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What to do With Old Jeans?

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From an upcycled denim skirt to a DIY embroidered denim jacket, here's your old jeans guide!

A few denim upcycle ideas could give your old clothes a brand new life. Here’s how to turn ratty denim fabric into recycled denim fabric.

How to sew patches on denim

If you don’t know what to do with old jeans or jackets, you could patch them up and keep wearing them. Here’s how.

  1. Get your patches. You could even recycle two things at once by turning your old jeans into patches for your upcycled denim jacket.

  2. Consider where you want the patch. If you’re just adding a patch for decoration, you’ll obviously want it on the outside, proudly visible. If you’re patching up a tear, though, you might instead choose to put it on the inside, peeking through the hole.

  3.  Position the patch and use a few pins to secure it in place.

  4.  Choose your thread. If you’re sewing a patch on the inside, the stitches will appear on the outside of your garment, so you’ll probably want the thread colour to be as close to the denim as possible.

  5. Thread your needle and knot the end.

  6. Start stitching, a couple of millimetres from the edge of the patch. The needle should first go through the fabric from the inside.

  7. Go all the way around the patch, stitching it to the denim. It’s easier to get your stitches even if you keep them small.

  8. Finish by passing the needle under a stitch on the inside, creating a loop, and then pulling the end of the thread through the loop to create a knot against the fabric. Do this a couple of times to secure the thread.

How to make a DIY embroidered denim jacket

If you’re tired of plain denim and you’re handy with a needle, why not embroider your denim clothes yourself?

  1. If the denim’s new, it might shrink on a first wash, so wash it before embroidering.

  2. Decide on your design. If there are unwanted rips, you could come up with a design that would incorporate sewing them shut.

  3. If you go straight in with a needle and thread, it’ll be tricky to get the look you’re going for. You’ll want a guide while you’re embroidering, so you’ll need to create a stencil. Draw or print the design you want on a water-soluble stabiliser. This will dissolve completely in water, so you can embroider it to the denim and wash it away later.

  4. Stick your stencil onto the jacket. If your stabiliser isn’t self-adhesive, use pins to keep it in place.

  5. If you want to give the denim extra stability while you work, use an embroidery hoop.

  6. Thread your needle and knot the end. Again, start from the inside of the denim. If you’re embroidering over pockets, stitch from the inside of the pocket, not the inside of the jacket, or you’ll sew the pocket shut!

  7. Embroider your design, using the stabiliser as a guide. Change thread colours or go back over areas to thicken the lines as required. To secure a thread before switching, follow step 8 under ‘How to sew patches on denim’, above.

  8. When you’ve finished, wash the stabiliser away according to its instructions.

Ta-da! One denim jacket, upcycled.

Other ideas for upcycled denim

Here are a few other ideas for what to make out of old jeans, or any other denim you’ve got lying around. Wash your denim beforehand with fabric conditioner, such as Comfort Intense Fresh Sky.

  • Cut the pockets off your jeans and use them as storage pouches. Sew a belt loop on and you can hang them on the wall, using nails or hooks. Sew or safety-pin a pocket inside your handbag for a convenient storage compartment.

  • If patches are the only thing you can get out of your old denim, but you don’t have anything to patch up, you could work them into a quilt.

  • Cut the legs off your jeans to make them into shorts, or open the inner seams and fill the space between the legs with the material you cut off lower down for a stylish upcycled denim skirt.

  • Upholstering a chair or sofa in denim will give you a unique, striking addition to any room.

  • If full upholstery is a bit much, why not make a few denim cushion covers?

Why use a fabric conditioner?

When washing your denim, a little bit of fabric conditioner can go a long way. Here’s why:

  • Long-lasting clothes. Smooth fibres mean less friction in the wash. Less friction = less wear and tear.

  • Helps to retain their shape. Don’t let your favourite t-shirt become a crop top!

  • Helps protect against colour fading. Keep your clothes the colour they were when you fell in love with them.

  • Softer clothes. Amazing softness even for sensitive skin! Comfort’s Pure range is dermatologically tested, so every drop is a tiny dose of love. You can check Comfort Pure here!

  • Fast-drying. No need to wait for ages for your favourite outfit to dry.

  • Easier to iron. Look sharp 24/7.

  • Freshly scented. Comfort’s fragrances keep your clothes smelling amazing.

Denim’s a versatile material, and blue denim will catch the eye when it’s used in unexpected contexts. You can use it for just about anything you can make out of fabric, from shoulder bags to soft toys to miniature tapestries. Why not play around with upcycled denim and see what you end up with?