heck out of them. Options abound here. Pimp My Jeans is a great site to look for inspiration when jazzing up old jeans. They also have a great idea pictured there for a way hip fabric grocery bag of pieced together old denim. You’ll be strolling to your favorite New York grocery in style with that one. Here is an additional link for airbrushing designs n your denim. My favorite though, is this way cool how to video from Threadbanger that shows you how to get a vintage tint as well as providing some easy fabric distressing techniques. Really, really cool.
8. Embrace the frayed edges and go hip with some slamming shoes and a great bag. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen fashion experts give this same advice on TV. What’s funny though is I seem to notice more people with money trying it out than people who are supposedly on a budget. It’s a very cool look to have a faded set of jeans with a few rips and tears paired with a newer sweater and some dressy shoes or boots.
9. Help dress a scarecrow. Fairly timely, considering the season.
10. Make a 3-pocket electric gadget protector. I found this set of directions on Instructables. Love that site! Looks like a cool addition for a daypack or purse.
11. Journal, photo album and school book covers. Say what? I found this neat online project for a jean-covered journal held closed with a funky belt. Really fun. Tried to snag a pic and give them credit, but they preferred to keep everything in house. You can see pictures of the completed project on the Craft At Home site, though.
12. Hot or cold rice pack. I’ve always just dumped my rice in an old pillow case and tied a knot in the top. But these rice packs look cute, if you have the extra time. The one pictured got me thinking about all those old floral jeans from the eighties getting a new life, but really, any kind of old denim will do.
13. Turn pieces of them into a jacket. Here’s a project I found for a crazy quilt-style jacket. This is very similar to the type of quilt I mentioned above. Lots of room here to do your own thing.
14. A little too out there? Try out this waist coat made from recycled denim. I can really see it with a crisp white shirt. Actually, it looks like a big vest to me, but what do I know about waist coats? Either way, it’s pretty cool.
15. Sassy, rough edged skirt with urban style. I like this jean skirt because it’s really a bit out of the ordinary and has tons of attitude.. A bit of trouble snagging a pic of this one, but you can see it on the link.
16. A wheelchair tote. This is too cool. Know someone who could use one to stay organized? Here are instructions on how to make a wheelchair tote.
17. Coffee cozies. Love these! As with some of the other projects, you can really put your own spin on them. I found several blog posts on doing your own. This first one is quite similar to the one pictured below. The second? Slightly different with a button closure. Still cute though. If I had my sewing machine out of storage, I’d seriously be looking into making a few of these for Christmas package tuck-ins.
18. Custom camera bag. Here’s a set of directions for a denim camera bag. Personal verdict? Pretty neat idea.
19. Unusual covered gift box. I thought this one was particularly out of the norm. Should make a fun package for a teen present, don’t you think? Here’s a link.
20. Reusable lunch sack. This one was decorated with primary colored embellishments because it was designed for children. But I think you could be as individual here as with some of the jazz-up-your-jeans ideas listed above (patches, airbrushing, crystals). It’s made from a pant leg. How cool!
21. Picture frame. Not the most formal project idea ever, but a fun idea that would be great for a teen room bulletin board . It’s a photo frame made from a jeans pocket.
22. Blue jean table. Pretty darned unusual, I must say. This is another item that is shown with more of a children’s room look. But I think you could pull this off with leather accents in a wild west art gallery or with silver studs and tears for a more urban feel. A bit quirky, but if you like that sort of thing…
23. Christmas stockings. Here’s a set of directions for making stockings out of old blue jeans (PDF). Use whatever trim and lining ideas you want. Definitely not for those Victorian style holiday planners.
24. Knee pads for gardening. Here’s a set of directions for knee pads. You might need to use an old denim skirt or jumper for this one, but I still think it has merit, if you happen to have the time.
25. Beer cozies. Check out this homemade deep pocket cold beverage cozy. There aren’t detailed directions, but there are pictures from several angles. So if you sew, you can probably get the idea.