Earth Day DIY: Tote Bag from Upcycled Jeans

April 18, 2018By Laura PiferProjects, Sewing, Upcycling 21 Comments Opinion by Paid Consultant

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

With Earth Day just a few days away, what better way to honor it than to make a reusable tote from an old pair of jeans so you can celebrate in style! I have 3 active boys, and you can imagine how many pairs of jeans they go through. Instead of getting rid of them I upcycle them into projects like this tote bag. It’s a sustainable approach to sewing and a practical project. You can use this for grocery runs to beach trips and everything in between. Get the details below on how to make your own Reusable Tote Bag from Upcycled Jeans.

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

Supplies:


Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

  • The pattern is basically 2 squares and 1 rectangle for the pocket
  • The above measurements were used to create my tote bag. This can be altered to go smaller or larger. You can adjust these measurements based off the jeans you’re upcycling.

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

  • For my fabric, I used a pile of scraps of old jeans and pieced them together. You can use an old pair of jeans and patch together to create a cool pattern, or just simply cut the bottom portion of a pair of jeans off for a front and back main piece. This was how my front piece was made.
  • Cut open at the inside seams (this doesn’t have the cool topstitch the outer seam has). For the pocket piece, add a portion from the top. Try the back upper pockets to give the bag some texture and detail or even a different color of denim.
  • As long as you make 2 squares you will be good to go as that is all the pattern is.
Tip: Use the original hem of the jeans to be the finished top edge of your bag.

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

  • Once you have your pieces, you will measure and mark a 3” square at the bottom corners of both front and back.
  • Cut the squares.

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag
Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

  • For the pocket, fold over the top edge of your pocket ½” press and hem the top edge.
Tip: Use gold jeans thread to hem the edge of the pocket.
Tip: Use a jeans needle when sewing with denim, it will come in handy when working with this heavy-weight material.

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

  • Place and pin the pocket onto the front piece, so it’s centered in the middle about 1” in from the corners.
  • Edge stitch down the sides.

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

  • Pin the cotton webbing starting at the bottom hem and covering the pocket raw edges following that up to the top of edge of the bag and repeat for the other side.
  • Topstitch starting at the bottom outer sides, sewing up across the top edge, and back down to the bottom.
  • Repeat for the other side.

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

  • Repeat this step for the back. You will want to measure where to place the webbing because you won’t have a pocket to help guide you. Just make sure it’s visually equal to your front piece.

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

  • Place front and back right sides together sew along the side seams and bottom edge.

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

  • Because I’m not adding a liner a tip is to add bias tape to sew along the seam allowance.
  • If you have a serger, you can clean up the edges this way which is the option I went with.

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag
Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

  • Fold the bottom corners together, so the bottom seam and side seam meet. Pin together, so the seam allowances are going in the same direction. Continue to pin the opening closed.
  • Sew closed with a ¼” seam allowance.
  • Repeat for the other side.

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

  • Clean up the seam allowance with a serger or bias tape.
Now you have a quality reusable tote bag! What I love is I think of my boys when I’m using this. I can’t help but giggle when someone asks, “where I got my bag?” Oh, from my son’s old jeans…

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

Upcycle Jean Tote Bag

21 Comments

  • Hi. The tutorial says use the above measurements for tote bag. But I don’t see any measurements. Am I missing something here or not reading properly.

  • Hi Laura,

    It’s a nice idea to transform your old jeans into a reusable tote bag. I use to do same with my old jeans and you can give a creative look to your tote bag via using patches like cartoons, flowers and also can make handmade embroidered patches. Keep the good work, waiting to read more interesting facts on sewing and upcycling clothes.

    Thanks,
    Maria

  • I loved this bag and I’ve been asked to make some from my mate’s jeans.Also the legs of jeans can be used to store birthday and Christmas paper rolls.Cut off the legs near the crotch,sew the bottom up and hem the top.Finish with a strong loop made from a strip of denim,fillwith the rolls of paper and hang up where you will always be able to put your hands on them when needed.This only takes a few minutes to do and saves the rolls getting crumpled.

  • What a great tutorial! Thank you so much. I have just made my first denim tote bag. I agree with the comment of Carin…it was fun and easy to follow your instructions. Many thanks again.

  • loved it but being a fan of lined bags I tried to line it (wanting to leave the top edges (pant’s bottom hems) on the outside, like yours) and top stitch along the bottom edge grabbing the lining underneath for a neater look) but couldn’t figure out how to sew the lining to this bag. I guess sewing the lining in this particular bag (that has the straps sewn earlier and has finished edges that you want to preserve, would need a different approach… would you be so kind to le t me know how would you do it?

    • Hi there!

      You can add a liner but you will not be able to keep the original hem of the jeans as the top hem of the bag. Which is fine because you can make your own…

      Create the liner with the same pattern above just don’t add straps or a pocket (optional). When sewing the liner you will want to keep a 3″ gap or so open on one of the sides seams (so you can flip right sides out). Then sew around the top edge. When you pull right sides out you can top stitch around the top edge with some jeans topstitching gold thread and you can create your own “jeans hem” look.

      hope I helped.

      Thanks,
      Laura

    • There are a few ways you can keep the original hems from the jeans as the top edge of the bag as shown in the above finished pictures.
      You will need lining fabric the same size as the jeans pieces. I recommend using whatever thread colour would match fabric.
      For both methods, serging/overlocking your seam allowances is recommended, but not necessary, if you have the option available to you.

      #1 – Flatline. With this, you will add your lining fabric to the jean material before you stitch the two halves together.
      After you finish attaching your straps and pockets to the denim, lay your two pieces of lining on top of your two pieces of denim with the wrong sides together. At the top edge of the bag [where the finished jean hems are], fold under your lining fabric 3/8″ to 1/2″ – so that the cut edge is in between the lining fabric and the denim. Top stitch along the fold of the lining fabric to secure the lining fabric to the denim. Continue stitching around the entire perimeter of the piece. I recommend stitching about 1/4″ from the cut edge. Repeat for the other denim/lining pair. Then continue following the above tutorial with no further changes.

      #2 – Bagged out lining. My suggestion is a variation on laura’s suggestion, but keeps the look of the original jean hems.
      Complete the denim portion of your bag as described above. Stitch together your lining pieces just like you did with the denim pieces. You should now have an unlined, completed denim bag and a duplicate in lining fabric [with no straps or pocket and a cut edge at the top edge]. Along the top edge of your lining, fold and press 3/8″ or 1/2″ so that the wrong sides of the lining are together, and the right side of the lining bag is smooth with no cut edges exposed. Insert your lining bag into your denim bag with wrong sides together, aligning your side seams. Top stitch along the fold of your lining which will attach your lining to the denim and enclose all cut edges/seams allowances of the lining and denim.

      Hope that helps! Granted, there are a lot of different ways to solve the issue you ran into, but I thought these two methods were easiest to explain without visuals.

  • This was a great tutorial, and a wonderful way to upcycle jeans.

    For my purposes of making a book bag, I would make the pocket smaller (about 4-5inches) as well as the gusset. The handles ended up being very wide apart, and the dimensions looked awkward for the rest of the bag.

    But I guess each bag is as unique and individual, like we all are. Thank you for the inspiration!

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