Skip to main content

How to Upcycle Crop Jeans Into a Tote

Eileen used to be quite arts and crafty but working life put paid to that. Now retired she is dabbbling again by upcycling

Upcycle old crop jeans into a bag

Upcycle old crop jeans into a bag

Upcycle Old Clothes Into Cute Totes!

It was a humid but dull Sunday last weekend, and I was lacking energy. However, I still wanted to do something. I put some clean laundry away and took out a couple of things I no longer wear. I was about to throw them away, but I thought about it again.

Could I upcycle them rather than relegate them to rags or give them to a charity shop? I decided I would try to create a new bag!

What You'll Need

  • One pair of cropped denim jeans
  • One vest-style stretch shirt
  • Two straps
  • Sewing cotton
  • Four large metal washers
  • Four small metal washers
  • Strip of cardboard
  • One large button

Now, I did all of this roughly, but I have learned enough to be more specific with measurements and details next time.

Check out the lining!

Check out the lining!

How to Turn Pants Into Totes

  1. Cut the jeans off just above the crotch. Snip a piece from the waste material for the bag base.
  2. I turned the jean top inside out and stitched the base piece into what would be the bottom of the bag. I had no tough sewing machine needles, so I sewed by hand. I used a large, strong-bodkin type of needle.
  3. I loose tacked first in white cotton. Once I knew it worked, I sewed smaller back stitches in green cotton that blended well. I used this cotton for the whole project.
  4. Turn the bag inside out.
  5. Turn the vest shirt inside out and stitch the two together at the top. I left a small section so that I could turn the right way around after stitching the bottom.
  6. The crop jeans had a reinforced waistband inside, so I stitched the lining to the bottom of that.
  7. Once the vest shirt bag lining was attached, I cut the bottom of the shirt level with the bag.
  8. I used this vest shirt waste to cover the cardboard I was going to place at the bottom to give the bag some structure.
  9. Stitch the bottom of the lining together, turn it right-side out, and complete the small section at the top. I had no hole rivets I could use, so I used some old metal washers.
  10. Cut four holes for the straps. Use four small washers inside the bag and four large ones on the outside to keep the material around the holes from fraying. I used a simple stitch to attach these.
  11. Next, I slotted the straps through the holes tying strong knots on the inside.
  12. The final step was creating a loop and adding a large button to close the top of the bag in the middle.
How cute!

How cute!

Good to go!

Good to go!

Tips for a Successful Upcycling Project

  • Be creative with how you can reinvent something.
  • Use your imagination!
  • For your first project, make sure you do not use something which still is useful. That is really the rule of thumb for all projects. However, remember your first project could be a disaster. That's okay!
  • When you are having a clear-out at home, keep what could be useful for future up-cycling projects perhaps also considering what they could be used to make.
  • This project took a few hours to complete the project. It was useful as a learning project though I am happy with the bag and will use it.
  • The back pockets already had buttons attached. These pockets along with the side ones will be useful.
  • I keep old buttons of items discarded and next time will decorate such a bag with buttons and scraps of fabric.
  • The really good thing is that nothing I used to cost money. Originally there would have been a cost, but all elements of the bag were found around our home.
  • Upcycling is also a good way to declutter.
  • Reusing, recycling, and upcycling all benefit our environment too.


Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on March 08, 2019:

Love the bag. That's such a cute idea. I should try this as I use tote bags for grocery shopping but get sick of my ugly old bags. Most of them were ad give-aways from local fairs, etc. It's nice to have something special. Plus, if you buy small items you can put them in the pockets of the tote.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on January 27, 2019:

What a great idea this is for making a tote! I don't sew, but I'll do my best to follow your instructions. Thanks, a bunch!

Sukwinder from India on June 10, 2018:

wel come sir iam from india

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 09, 2018:

Thanks Sukinder

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 09, 2018:

Sounds brilliant RedElf. My imainations is running riot. Cannot wat for new project

Sukwinder from India on June 07, 2018:


RedElf from Canada on June 07, 2018:

Awesome article - I'm all over up-cycling, re-purposing, whatever you call it... My grandparent's generation recycled clothing scraps into crazy quilts. I've turned sheets into comforters, and a purchased, quilted comforter into slip-covers for my old sofa. Current project is reupholstering a chair using fabric from throw cushions (from a different couch, LOL).

And it sure does keep things out of the land-fill. Granny would be proud to carry such a purse.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 06, 2018:

Thanks Peggy. I enjoyed getting creative and am looking forward to a see project. Next one i will take my time

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 05, 2018:

That was a clever idea to turn old jeans into a bag. We have a friend who sews for different charitable causes so all kinds of fabric or embellishments we simply give to her and know that it will be well utilized. We do everything we can to recycle items.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 05, 2018:

Thanks Liz very generous comment. And the good thing about the bag too was it was fun to create.

Ethel Smith (author) from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 05, 2018:

Thanks Paula. I will use the bga but it was a test piece. I now have the upcycling bug so expect more hubs :]

Liz Westwood from UK on June 05, 2018:

Impressive. I wish I was so creative. Watched my daughter's end of degree fashion show last night. This bag would have been worthy of being on show there.

Paula from The Midwest, USA on June 05, 2018:

I loved your idea for your bag!! I have seen cute things done with upcycling and this idea easily rivals those! Often when throwing something away that is so sturdy and with nothing wrong with parts of it, it is difficult and feels wasteful. Besides how cute some of these things can turn out, I love how green the idea is as well. Thank you for sharing your idea! Paula