How to refashion old jeans into a stylish handbag
This DIY handmade bag from old jeans refashion is a step by step tutorial that demonstrate how to upcycle old jeans into a stylish handbag, sew boxed corners, add a rigid bottom insert, a simple closure and create a funky look with some hand sewn adornments. The transformation can take between 6 to 8 hours to complete but just break it down into 4 – 5 phases. You can do it!
Keep reading to learn how I used the animal print top to line the purse, make a key chain and a zippered compartment.
DIY handmade bag from old jeans
These Capri jeans were outdated and unraveling at the back seam.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.
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?
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.
Iron flat, you will have a small puckering where the legs meet. No big deal : )
Once you finished the top stitch cut away the excess pant legs, after you leave a seam allowance. (See the picture above).
Turn the jean inside out. Sew the front and the back together. This is now a purse!
– 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.
How to make 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.
How to add a rigid 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.
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 (1.8 cm). To be safe, cut small pieces at a time. The insert should fit tight and snug.
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 the handbag
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.
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.
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.
Make the shoulder straps
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.
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.
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.
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.
How to line the inside of the purse
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now lets 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.
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.
How to make a simple 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.
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.
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.
Iron a 5/8 inch (1.5 cm) on all the casing sides, slip-stitch just over the lining.
I attached an old vintage bracelet to the zipper, to serve as the pull tab.
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 from old jeans!
Below the Pinterest format for you to Pin 🙂
Below a different format for Instagram or other social medias : )
À la prochaine!