Best Ideas to Recycle and Upcycle Jeans and Denim

50+ Fabulous Crafts from Denim Jeans!

You Said “Denim”?

1a: a firm durable twilled usually cotton fabric woven with colored warp and white filling threads. b: a similar fabric woven in colored stripes. 2 denims plural: overalls or trousers usually of blue denim.

That’s what Merriam Webster tells us about denim.  But denim is so much more to us, right?

When we think of denim, we think of those cozy, comfy jeans that we can’t live without.  Time to learn a bit about those special pieces of clothing.

History of Denim Jeans

Our favorite jeans are most often made of denim or dungaree cloth.  “Blue jeans” were invented by J. Davis in a partnership with Levi Strauss and Co in 1871. 

Can you believe jeans go back that far?

“Jean” references a historic type of sturdy cloth usually made with a cotton warp and wool weft.  Jean cloth can be made of cotton as well, and in this form, it is known as “denim”.

Although denim jeans were originally made for miners, they became popular as casual wear by the great Marlon Brando and James Dean in their 1950s films. This lead to the denim fabric becoming a symbol of rebellion among teenagers. 

From the 1960s onward, jeans were common with young members of the general population.  And now, today we find denim jeans as the most popular type of pants in Western culture.

OK, I know that’s more than you need to know about jeans and denim. But I’m a history geek and just had to put that in there.

Mending Denim

If you are looking for fun and fancy ways to mend jeans, we have links to wonderful books and websites that will show you how to use decorative stitching and patching to make your jeans whole again.  

Now, be warned, not all jeans are meant for mending! 

My daughter definitely would not want me to “mend” the holey jeans that she paid so much for; I still struggle to see the allure of jeans that look 15 years past their prime.

However, many adults want to continue to wear those favorite jeans, and fancy or hidden mending can be a lifesaver.

We have more helpful hints on our page devoted to mending clothing.

Repurpose Your Denim

Because denim is so strong and comes in a variety of shades, it makes the perfect fabric to repurpose into new and usable items.

We have many projects to make with your old denim clothing or those you can purchase cheaply at thrift sales or yard sales.  

Some of the ideas below include:

  • HOME ACCESSORIES such as the cozy denim quilt, chevron pillow, bedside organizers, Christmas stockings, rugs and more.
  • CLOTHING like the skirt, apron, slippers, and many others.
  • ACCESSORIES like barretts, purses, tote bags, plus more ideas.
  • CRAFTING ITEMS such as our craft organizer with jean pockets, adult coloring pencils bag, and more!

So go ahead and check out all of the great denim ideas we have gathered for you!  And remember to save those old jeans!!

Best Ideas to Recycle and Upcycle Jeans and Denim

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 Denim Redesign

Denim Redesign #ad

20 Projects to Reconstruct & Embellish Jeans, Overalls, and Jackets. by Amy Barickman - Paperback - Published 2007

 Mending Matters

Mending Matters #ad

Learn how to stitch, patch, and repair your favorite denim and more. It includes more than 20 hands-on projects that showcase current trends in visible mending that are edgy, modern, and bold. by Katrina Rodabaugh - Kindle Book - Published 2018 Affiliate Link to Amazon

 Visible Mending

Visible Mending #ad

Visible mending is a new technique where artful stitches are used to repair and fix your favorite things.
Turn a chore into a delight! Instead of hiding holes or wear and tear on your clothes, make them a feature with all the ideas you will find in this book.
by Jenny Wilding Cardon - Kindle Book - Published 2018 Affiliate Link to Amazon

Adult Pencil Bag

Adult Pencil Bag

Adult coloring books are really popular these days, so why not try to make an adult coloring bag as well that can hold all your pencils? Craft Bits

Apple Printed Lunch Sack

Use old jeans to transform them into a drawstring lunch sack. Inner Child Fun

Barette with Flower

Scrap fabrics of denim and other fabric are used to create pretty barrettes. Until Wednesday Calls

Bedside Pocket Organizer

Upcycle a pair of jeans into a handy bed organizer to store stuff. Upcycle My Stuff

Blue Jeans Quilt

Recycle your old blue jeans into an easy, pieced throw. All People Quilt

Chevron Pillow

Upcycle old jeans into a chevron pillow with this free pattern tutorial. Ashbee Design

Christmas Stocking

How to make a Christmas stocking by upcycling old jeans. Nebraska Views

Creative Uses for Old Denim

Make useful items from old denim - quilt, purse, pillow, apron. RLROUSE Directory

Cute Valentine's Heart Garland

Cute Valentine's Heart Garland

Declutter and upcycle old jeans into heart garland as Valentine's Day decor. Creative Green Living

Denim Basket

Learn how to weave denim strips into a basket. Ohoh Deco

Denim Checkered Picnic Blanket

Here are do-it-yourself instructions to turn a bunch of unwanted jeans into a stunning and useful picnic blanket. Sustain My Craft Habit

Denim Dog Toy

Denim Dog Toy

Dogs love bones! Why not stitch up a denim bone toy using the instructions in this free tutorial. Pillar Box Blue

Denim Hanging Basket

Denim Hanging Basket

Turn denim pant legs into hanging storage baskets. Pillar Box Blue

Denim Jeans Apron

A simple tutorial how to create an apron from old denim jeans. My Byrd House

Denim Jeans Bag (Basket)

Denim Jeans Bag (Basket)

Stop throwing away old jeans! You can transform the old jeans into a useful denim bag (basket) with this tutorial.

Denim Play Crown

Denim Play Crown

Looking for a creative way to upcycle your old jeans? How about a Denim Play Crown! Creative Green Living

Denim Pocketbook or Handbag

How to make a denim pocketbook or handbag from an old jeans. Love To Sew

Denim Scatter Rug

Recycle denim shirts or skirts into a homespun, farmhouse look rug. All free Crafts

Denim Slippers

If you have intermediate sewing skills then you can easily stitch yourself a pair of proper denim slippers using a pair of old jeans. The Guardian

Denim Tote Bag

Turn old jeans into something new and useful, a tote bag. Love To Sew

Diary Cover

This denim recycling project is fun to do and makes a perfect homemade gift for a young girl who keeps a diary. No sewing necessary All free Crafts

DIY Coasters

DIY Coasters

Create DIY coasters from old jeans. Scratch and Stitch

DIY Dog Bone

DIY Dog Bone

Find a step-by-step written tutorial with VIDEO instructions for making a dog bone toy out of jeans. Hello Sewing

DIY Jeans Skirt

Making a skirt out of a pair of jeans. Not Martha

DIY Pet Bed

DIY Pet Bed

Dogs and cats will love it when you learn to make your own pet bed in any size using recycled denim and fleece scraps. Associate

Doll Denim Jeans Skirt

Doll Denim Jeans Skirt

This video will show you how to make a denim jeans skirt for an an 18" doll from old jeans. No sewing necessary!

Embroidered Blue Jeans Basket

Transform the legs of old jeans into a usable, functional basket. Embroidery Library Projects

Eyelet Tote Bag

For this project you can purchase denim or recycle old denim. My Recycled Bags

How to fix Holes in Jeans

How to fix Holes in Jeans

Video and instructions on how to fix holes in jeans.

Ideas for Old Jeans

Twenty things to do with old jeans. WiseBread

In-jean-ious Crafty Apron

Recycle old jeans and machine embroidery to make a crafty apron. Embroidery Library

Jean Cuffs

Jean Cuffs

A fun and pretty denim jean upcycle. Make a summery cuff bracelet from the waistband of an old pair of jeans. Sum of Their Stories

Jeans Locker Organizer

This Recycled Jeans Organizer is a fun way for teens to combine their creative side and keep locker organized. Free Kids Crafts

Jeans Skirt

You can create your own unique jeans skirt using these easy-to-follow instructions by Simplicity.

Jeans Skirt Tutorial

Have some old jeans. Upcycle them into a skirt. Curbly - Threadbanger

Jeans Splicing

Splice jeans, add some fabric and transform them into a long skirt. Fashion Icon

Jeans to Shorts

A tutorial on how to make shorts from jeans. mmm crafts

Kids Denim Craft Apron

You can make the entire apron for a kid out of one pant leg. Learn how here. Happy Hooligans

Knee Patches

Knee Patches

How to add knee patches to jeans. My Poppet Makes

Lace Jeans Shorts

Lace Jeans Shorts

Make your upcycled denim jean cut-offs a bit fancy with a little lace. Sum of Their Stories

Laptop Bag

This articles shows how to turn old jeans into a laptop bag. Habit of Art

Luggage Tag

Luggage Tag

Vacation time! Need a luggage tag? upcycled denim into DIY luggage tags. Scratch and Stitch

Lunch Bag

Create this simple lunch bag from old denim jeans. Make and Takes

Magazine Rack

Magazine Rack

Upcycle jeans and copper tubing into a DIY magazine rack. Pillar Box Blue

Owl Door Stop

Owl Door Stop

You can upcycle old jeans into an owl doorstop with this free pattern. Hello Sewing


A nice way to use old jeans or leftover denim fabric is to make a nine-patch pillow. It's so simple. Love To Sew

Pocket Handbag

Pocket Handbag

How to make a small, cute handbag using an old jeans or shorts pocket. This project only requires simple sewing skills so beginners and kids can sew this project.

Pocket Magnets

Recycle denim jeans pockets into magnets. Stick them on the fridge to store pencils, coupons, notepaper. Kid's can attach inside school lockers to store things. All free Crafts

Pot Holders

Turn old jeans into pot holders with these free directions. Favecrafts

Pot Holders DIY

Recycle denim jeans into pot holders. My Recycled Bags

Rag Quilted Coasters

Instruction for giving durable denim another life as a set of cute 'n' cozy rag-quilted coasters. Sew I See

Rag Rug

Rag Rug

How to make a rag rug from old worn-out jeans and lots of cotton yarn scraps. My Poppet Makes

Recycled Denim Wine Bag

Upcycle denim jeans into a wine bag with this tutorial. Cathie Filian

Ruffled Jeans Skirt

A free pattern on how to make a jeans skirt. This Thrifty House

Shoulder Tote and Water Bottle Holder

By using a pair of jeans, sew a shoulder tote and/or water bottle holder. AOK Corral

Simple Pillow

Here is a tutorial on how to sew a simple pillow with old jeans or clothing. Cyberseams

Tool Roll

This quick sewing project makes it a cinch to turn old jeans into tool roll for craft supplies such as scissors, knitting needles, brushes, etc. Until Wednesday Calls

Tote - Small Electronics Tote

Recycle cast off denim into a convenient caddy. Instructables

Upcycled Curtain Tie Backs

Repurpose items! How to make curtain tie backs by upcycling materials around the house including tee shirt curtain tie backs and jeans tie backs. Our Daily Craft

Wine Bottle Gift Bag

Wine Bottle Gift Bag

Upcycle denim jeans into a wine bottle gift bag.

Zipper Pocket Pouch

Zipper Pocket Pouch

How to make zipper purse from old denim jeans pockets My Poppet Makes

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