25 things to do with old jeans

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. Some of the coolest ideas I’ve found?

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.

jean blanket with cat

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.

denim purse pic

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.

custom jean patch

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.

Embellished jeans

7. Pimp the heck out of them. Options abound here. Pimp my jeans is a great site to look for inspirationwhen 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 on 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.

pimped jeans

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.

ripped jeans

9. Help dress a scarecrow. Fairly timely, considering the season. Here’s a cool picture of one.

scarecrow in denim

10. Make a three 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. Here's a pic of the project:

denim tech gadget protector

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 the whole thing with this link, 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 look cute, if you have the extra time. The one pictured in this link 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 link to a project I found online for a crazy quilt style one. This is very similar to the type of quilt I mentioned above. Lots of room here to do your own thing. I put a picture of the project below.

denim jacket

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.

denim waist coat

15. Sassy, rough edged skirt with urban style. I like this one because it's really a bit out of the ordinary and has tons of attitude. Here's a link to the instructions. 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's a link to a set of directions.

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.

denim coffee cozy

18. Custom camera bag. Here’s a set of directions for one. Personal verdict? Pretty neat idea. The picture below is from this same project.

denim camera bag

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.

denim gift box

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!

denim lunch sack

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 no sew photo frame made from a jeans pocket.

denim photo frame

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 . . .

blue jean table

23. Christmas stockings. Here’s a set of directions for making them out of old blue jeans. Use whatever trim and lining ideas you want. Definitely not for those Victorian style holiday planners.

24. Knee pads for gardening. Here's a link to a set of directions for one. 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. Here's a link to a blog post for homemade deep pocket cold beverage cozies. There aren't detailed directions, but there are pictures from several angles. So if you sew, you can probably get the idea.

beer cozy

That's about it. A few of these ideas I think would be easier with old denim jumpers or skirts than blue jeans, but since they all involved the same basic topic, I opted to include them. If you know of a fabulous recycled denim idea, please post so the rest of us can enjoy.

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