Try This: How to Make a Handbag from Recycled Jeans

Tough and rugged, this recycled denim bag makes a great carry-all. Learn how to make a handbag from recycled jeans with this easy sewing project.

| May 2012 Web

Reinventing everyday materials into remarkable items of beauty and utility for the modern home and family will excite new and experienced sewers alike. In Reinvention: Sewing with Rescued Materials (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2012), award-winning blogger Maya Donenfeld offers a guide to working with her favorite recycled materials, such as linen, burlap and wool. Learn how to make a handbag from recycled jeans with this easy DIY denim handbag project from Chapter 8, “Denim.”  

Working with Recycled Denim

Comfortable, strong, and durable—denim has always been the unpretentious fabric of choice for work clothes and blue jeans. When I was growing up in San Francisco, Levi Strauss, the founding father of blue jeans, was a household name. I remember well my first pair of “Levis 501 blues.” They were a rite of passage for all eighth graders. We’d head down to the only place in the city that carried our size. It was called The Gap. It was the very first one and would become the next big name in the story of jeans. And that pair of 501’s…they were also one of my first sewing machine successes—I pegged the legs; a precursor to skinny jeans.

History of Denim 

Denim first gained popularity during the California Gold Rush when Levi Strauss used it to make “waist overalls” for miners. In the 1930s cowboys and western movies added to the appeal of Levi’s jeans. During World War II, American servicemen took their favorite jeans along and spread their popularity overseas. In the 1950s and ‘60s, TV, film, and the protest movement changed the image of jeans once again to represent youth, rebellion, and individuality. With the advent of “designer jeans” in the 1980s, denim became a high fashion fabric. Today denim has the ability to wear many hats.


Begin the search in your own closet. For small projects, children’s outgrown jeans might be just right. In fact, the oven mitt on page 116 was created with my son’s old jeans. For larger designs, such as the hammock or tote bag, seek out pants with the most fabric possible. Long, widelegged ones are very desirable. For reinventing, don’t think skinny jeans…the bigger the better. The racks of thrift stores and consignment shops are always overflowing with cast-off jeans.

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