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Repurpose Jeans into a Denim Jacket

Reinterpret the beauty of well-worn denim.
Threads #191, June/July 2017
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Synopsis: Here’s a unique, eco-friendly sewing project to turn a couple pairs of jeans into a jacket. Author Mary Ray shows how she started with two pairs of men’s Levi’s that were well worn and faded. She knew she wanted to make a jacket and considered how to use various parts of the jeans. She let the project evolve by designing as she went along. Her article was first published in Threads #191, June/July 2017. Click on the PDF link below to view the article.

Besides encouraging sustainability in fashion—an idea that sewers have always upheld—upcycling is just plain fun. It’s challenging to think beyond the pattern, work with limited fabric, and figure out design and construction details as you go. Repurposing is an interesting way to develop your sewing and planning skills and to see unique projects unfold before you. I was inspired by two pairs of men’s Levi’s that were well worn and faded, qualities we’ve come to appreciate in denim. Using them to make something new seemed like a good idea. I knew I wanted to make a jacket and considered how I might use various parts of the jeans before I started, but I also let the project evolve, designing as I went along. As I took the jeans apart, I discovered designs naturally created by the contrasts of faded, worn edges and darker indigo where the fabric had never been exposed. For the new garment, I chose a jacket style with princess seams and let my reclaimed fabric lead the way. Each upcycling project is different, but I’ll share helpful strategies for breathing new life into old jeans.

Mary Ray is a designer, teacher, and writer in Boone, North Carolina.

Deconstruct and discover

In most cases, you’ll need at least two pairs of jeans to make a new garment. While taking the jeans apart, use the time to imagine ways to take advantage of the patterns and textures you find.


Taking seams apart is painstaking and requires patience. You’ll want all the fabric you can get from your jeans, so it’s worth disassembling them rather than cutting off seams and edges. I used a seam ripper and a razor blade. Separate edges as you go along the seam, cutting stitches as they are revealed. Jeans seams are often sewn with a chainstitch that may be undone by pulling the correct thread tail. It might take a minute or two to find the right thread, but once you’ve got it, the stitches pull apart quickly. As you work, notice if there are holes or worn areas and decide if you’ll use them or work around them.


Click on the PDF link below to view the full article.

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