How to Make a Mini Tote out of Embroidered Jeans

comments (12) June 24th, 2008     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
Love it! 34 users recommend
The finished tote.
A side view.
Heres the before picture.
The finished tote.

The finished tote.

Photo: Jen Stern
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I have been putting these jeans on and taking them right back off for a year now. I bought them at my favorite store, Anthropologie (there's definitely something in the air that makes that store "Jennifer Land"!). Anyway, at the time, I thought they would be my new favorite jeans, but after wearing them the first day, I was very dissapointed. I realized that the front pocket bags were too short and they kept poking out and the denim was way too stretchy, causing a funny thing to happen in the front crotch area after I had worn them for a few hours. Since then, I have wanted to wear them—I would put them on, check the mirror, and take them right back off (I think I secretly thought they would look fabulous each time I tried them on). Anyway, I have officially given up on the hope that they will look fabulous and decided to make a cute mini tote out of them. I did try them on one last time before I cut them up...just to be sure!

I love to recycle and remake clothes into something new—the best part about this project is that I can breathe new life into the beautiful embroidery that was seeing a lot of the inside of my closet.

Here's what you need.

  1. A pair of embroidered jeans (or any garment that has embroidery on it)
  2. Stiff fusible interfacing (A brand like Pellon Shirt Tailor does a wonderful job of making any fabric bag worthy!)
  3. 1/4-inch nylon braid or horsehair
  4. Sharp scissors
  5. All-purpose sewing thread

Start by cutting your jeans apart so you can take full advantage of where the embroidery is. I cut mine down the center-back crotch seam, down the inseam on one leg and down the side seam on the other leg so I could take advantage of all the embroidered areas.


Cut the jeans apart so they lie flat.

Then cut out all the pieces to your tote bag (you could just as easily make a purse). Plan which pieces will have embroidery and which pieces will be plain denim. Be sure that there is a big enough section of jean to accommodate the pattern pieces as you decide where you want to position them. (Keep in mind that you can make a bigger piece to work with by sewing sections together. For example, you can cut a leg apart and sew another piece of denim to it to make it wider or longer...or both!)

Pieces cut apart into sizes that accomodate pattern pieces.
Cut the jeans into individual pieces that will accommodate the pattern pieces of the tote.

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posted in: embroidery, recycle, restyle embroidered denim

Comments (12)

user-595357 writes: Jennifer,
I love this bag and want to make it with my pair of jeans that have sitting in my closet for far too long. I would like to know where to find the pattern, if there is one. If there is not, please give me measurements so that I can get this right.

Thank you for your contribution to this site. Great job and much inspiration!
Posted: 6:03 pm on July 15th
NECHI writes: I love it!!!, but I can not find the pattern, can you help please!!!, I got a pair of jeans and I like to give it a try. Thnk you.
Posted: 8:27 pm on June 15th
NECHI writes: I love it!!!, but I can not find the pattern, can you help please!!!, I got a pair of jeans and I like to give it a try. Thnk you.
Posted: 8:27 pm on June 15th
sallysuecraftlady writes: I love the tote but where do I find the pattern pieces?
Posted: 5:23 pm on June 15th
Denissoltra writes: Hi great idea, i was looking something like that, now i know how can i use my denim pants, were can i found the pattern? thanks
Posted: 1:54 pm on March 13th
1Suprise writes: I love it, so cute, and pratial..thank you
Posted: 1:04 am on January 15th
JenniferStern writes: Please do exercise those decorative stitches...I love to see what you come up with!
Posted: 6:51 pm on July 4th
StatGirl writes: Jennifer...thanks for the suggestions. My machine does have some decorative stitches. This might be just the reason to try them out. :)
Posted: 7:11 am on July 1st
colorscreen writes: It is awesome; I'm going to try one soon.
Posted: 9:45 pm on June 30th
JenniferStern writes: Hey StatGirl...you don't need embroidered jeans to make this bag. You can use any pair of jeans you don't wear any more. Add decorative machine or hand stitches ...even a zig zag looks great. If you want an embroidered look, stitch on some embroidered patches...you can find them at any big sewing store...give it a try!
Posted: 9:39 pm on June 24th
StatGirl writes: So cute! Wish I had some embroidered jeans...
Posted: 10:57 am on June 24th
JenniferStern writes: Hi everyone...I'm commenting on my own project! I just wanted to tell you that since I finished this bag, my other "purse" has been on a vacation. Initially I was hesitant to cut up those jeans, because I loved them...even though I never wore them. Now, I'm glad I trusted my creative spirit to transform those jeans into a new favorite.
Posted: 9:17 am on June 24th
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