UpCycle Denim Jeans to Jacket

What is it about denim that seems to make it never go out of style?! Traditional natural indigo was the staple dye but maybe it’s because they seem to carry a history with them. So rustic and casual, worn-in and comfortable – no wonder then! Ya, I find it hard to chuck them so… of course;  make a ‘fab’ new jacket; UpCycle Denim Jeans to Jacket!

Quite A  Collection:

Lucky me, (or unlucky depending how you look at it) as I am given denim by all who know I can pretty well repurpose anything. Such a ‘Rainbow’ of blues and greys. I’m mostly wearing denim since I’m always getting some stain on me from making.

Tip: If the denim is somewhat grimy looking (buildup from usual dirt) give them a good ‘scouring’. Soak them in the hottest water you can get (you can cook them too) with a scoop of Washing Soda (not baking soda) and you will be amazed at what can come out even though you thought they were clean.

The Pattern:

Since I am usually trying to use my time most efficiently, I tend to just grab a favourite jacket and trace it out instead of hunting and testing a pattern. It’s pretty forgiving as the side seams and sleeves can be taken in at the end if need be. Since this is pieced it could even be added to. Bonus!

I always sketch to visualize my ideas but you may just have a Pinterest board. I did want to keep some of the feel of a jean-jacket by having something like a yoke (the piece that goes across at top of fronts and back) and pockets. The collar is a simple one; double-piece type as well.

Cutting Made easy:

Thanks to instructables.com I’ve won a rotary cutter for my sewing tutorial. It is amazing and cuts the denim like butter! Using a quilt template or straight edge makes it soooo much faster.

I did not want to look too patchy so I used similar tones of the blue denim. This was about fun sewing and NOT being fussy with an exact pattern so I just started piecing with long thin pieces, not necessarily rectangular. It’s an art form; just jump in, you can add more later…

The Seams:

I do enjoy the strength my ‘vintage’ Kenmore machine(s) but I still try to avoid having multiple double seams come together. Try to stagger them so the machine does not have to climb 8 layers of denim.

An ample 1/4″ seam allowance would allow zig-zagging without the need of trimming first to finish the edge from fraying. I decided against top stitching since the heavy seems would be a problem as well. A good steam ironing is a must though. Using a medium light blue thread made it blend right in.

Keep the pattern pieces handy and check where you need to add more. It’s a rough sizing at first. Along the sleeves the pieces ran lengthwise but that’s not a rule either. When using a pocket section, sew it shut and cut away excess bulk from the back so it does not become too heavy.

For some fun I cut the back pockets in half for the long front sections. I took out the zippers of 2 pairs and made some slash pockets which would be backed afterward.

For a really aged look I even used some of the distressed sections. Not sure of the exact length yet so keep it longer until you can fit it.

After making the rough pieces, cut the final pattern shapes (fronts, sleeves, back) and test-assemble. Adjust any width of torso or chest with the seams and finalize. Sew a rectangle inside for the pocket finish.

Easy Disassembling:

To finish the front and the yokes the character that the waistbands have is great! Soooo, pull the chain stitch and it will unravel as if by magic.

The Belt tabs will need a bit of snipping. Once detached give it a good pressing. Since it already has wear it is great for edging and the collar.

The Collar and Front closure:

The detached waistband works great to finish the front since it shows wear where it’s expected and holds the prior shape.

I would have loved to use hammer-in buttons but I was out of them (which is odd since I have enough buttons to last forever) so I went to the next best and quick thing; heavy duty hammer-in snaps. The embroidery was from the inside of the waistband.

The Bottom Edging:

Typical Jean jackets have a waistband with side tabs. That would be quite some fussing and I wanted a straighter jacket so I opted for a simple finish.

Using a 1 1/4″ strip sewn and then folded over and blind stitched. It gives a nice small edge that does not take any attention from the rest.

Note the upside-down pieces and random pockets. This was so much fun to do! The sleeves were a simple stitched double fold-over. You could make cuffs with some leftover waistband.

Due to the amount of detail on the upper front I kept the lower more simple to draw the eye up so as not to become a focal point on the ‘belly’.

I love it! Jeans, yes, Jacket oh better yes! ‘Low rise boot’ haha

Maybe it’s my fun with my indigo vat or the ‘blue brain’ I have from all the shibori I’ve been obsessed with; not sure… but I love my jean jackets! They make me smile and feel down to earth – no pretentions there.

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  1. delightful … could it be done with less pockets on top of each other or do you need the fabric to lay a certain way … i love how you show the label at the front, i have some fancy schmancy label pants i got 20 for $1 at a local hospice thrift. It makes fun luggage too and btw I LOVE your logo with the heart, very artsy!

    1. There is no rules, I was not even concerned with the grain. Since I like to look a bit thinner (lol) I was going with vertical pieces, but denim is so stable I can’t see it mattering.

      1. I love “no rules” and you have inspired me to try this project. I’ve been picturing it in my head for quit some time now and you painted a perfect picture. Thank you. I have tons of denim.

        1. I still have some more ideas in my head and have been getting quite the pile of denim accumulated. Why-o-why does time go by so fast?! Add it to the list. You may also like this

  2. LOVE your idea for UpCycled denim jeans. I have many ‘old’ jeans that are too loaded with memories of adventures long past, so perhaps a jean jacket or jean duster type coat might be the next project on my to do list.
    Your site is a treasure of creativity–glad I’ve found you.

  3. You! My dear, are amazing! And I’m feeling like American Eagle needs to kick in some bucks for the fresh spin on their jeans! I only WISH i could could up with a finished product that looked like that! AWESOME!!

    1. Funny story; those were given by my daughter’s BF, and he chuckled and said; ‘if only those pants could talk’ I think of that when I wear it… I’ve got some new ideas with denim and have been itching to do it as I am also a jean-jacket-o-holic!

  4. Fabulous work–I became a fan instantly.
    I just realized that we will have the pleasure of visiting your area, the Golden Horseshoe of Canada in about two weeks and hope to visit the textile museum in Toronto. You probably are a featured artist there.
    Thank you for sharing your ideas and your work.


  5. I always cannot wait to read your entries! ( Your my idol artist!) I love your adventure and projects, you inspire me!!! Can’t wait to here about the paints- I have some denim I want to paint!

    1. Is it an omen?! I was thinking that theme would be birds… I can’t wait to start but need to finish other projects first. Stay tuned. Nice to know who reads my stuff…

  6. Hello Barb, I love, love your Denim Jacket, made from Denim Jeans, repurposing Denim Jeans. I have a lot of jeans myself. I love, love jeans, as a matter of fact, I love anything denim. Thank you very much for that tutorial
    What do you do, if you have stretch jeans? How do you manipulate this type of fabric?
    Thank you.

    1. I have quite a stock pile of denim to get to… If there is stretch I would suggest to use it in the width rather than length of parts. It would be best to pair that type with other stretch pieces. Keeping the piecing more towards the non-stretch grain would ensure it doesn’t get distorted. In other words, longer vertical pieces with cross stretch work well. Stabilization (sew to a non-stretch layer like lining) could be an option…

  7. Definitely would like to better my skills in sewing in general. this page just sparked a huge flame in my brain. I know skills come from experience and the creativity come from dust doing what you like. Any tips on better usage of a standard sewing machine would be highly appreciated

    1. Well, I have old kenmore machines, very basic ones. If you don’t have the skills then just work with what you have. There’s so much rustic use of denim that almost anything goes… I ant to do a pair of pants that is rustically sewn together, even just an over lap seam with fraying. Start with a simple test project. Too many people get obsessed with fussy perfection…

  8. I love your thinking! Here I thought I was crazy for saying I wanted to make a winter jacket out of jeans!!!! Thank you for confirming I might be normal! 😂

  9. I like your idea of keeping the focus away from the tummy. I would like to make a hip length denim creation, with simple lines similar to yours Maybe dyeing the denim 1 colour before cutting. Adding buttons down the front centre on both sides to button on wooly scarf or changeable scarves with what ever catches my fancy Would that work?

    1. Sounds like you have a vision. I have never seen a buttoned-on scarf. ‘But feel free to be innovative! I do like the idea of a variety of scarves, don’t even ask me how many I have…