How to refashion old jeans into a stylish handbag

Refashion jeans into a purse www.CardinalSewingNest.com
MY OLD CLOTHES RE-LOVED!

This is a DIY  tutorial on how to upcycle an old pair of jeans into a handbag, with some hand sewn adornments to give it a funky look. This is an easy step by step refashion, the transformation include many steps and can take between 6 to 8 hours to complete.

Keep reading to learn how I used the animal print top in this refashion.

 Trash before couture www.CardinalSewingNest.com
THE GARMENTS BEFORE THEIR TRANSFORMATION

These Capri jeans were outdated and unraveling at the back seam.  The animal print sleeveless top was an impulse purchase from the sales rack. The fabric is a heavy double knitted jersey that was  impossible to wear for more than 15 minutes without being drenched in sweat.  Lets see how I mashed-up both pieces into a purse. Please note that I include several photos and detail step/by/step procedure to better demonstrate this project.  There are certain steps you may chose to not include. It is not as complicated as it might look.

Bonus my phone fits in the front pockets www.CardinalSewingNest.com
MY PHONE FITS IN THE POCKET, ADDED BONUS!

I also liked that the jeans had buttoned up front and back pockets, practical to securely store items I need to access quickly without opening the purse. The front pockets were big enough to carry my cell phone. What else does a girl want?

Cut off the pant legs
CUT OFF THE PANT LEGS
 I used  low rise jeans. I  chose to keep the shape of the natural waistline, as you can see that the front part is lower than the back part. (You could line up the waistlines in the front and back before cutting. The back will therefore be longer than the front part).
Cut off the pant legs about 4 inches below crotch length. Save the pant legs as we will use them later.
Cut away the crotch seam
CUT AWAY THE CROTCH SEAM
Sew the front legs together
SEW THE FRONT LEGS TOGETHER

PS: As you noticed, I am using a different pair of jeans for these examples, I wanted some of the steps to be explained with more illustrated details.

We will sew the front legs together as this will create a larger/deeper compartment convenient for more storage. I used Gutermann gold colour jeans thread.

Change your needle for a denim sewing needle size 90 or 100.

Step 1- Make a fold of about 1 inch on one leg side (as shown on the above left picture).

Step 2- Overlay this fold on top of the other, unfolded, pant leg.

Step 3- Top stitch in place.

Step 4- Repeat for the back, and sew the legs together in the same way.

Once top stitched
THE FINISHED LOOK

Iron flat, you will have a small puckering where the legs meet. No big deal  : )

Cut below the top-stich junction point
CUT BELOW THE TOP-STITCH JUNCTION POINT

Once you finished the top stitch cut away the excess pant leags,  after you leave a seam allowance. (See the picture above).

Sew the front and the back together
SEW THE FRONT AND THE BACK TOGETHER

Turn the jean inside out. Sew the front and the back together. This is now a  purse!

Top-stitch the purse bottom
TOP-STITCH THE PURSE BOTTOM

– Iron the seam open.

– Return the jean and iron the seam flat.

– Top-stitch the bottom of the purse just beyond the distance of the seam allowance.

 

Now lets sew the box pleats
NOW , LET’S DO THESE BOXED CORNERS

 

Steps to sew the box pleats
STEPS TO SEW THE BOXED CORNERS

Boxed corners create width for more storage space, without them the handbag will be flat and narrow.

Step 1- Turn the purse inside out.

Step 2- Pinch and pull apart the corner, the fabric will make a peak at the corner point.

Step 3- Align the handbag side seam with the handbag bottom seam.

Step 4- Sew across the peak, from A to B. My seam is 2 1/2 inches away from the tip of the peak.

Step 5 – Repeat for the other corner.

Measurement guide
MEASUREMENT GUIDE FOR THE HANDBAG BOTTOM INSERT

I wanted a rigid bottom insert for the handbag for the purse to keep its shape and also to strengthen the base. Paired with the boxed corners, items inside the purse will be easier to find, and it will reduce the stress on the bottom and the side seams. While I was brain storming which material to use for the insert, my hubby proposed to cut the piece out of a floor plastic mat. It was easy to cut, semi rigid and waterproof. A great idea indeed.

Step 1- Lay the purse flat. Measure the bottom of the purse, from A to B, from the boxed corner seam to the other, for the length of the insert.

Step 2- Measure the width of the box pleat, from C to D, for the width of the insert.

Step 3-  Round out the four corners. The insert corners were poking out of the denim fabric, that is why I rounded them out.

Fit the insert inside the purse
FIT THE INSERT INSIDE THE PURSE

Try the cut insert in the purse. You might need to trim it a bit to obtain a better fit.  I did shorten by about 1/2  inch. To be safe, cut small pieces at a time. The insert should fit tight and snug.

Place the bottom insert under the boxed pleats
PLACE THE INSERT UNDER THE BOXED CORNERS

Use the boxed corner pleats as fold over flaps.  I did not glue the insert in place as I was feared the glue would soak through the bottom of the purse. The fit was perfect.

Distress and embellish your handbag, before you sew in the lining.

Distress the fenim
DISTRESS THE DENIM

Cut straight, horizontal slits over the areas you want to distress. I kept these areas minimal. I didn’t want small items to fall through or the lining to show through the holes.

Sand over those areas
SAND OVER CUTS TO FINISH THE DISTRESSED LOOK

It would be best to use sandpaper, but I did not have any around. Therefore I used a citrus food grater as it had smaller grating holes. It worked just fine.

Have fun and embellish your handbag
HAVE FUN AND EMBELLISH YOUR HANDBAG
close up of the sewn embellishments
A CLOSER LOOK!

I sewed on transparent flat beads and clear rhinestones, along with a few silver sequins of different shapes. I glued and sewed on the small light blue star patches. All embellishments were sewn on with Gutermann gold color jeans thread. I used embroidery yarn to stitch some random lines on one of the corners above the buttoned pocket. Since the denim was a a pale light blue, I wanted the colors of the purse to remain light and neutral. If it had been a dark denim I might have sewn on flashy coloured trinkets, but…. I felt that keeping the colours in this light hues would make the handbag easier to match with clothes while giving it a summer look.

Now lets make the straps.

Vintage mesh lace
VINTAGE METAL MESH LACE

Do you buy sewing supplies just because they are nice, and then refrain from using them because they are too nice? Well, this is what I did when I purchased this fine metal mesh lace some… 3 decades ago!  (Scary). The lace is rigid and rough to the touch which is perfect to solidify and decorate the straps.

Cut the handbag straps
CUT THE HANDBAG STRAPS

I simply held the purse on my side to determine at which level I wanted my purse to hang from my shoulder. I then cut  2 strips of the desired finished length from the left over pant legs, adding 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) for seam allowance and final adjustments. If possible, cut the fabric following the lengthwise grain of the denim.

Do not make the straps too wide if you have small shoulders. Wider straps will keep falling off and pulling your clothes with them.

I only needed 2 lengths of fabric because my metal mesh lace reinforced the straps. In the absence of a (metal) mesh lace you should cut 4 lengths of fabric to make double thickness straps.

Sew the lace on top of the straps
SEW LACE ON TOP OF THE STRAPS

My straps are 6/8 of an inch ( 1.6 cm)  wider than my lace.  I stitched the lace on top of the wrong side of the denim. I frayed both edges of the strap for a distressed look.

If you cut 4 straps, simply align 2 straps together, with both straps with the wrong side of the fabric on the inside. Stitch along each side of the strap, with a twin needle if you wish, and fray the edges.

Sew straps on the waistband
SEW STRAPS ON THE WAISTBAND

Once the straps are finished, pin them on the jeans waistband to try on the handbag and verify the length of the straps.  Also decide how far apart the straps can be from each other. Make the necessary adjustments until the purse hangs straight.

As noted above, because I kept the natural waistband shape of my low rise jeans, my front straps are longer than the back ones. In my case, the front straps needed to be attached on a slight angle for the purse to hang nicely on my side.

Stitch the straps in place; once on the top of the waistband and over the existing stitches, and then at the bottom of the waistband. Try not to sew over belt loops or pockets because the thick layers might break your sewing needle.

cUT THE HANDBAG LINING
CUT THE HANDBAG LINING

If you chose to add a lining, you can improve both the appearance and the durability of your purse. Simply lay the purse flat on your chosen fabric folded in two. ( Since I used an old sweater for my liner, I laid my purse over the bottom of the sweater. Therefore cutting two pieces at the same time).

Cut the fabric around the purse adding about 1/2 inch ( 1.30 cm) for your seam allowance. It does not need to be precise.  For example I cut along the above yellow lines, since I wanted the  lining to be attached to the waistband.

I need a small pouch compartment for my lipstick
I NEED A SMALL POUCH COMPARTMENT FOR MY LIPSTICK

My mandarin collar top had a back zipper.  I cut a rectangle of 9 inches by 4.5 inches ( 22.80 cm by 11.50cm) around the zipper. (I know, my rectangle is not squared up, refashioning is not tailoring… we are not zealous!). My goal was to keep the zipper for my lipstick compartment. The compartment will be hidden inside the purse.

Sew the compartment in place
SEW THE COMPARTMENT IN PLACE

Fold or iron a seam allowance around the compartment and sew it over the lining.  Open the zipper by pulling the tab down, to allow you to stitch as close as you can to the zipper teeth. Beware not to sew over the zipper teeth.

Cut the hem for a keychain strap
CUT THE HEM FOR A KEY CHAIN STRAP

I love a key chain strap inside a purse. It allows me to quickly find my keys. You could also clip your change purse or a bottle of hand sanitizer on the hook. I cut the hem of the sweater and finished the raw edge with a serger, you could also do a zigzag stitch on the raw edge.

Sew the D link and the hook
SEW THE ”D”  LINK AND THE HOOK ON ONE END

Now lets assemble the lining.

Assemble the lining
ASSEMBLE THE LINING

To assemble the lining, sew the fabric right sides together, attaching the key chain strap one side. Sew around the lining. Then reinforce the area where the key chain strap is, (*) with a double stitch.

Slip-Stitch the lining to the waistband
SLIP-STITCH THE LINING TO THE WAISTBAND

Turn the compartment right side in and slip stitch the lining in place by hand sewing it under the waistband.

I paraded my purse at work the next day. Apart from the wow’s and the compliments, every woman mentioned that they would NEVER buy or wear a purse that doesn’t have a closure of some sort, in fear of their wallets being stolen. Smart women!

Now, lets think of an easy way to add a secure closure after the purse has been completed.

Prepare the purse closure
PREPARE THE PURSE CLOSURE

Saved! I had enough left over fabric from one pant leg to cut  a fabric casing that I will afterward baste to each side of the handbag. I measured the top opening, and cut the strip of fabric 1 inch longer than the purse opening,  width 4 inches (10.25 cm).

1- Do not use the side with the flat-felled seam.

2- Use the side with the plain seam.

3- Measure the length of your zipper.

4- Open the seam for the length needed with a seam ripper.

Sew on the zipper
THE ADVANTAGE OF USING THE PLAIN SEAM SIDE

Your opening is already folded and ready to accept the zipper. I finished all raw edges with a serger, you could also use a zigzag stitch.

Sewing the zipper ito the casing
SEWING THE ZIPPER INTO THE CASING

Determine which is the underside of the zipper, transfer the zipper stop and beginning marks to the seam allowances.

Lay the zipper face down  over the seam allowance on the wrong side of the casing. (See the above picture).

Align the center of the zipper along the opening between the marks on the folded seam allowances, pin in place.

Attach the standard zipper foot to the sewing machine

Sew the zipper in place, pivoting at all corners. I know is not a perfectly sewed on zipper. I do not fuss over items that I refashion. In my opinion the handmade look is part of the reason why DIY’s are so attractive and unique.

Slipstitch the casing in place
SLIP-STITCH THE CASING OVER THE LINING

Iron a 5/8 inch (1.5 cm) on all the casing sides, slip-stitch just over the lining.

Finished result
FINISHED RESULTS OF THE ZIPPER CLOSURE AND THE LINING

I attached an old vintage bracelet to the zipper, to serve as the pull tab.

Finished handbag
VOILA!
A closer look
I ADORNED THE LOOP WITH  A VINTAGE  KEY CHAIN PAIRED WITH A CRYSTAL STAR
Nothing on the back
I DIDN’T EMBELLISHED THE BACK OF THE PURSE, DIDN’T WANT TO SNAG MY CLOTHES!
Recycle old jeans into a stylish purse CardinalSewingNest.com
6 TO 8 HOURS PROJECT

I have to brag… I went to a house party this past weekend, and a woman named Sweet Angel picked my handbag from the floor and asked ” My goodness! this is so cool! who owns this purse?”. True story… hum… I hope that my hubby didn’t secretly pay her ?!

It is your turn. Grab an old pair of jeans and create your own DIY handbag!

À la prochaine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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