Monday, April 11, 2016

Thoughts on Upcycled Denim

There is something magical about denim that makes it universally appealing.  George and I were grocery shopping in Costco Saturday and I started looking at the number of people wearing jeans.  I'd guess it was at least 2/3 of us.

Personally I love the durability of denim and the way it fades as it grows softer and softer.  Used denim feels good and looks good.  

I find it a bit comical and sad that so much artificial distressed denim is sold. Comical because I can only imagine what the people doing the artificial distressing (probably in China) are thinking about us that we want pre-ripped and pre-torn clothing.  Sad because that work is done in unsafe conditions and if we wore our jeans longer they might get that way by themselves.

From "Blue jeans are big business, and in recent years fashion designers have created new demand for denim which comes with a pre-worn look. To meet this demand, the process ofsandblasting was introduced as a cheap and easy way of ‘distressing’ jeans. Sandblasting involves ring abrasive sand onto denim under high pressure, whether in a machine booth or simply via an air gun attached to a hose. Often performed without proper ventilation, safety equipment or training, the practice exposes workers to serious risk of silicosis, the deadly lung disease caused by inhalation of silica dust." Other types of distressing causes similar problems. 

The denim we already have is such a great resource.  How many of you have piles of used denim at home for just the reasons I described?  It can be tough to let go of something so potentially useful.

I bet many of you have made things from jeans.  When I was in high school I created the mandatory long hippie skirt from a pair of jeans and wore it proudly.  The next thing I remember making is a collection of pockets sewn together that hung on the wall in one of my first apartments filled with kitchen utensils. I wish I still had that!

I continue to upcycle denim, most of it now into tote bags that I use for grocery shopping, sometimes as a purse, and often for traveling. My best creation to date is the jacket shown here, featured in previous posts. 

Given my love of denim it is probably not a surprise that I just created a new Pinterest Board just for upcycled jeans and denim.

If you would like to join me in pinning on the board let me know and I'll send you an invite. 

March 2018 update: 
Upcycling instructions now available for this jacket!!

Happy Upcycling!

See the Paganoonoo collection of upcycle sewing instruction pattern booklets and start upcycling today!


  1. Do you have a "pattern" for sale for this jacket? I would love to make a similar one. I came home from the capital of denim, Greensboro NC, with a car full of remnants.

  2. Hello K, I do not. I built it on top of a waffle bath robe, the standard white kimono style. I layered on the denim piece by piece until the whole body was covered. I made sure the denim wrapped around in the front a good 6 inches or so to create a facing. I cut the original sleeves off till about elbow length and then created new sleeves from pant bottoms, using the hem for cuffs. I layered the new sleeve over the old, leaving the old for a lining. The man's belt I used was not thin, but it also was not rigid. I was able to cut it to size and then stitch it in using a very heavy duty needle and thick thread, stitching slowly.

    I think if I were going to do it over again I might cut the side seams of the commode it opens it was laid out flat and then do the layering. I'm not sure how that would affect the drape. So in that seem back together would be tough given the thickness. It was difficult to layer the pieces on to a completed garment but I also had good control of where everything went and how it would finally look. Are used to dress warm to do most of the draping which helped a lot. If you don't have one maybe you could borrow one from a friend . Good luck and let me know how it goes.

    1. Hello Michelle, Thanks so much for the description of your process. I will give it a try. It is the most beautiful recycled denim garment I have seen yet. It looks so wearable. Thank you for sharing! Michele

    2. I'm starting to work on instructions!

  3. Yay! I will eagerly wait for instructions. My recycled jeans pile is staring to take over my studio!

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