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Vintage Style DIY Denim Tote From Old Jeans

May 05, 2021

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Create your own vintage style denim tote bag in minutes from a pair of old wide leg jeans.

Here's the simple step by step DIY. So easy!

Cut Jean Pant Leg

A little over a month ago, the upcycling craft bug bit me. It happens every few months.

While, I love decorating and feathering my nest, every now and then, I need a hands-on creative fix.

Sewing, painting, decoupage...but I especially enjoy the challenge of turning something old into something new.

Those trash to treasure, before and afters are my all time favorite.

Of course, over the last year, I hadn't been to any thrift stores or yard sales. So I decided to dig into my craft closet to see what was hiding inside.

I found tons of treasures I'd been saving for a rainy day and over the past month or two, I've been having fun.

I whipped up a cookie canister, some Easter printables, monogrammed coasters and cleaned up some old milk bottles to use as vases.

That wasn't the end of the makeovers though. That cabinet might be small, but there's a lot of stuff in there.

So what do I have to share today? Well, this one is a bit different.

It's not home's a fashion DIY.

Yup. Fashion...deconstructed, upcycled fashion, but fashion nevertheless.

Stuffed in the back of the closet, I found two legs from a pair of old jeans that had been cut into shorts last summer.

Wide Leg Jeans

These aren't the jeans I used for the bag, but very similar in style, so you can get the idea.

I kept the legs because I thought I could turn them into pillows.

However, once I really thought about it, I decided that a denim pillow wasn't really my thing, so I started brainstorming and decided to make a tote bag instead.

It was easy enough and done in a very few minutes.

Here's where I started.

How To Make A Denim Tote Bag From Old Jeans

Step 1: Cut and Fold

I started with the cut pant legs. If you'r cutting your own pant legs, you want to make sure you have at least 12-18" of fabric.

Cut Jean Pant Leg

Any cut made at the knee of the pants or above will be more than sufficient.

To create a finished edge at the top, I just folded the top opening over twice.

I didn't stitch that. I wanted a floppy feel since I was going for a boho look.

Step 2: Stitch

I did however need to stitch up the bottom edge of the pants to create the bag.

Stitch Up Bottom Seam

That's all it took. One stitch to make a tote bag. Super simple.

I did it on the machine, since it's a bag, I wanted to make sure it had the strength to support whatever I would eventually put inside.

I often say that if you're not handy with a needle and thread you can use iron on tape or fabric glue. However, when I make a bag, I always recommend sewing it up.

Stitch Pant Leg Closed

I ran the machine a little above the existing hem stitch on the right side of the jeans since I wanted that old hemline to be a part of the design.

Sew Ribbon Handle Onto Bag

Step 3: Add A Handle

Next Up, it was time to add a handle or a strap. I went for a strap, since I like long crossover or shoulder bags.

There's no trick here to the method, just choose a ribbon or trim that you like, cut it to a length that works for you and stitch it into the side of the tote.

I was lucky enough to have some really pretty trim leftover from a Christmas apron project and it was perfect. 

Again, I don't recommend using glue for straps, for the same strength reasons. It's worth the time to sew it.

That's it, that's all it took to turn an old denim pant let into a functional and fun tote bag.

DIY Denim Tote Bag

And my story could end here, but it doesn't. I really liked my new bag, but I felt like it needed a little more.

I considered adding a bit of embroidery to it, like my daughter did on her denim ring, but then I found some old t-shirt transfer paper in my stash and decided on an iron on instead.

These are the transfers I used

The directions on the package were very clear, so I followed them. 

Step 1: Print

First, I chose a picture and printed it out on the transfer. Of course the design I chose was red.

Red Hydrangea Wreath Print

Step 2: Cut and Iron

Then, I cut out the design and placed it on my jeans and started ironing. It was really that simple.

Iron On Transfer To Denim

Step 3: Peel

When I was sure the transfer was on and cooled, I peeled it away to reveal the pretty pattern on my old jeans.

Peeling Transfer From Denim

The bag was much better now, much more finished looking.

The colors of the wreath pattern were muted on the denim, giving it a bit of a worn, vintage look. 

It was exactly what I was going I could've picked it up in thrift store.

Decorative DIY Denim Bag

Perfect for a day spent strolling through the farmer's market this summer...stuffed with flowers and fresh bread. Or not.

Since someone else thought it'd be perfect for a day at the beach, or the mall, or the studio.

Easy DIY Denim Tote Bag

So we've decided to share.

She's going to use it first.

And then I'll get it back when she's done.


I'll let you know when it's my turn.

But let's just say, I'm glad those pants had two legs.

What do you do with old jeans?

Upcycled Denim Tote Bag

Hey, before you go, if you're looking for some truly outstanding and out of the box denim upcycles, you must visit my friend Claire at Pillar Box Blue. You will be blown away and buying jeans to decorate instead of wear! 
Kim Signature

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  1. That is darling, Kim. Another great accomplishment. I have to laugh when you say you will get it back. Just sayin", from experience!..xxoJudy

    1. You have a daughter, Judy…I know you get it! Haha!! xxoo

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Penny! I love having a crafting stash to play with!

  3. I love this bag Kim. I have jeans I don't wear anymore. Trying to decide what to make with them.

    I have an idea in mind. This gave me another.

    Thanks my friend

    1. Oh…I can’t wait to see what your idea is, Cindy! I enjoy crafting with them. I’ve made a cup cozy, a ring and this bag. Eventually, I’d like to make a fun banner. For now, though, I’m out of scraps. Happy Wednesday!

  4. Very cute and simple, great tutorial too. Love it 😍

    1. Thanks Claire! That's high praise from the queen of denim upcycles!! ❤️

  5. Very cute, and so you! I love the red strap and the iron-on transfer. Brava!

    1. Thanks Ricki! It was so easy to do. I definitely think I’ll be making more.

  6. It turned out so cute! I love your iron on - reminds me of your wreath. That was the perfect thing to add to it.
    Having your daughter "borrow" it is a big compliment!

    1. Thanks Mari and you're right, it's a HUGE compliment. There was a long time there when nothing I wore or owned was cool. It's nice to see we're finding common ground in the fashion arena again. Guess I'm not as old as I thought I was...although the hot flashes say otherwise! 😉

  7. Cute bag! I used to make these:

    1. Wow. Your bags are the read deal!! They look fantastic.

  8. You made such a cute denim bag Kim. It's great that you used the old jeans to make your bag. I like the strap and the flower on the front of the bag. I hope you and your daughter enjoy using your new bag.

    1. Thanks Julie!! It was great to be able to use that pretty red trim again. It’s been in my stash for far too long!

  9. Such a sweet makeover, Kim! Like! I'm also in the mood for making do - I've brought out the box with the smallest pieces of leftover fabric and am making scrappy creatures.

    1. And they are sure to be totally darling, Amalia! I can't wait to get a peek!! xo

  10. Great idea for recycling old jeans, Kim! I have a few stashed in a bin somewhere. Of course you know I'm really digging that "red" strap and red floral transfer.

    1. Thanks Marie!! The magic is in the details for sure. Plus, I love that it was so easy!!

  11. Oh my goodness! This is such a cute idea! Pinned!
    I love shopping my craft boxes every now and then. It's like Christmas every time! I always forget what I have stored away.

    1. Thanks Michelle! I enjoy digging into that closet every now and then. Better than a thrift haul. 😉

  12. Super cute, Kim. I remember making things out of old jeans and embroidering them. xo Laura

    1. I wish I was better at embroidery, Laura. Next time I might give it a try.

  13. I think you could probably make something cute out of a garbage bag!!!! Might not should have cut up those jeans though...wide legs are back in style! But I won't be wearing them:)

    1. Cheri, you are always so very kind to me. Thank you so much! I do enjoy trying to pretty things up, I like a challenge. And those jeans weren’t mine, they were my fickle kids’ jeans. I do have a pair of those wide leg ones now though. They’re very fashionable, but not so comfortable…I’m not used to all that fabric!! Enjoy the weekend!

  14. Cute....I have a lot of jeans that I plan on doing something with. Bags was one of the things I thought about doing. Nice job,

    1. Thanks Pam! I hope you'll share what you make. I need more ideas! And you should visit my friend Claire who I mentioned at the end of the post. She has crazy, crazy good ideas! Thanks for taking the time to comment and visit!!

  15. Hi, I made something similar a few years ago as a gift for my sister. :-) I used the pocket of another pair of jeans for the front pocket on the tote.

    1. That sounds so great, Carla! Very creative. I need to save legs and pockets now!!

  16. Mmmmm, I suspect you may soon be wishing jeans had three legs since I know you have two songbirds in the house and Mom needs one too ;-) Brilliant idea, Kim. Love how it turned out.

    1. Oh Michelle, you know it! I'm going to need a lot more jeans!! And thank you my creative friend. High compliments from you...xo

  17. Kim,
    What a great and useful repurposing idea!! I love it!! I was thinking of other things to do with old jeans and thought make of making some sort of table runner out of the pants legs..Thanks so much for stopping by!!

    1. Oh…a table runner sounds very cool for summer picnics or BBQs, Debbie. Love it!!