How To Recycle Jeans into a Fashionable Handbag [Tutorial]

  • Published on May 21st, 2015

recycle jeans into a handbag

Last month in honor of Earth Day, I read about several big apparel companies encouraging customers to donate their old denim jeans. This was a much-needed initiative to teach the public that the trash and landfill isn’t the place for unwanted textiles. From home insulation to crafts, there’s a lot of use for ripped or stained clothing.

When we put a pair of jeans in the trash rather than donating them, we’re wasting much more than fabric. We’re wasting natural resources like cotton and water, and the time and energy required of seamstresses to sew the fabrics. The process of dyeing denim jeans also is one of the harshest in the apparel industry. The toxic chemicals have been known to pollute local water sources and cause health risks to factory workers. We, as informed customers, can make a stand to buy organic, and to recycle jeans in new ways!

If your used jeans are in good shape, consider donating them to a thrift store or to someone in need. Or in the case of my husband’s raggedy jeans, they were just too “holey” to pass on; so, I used a portion to make a handbag.

Step-By-Step Instructions

The inspiration for my denim handbag was based on Jessica Rebelo’s tutorial, with a few tweaks of my own. It’s super easy to make, and the perfect size for date nights or packing a snack on the go.

You’ll need the following materials:

  • Recycled denim fabric (the leg portion of an old pair of jeans works best),
  • One large button,
  • Small elastic hair band,
  • Needle, thread & scissors,
  • Marker and ruler
  • Accessories and/or paint for decorating

1. Measuring from the hem, cut 10 inches of fabric.

2. Turn the fabric inside out and sew across the opening, the portion you just cut. Tip: I sewed mine by hand in a few minutes, but a sewing machine or fabric glue would also work just fine.

3. Turn right side in again.

4. Fold the open end (the hem) over to make an envelope.

5. Using a ruler (or you could just eye-ball it), mark the center point of the top layer.

6. Stitch the elastic to the inside of the top layer of the opening side. Tip: Choose a thread that’s the same color of your fabric for a sleeker look.

7. Fold the handbag back into the shape of an envelope and locate where the button will be stitched. Tip: I chose a button a bit larger than a quarter.

8. Sew the button in place.

9. Decorate your handbag with denim rosettes and beads like mine pictured here or use fabric paint and denim stamps to create a unique design. Have fun!

What do you think of this project? What are some other projects you’ve made with old denim jeans?

Photo credit: Talancia Pea

About the Author

Sustainable Fashion Blogger since 2008 with work featured in magazines and newspapers, among other publications. Find her on .