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How to Cut Up Old Jeans for Sewing & Upcycling Projects

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Because I often repurpose my old jeans as handbags and quilts, people often ask me what the best way is to cut up old jeans. If you want to make sure you get the most useable denim out of your jeans for sewing and upcycling projects then this is the post for you!

This tutorial is all about how to cut up a pair of jeans to get lots of lovely useable denim fabric as well as saving some other parts of the jeans for different types of upcycling projects (like this kid’s bedside pocket organizer that uses the back pockets from a pair of jeans).

Materials Needed:  Cutting up Old Jeans for Reuse

pinking shears
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Tip on Tools:  You should be using one pair of pinking shears for fabric projects and one for paper to make sure they both stay sharp for their intended purposese!

Step 1:  Select the jeans you want to repurpose

cutting up jeans for upcycling proejcts

This is part of the process that some people stress about that you really don’t need to. 

The concern I hear most often is people thinking that it is really hard to sew with stretch denim – which let’s face it is what most people’s jeans are made of these days.

About 80% of the time I use stretch denim in all my upcycling projects and I haven’t encountered any major difficulties. 

Occasionally it does what it says on the tin and stretches but there are ways around that like interfacing and just paying attention not to tug and pull the fabric too much.  I’ve talked about some tips for using stretch denim here.

So basically, any pair of jeans will do, stretch or no stretch, torn or not torn. 

If you aren’t going to wear them again and you don’t know anyone else who would then they are fair game and you will be amazed how many gorgeous things you can make out of upcycled old denim.

Step 2:  Cutting Method for preserving the maximum fabric from your old jeans

I made a video showing how I cut up old jeans, you can view it below. 

There is also a printable cheat sheet at the end of this article that you can print out and keep by your craft table to keep you right!

Project Ideas for Different parts of Your Old Jeans

If you are super creative you can use every part of your old jeans for one project or another.

Below are some project ideas for different parts of your jeans.

I’ve linked to tutorials and inspiration posts where possible and I’ll be adding more links every time this post is updated, so do pin this post and check back for more ideas!

Main leg fabric

leg fabric from cut up jeans
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Back Pockets

jeans back pockets for sewing projects
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

Waistband

project ideas for jeans waistbands
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff
  • Dog Toys
  • Headband
  • Key Fob
  • Bag handle
  • Doormat

Bottom Cuffs

cuffs from old jeans for upcycling projects
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff
  • Bracelet
  • Wristlet Strap
  • Keychain/Keyfob

Seams

seams from old jeans for upcycling
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff
  • Jewellery Making
  • Dog Toys
  • Rope/Twine
  • Beanbag filling
  • Repurpose as upholstery webbing

Front Pockets

front pockets from old jeans
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff
  • Bag embellishments
  • Preserve with surrounding fabric for the front of a zipper pouch or laptop case.
  • Use the lining fabric for loads of scrap fabric projects.

Zippers

zippers from old jeans
Photo: Upcycle My Stuff

My cutting method involves cutting the zipper in a way that makes it unusable, so if you want to use the zipper and front button for a project be sure to alter your cutting method accordingly.

  • you can use the zipper and button section on the front of an upcycled skirt
  • embellishment or opening for bags and pouches
  • jewellery – cut sections of the zipper to make earrings or bracelets.

Printable Instruction Card

leg fabric from cut up jeans

How to Cut Up Old Jeans for Sewing & Upcycling Projects

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Printable guide to cutting apart a pair of old jeans for reuse in sewing, quilting and other upcycling projects.

Materials

  • Old Jeans

Tools

  • Pinking Shears

Instructions

  1. First consider what you want to make with your old jeans so you don’t separate parts of the jeans that you later want to use together.
  2. Undo the button and zip and begin to cut just underneath the waistband in one direction.  A good pair of fabric pinking shears should have no problem cutting through thick seams and even the zipper.
  3. Follow the line of the waistband cutting around things like belt loops.
  4. Hold the front pocket lining up against the back of the waistband to keep it out of the way – then cut along just under the opening of the front pocket – this leaves you with the most useable denim from the
    front leg section.
  5. When you reach the first outer leg seam cut down as close to it as possible until you almost reach the bottom cuff of your jeans.
  6. Cut off the whole bottom cuff (bottom seam) at once so your left with a thin loop of denim – set aside for other projects.
  7. Return to the top of the jeans on the side you cut the waistband away – now cut just outside the zipper placket.
  8. Cut down until you reach the crotch seam and then keep cutting just to one side of that thick seam until you are back up at the back of the waistband.
  9. Decide if you want to keep the waistband in one piece for.a particular project.  If you do then don’t cut through it when you cut up the back seam and instead stop just before the waistband and cut along the edge until you reach the side seam again.
  10. Cut down along the side seam to cut the first leg away from the waistband section.
  11. Depending on your project needs you might want to cut off the back pocket from that first leg now.  Leave roughly 3-5” all the way around the pocket to make sure you have enough of a seam allowance for any
    projects that need it.
  12. If you want you can cut down the inseam from the first leg to remove all the thick seams and have two long pieces of denim or leave the inseam in place for a larger wider piece of fabric depending on your project goals.
  13. Next continue to cut along the bottom edge of the waistband until you reach the second front pocket. Repeat the cutting technique from leg one to cut the waistband and crotch seam away from the second leg of your jeans.

If you liked this post and you want to save it for later, don’t forget to Pin it!

upcycling old jeans

If you’ve used different parts of your old jeans for a project I didn’t mention I’d love to hear about it! Drop me a comment or get in touch on any of our social media channels!

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