We’ve had some glorious summer days here in Alaska recently. It’s that time of year where we spend as much time as we can outside; we gather firewood, harvest summer veggies, and pick wildflowers. This denim bag can help you out with all of those.
The bag uses recycled jeans, and was “commissioned” by a friend who wanted a sturdy cross-body bag that would stay open for collecting firewood. His family is going to be camping and using a BioLite campstove. It’s a fabulous new invention that channels the energy from burning twigs to cook food AND charge electronics. They’re pretty cool, totally check them out….I know we will be when we someday get around to buying things and not moving from island to island with suitcases, a carseat, and a baby.
This tutorial will teach you how to make your own multi-purpose cross-body bag.
What you need:
A pair of men’s jeans (the bigger the jeans, the bigger your bag)
One wire hanger for each bag you make (technically optional, but it helps the bag stay open)
Extra strong “for jeans” thread
A hammer to pound down your fabric and a stitch starter (details here)
Step one: Cut out the main part of the bag.
- The waistband will be the top of the bag and the side seam will be one side. Make the bag as wide as one half of the rear of the jeans. You can make the bag as deep as you want (but remember, you need to use the leg fabric for straps) Mine measured 10″ across and 16″ down.
- If you’re worried about being able to cut accurately, make a pattern on paper first and then pin to the jeans and use it to guide your cutting.
- If you are only making one bag, make sure you DON’T use the side with the fly and buttonhole. They are difficult to work around.
- If you need to use both sides, cut the zipper and extra fly pieces off beforehand. Unpick the edge of the waistband and buttonhole so you can smooth those edges out and create less bulk.
- Unpick the waistband from the edge a few inches on each side.
Step Two: Cut the straps of the bag.
- I cut 55″-60″ of 3 1/2″ straps from each leg.
- Along the edges I kept the original side seam, but in the middle I cut two straps slightly wider and sewed them along one side later (so they were the same width as the ones cut from the side seam).
- You can adjust the length of the straps to fit the person who will be wearing your bag, if you like. However, you will need to cut them to be several inches longer to allow for room to sew (this will make sense later).
- You may need to cut some strap pieces that are a lot shorter than the others. You will sew them together to make one long strap. I did this so I could use all of the jeans up and not use other fabrics. Since we’re recycling the jeans and using every part of them, the sewing process is slightly messier and less traditional.
Step Three: Sew the body of the bag.
Leave the waistband unattached for now. Sew down the side and across the bottom. Serge or finish the edges.
Step Four: Sew the bottom corners.
- Turn the bag inside out and flatten the corner into a triangle as shown.
- Sew a straight line all the way across the base of the triangle.
- Then, flip the bag right side out and tack down the triangle along the side seam.
- You can sew the triangle onto the side seam using “stitch in the ditch.” This basically means that you sew right in the middle of the seam so that your stitches aren’t visible. Go slow to keep things lined up.
Step Five: Sew the straps together.
- Sew the straps you cut from the middle together long ways. All your strap pieces should now be the same width.
- Cut the ends of the straps diagonally, as shown. This prevents there being too much bulk in one spot.
- Sew all the pieces together to create one long strap.
- When sewing diagonal lines together, line them up with a little bit hanging off of each edge, about the same width as your seam allowance. This will make sure that they are centered.
- Then, put right sides together and sew all the way down the unsewn side. Flip the strap right side out. Press it, then top stitch on each edge.
- At this point, you may have really thick spots. Pull out your hammer and pound them, to make them easier to sew.
Step six: Sew the straps to the waistband.
- One of your side seams should already be unattached from the waistband. Separate them even more, to leave more room for sewing.
- Sew the raw edges of the waistband right sides together.
- Unpick the waistband a few inches before and after the opposite seam.
- Sandwich the ends of the straps between the bag fabric and the waistband fabric. Pin in place and topstitch the waistband back down, being sure to leave space to thread the wire hanger into the waistband.
- If you want the straps to lay flat against the waistband, fold them back up and topstitch, mimicking the topstitching on the waistband. This is by far the HARDEST step, so if you are struggling, feel free to leave the straps as they are.
Step seven: Insert the wire hanger into the waistband.
This step is optional, but it helps the mouth of the bag stay open as you collect veggies or firewood.
- Use the pliers and wire cutters to straighten out the hanger and cut it to the right length.
- Thread it into the waistband, bending as you go to match the shape of the bag.
- When you get it all the way through, wrap the ends around themselves.
- Pound the ends flat against the wire so they don’t make holes in the waistband.
Step eight: Close the last hole in the waistband.
- Mold the wire so that it’s flat in the area you need to sew. Topstitch the waistband closed.
- If you had to use the buttonhole, hand stitch it shut with a satin stitch.
Whew! That was a LOT of steps, but if you stuck with it till the end you now have a super durable, recycled, and very functional bag for all your summer adventures.
What else have you made with recycled jeans?
Check out the other great ideas on Skip to My Lou’s Made by You Monday.