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How to Make a Messenger Bag out of an Old Pair of Jeans

Updated on July 25, 2016
My newly completed jeans messenger bag. It worked great for a day out with the girls.
My newly completed jeans messenger bag. It worked great for a day out with the girls. | Source

There are two things you don't have to do: throw those old jeans out or spend a ton of money on a new shoulder bag. It's surprisingly easy to create your own messenger bag that goes with almost anything from those jeans you'll never wear again.

Before you get started, wash the jeans as best you can.

The pair I used had been worn for landscaping for a couple of years before they finally gave up, so they have all sorts of character that can't be removed, short of bleaching. The nice thing about making a bag out of jeans is that you can care for it much the same way as you did while you still wore the garment.

Dritz Deluxe Seam Ripper
Dritz Deluxe Seam Ripper

The seam ripper is my best friend. It really comes in handy.

 

What You'll Need

You won't need much to complete this bag. If you do any sort of sewing on a regular basis, you probably have most of this on hand already. If not, you can pick much of it up online or at your local craft store.

  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 yard lining
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk or a sewing pencil
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine - or needle & thread if you're doing it by hand
  • Seam ripper

Optional

  • Patches or scrap material to make them
  • Zipper, extra button, Velcro or other closure
  • Appliques or other decorative elements

Prep the Jeans

Remove the Legs
First, lie the garment flat, and cut the legs from the body of the jeans.

To do this, start at the crotch and cut out towards the outer edge of the jeans. As you do this, keep your line as straight as possible.

You may want to take a straight edge, like a yardstick or notebook, and trace a line from the crotch to the outer seam to use as a guideline. Once the legs are removed, cut through the stitching of the crotch.

Next, cut along the outer seams. This will give you two pieces of fabric: one made out of the front of the jeans and one made out of the back.

The front of the jeans with the crotch and zipper still intact.
The front of the jeans with the crotch and zipper still intact. | Source
The same view, but with the crotch separated and zipper removed.
The same view, but with the crotch separated and zipper removed. | Source

Create the Messenger Bag Flap

Zipper Free
Using a seam ripper, remove the zipper from the fly. This will get a little tricky towards the bottom of the zipper, since there's a lot of fabric folded into that tiny spot, but keep at it. When you're done, you'll have a scrap of fabric that was removed as well.

Scraps are always good for future projects, so you can save it for later, if you'd like.

Once the zipper is gone, keep cutting along the seam that made up the crotch, so the front of your jeans will be two separate pieces, joined by the button.

Level the Measurements
Pants are designed to fit the human body, so they're not cut straight. The slight curve of the hips makes sewing a bag from them a little tricky.

The way I got around this is to measure the width of the waistband, and used that as my target measurement. In this case, I got 20 inches, but different sized jeans will generate various sizes.

Now, overlap the fabric until it lies flat on your cutting surface, and measure the width at the bottom. In my case, it matched the top pretty closely, so I didn't need to do much trimming.

If the measurements are too far apart, trace a line perpendicular from the outer edges of the waist band to the bottom of the piece. Measure the space between the two lines to make sure it matches the top before cutting.

Once the measurements match as closely as possible, pin the fly closed and the inner pockets to the denim.

This is what you'll have once everything's pinned down and traced.
This is what you'll have once everything's pinned down and traced. | Source
Here's one of the pockets and the patch I used to take care of the tear in the denim.
Here's one of the pockets and the patch I used to take care of the tear in the denim. | Source

Since you're working on the wrong side of the fabric, you'll need to feel for the outer edge of the fly with your fingers. Trace a line with your chalk along the outer edge that you feel, all the way down to the bottom.

This is the point at which you'll add the patches, too. Since the tear was right by the pockets, I just added the patch between the pocket and the denim, so the contrasting fabric would show through the tear.

Finishing the Flap
Sew the fly closed, and continue on down the line that you've traced. Also, sew along the edges of the pockets. I used a simple straight stitch for this.

The Seat is No Longer For Sitting
Now that you have the front of the jeans squared away, trace the outline onto the seat of the jeans. Sometimes, the back pockets will be too widely spaced to fit well on the space allotted.

If that's the case, use your seam ripper to remove them before cutting them to match the front. Once the cutting is done, sew them back on.

Be careful just to stitch around the edges and leave the tops open, if you want to use them as storage. There will probably be a difference in color, but you can either leave it be, or camouflage it with patches, bleaching or other fabric treatments.

The Legs

The Front of the Bag
Now it's time to turn your attention to the legs. Cut along the inner seams to open them up, and decide which one you'll use to make the front of the bag.

Since I was working with carpenter jeans, I wanted to make use of the nifty little pocket on the leg, so that's the one I used for the front.

On the wrong side of the denim, trace along the edge of the seat of the jeans. Once you have the shape traced as closely as possible, cut along the lines.

The strap. I cut first one piece, then traced that one to get the right measurement for the second.
The strap. I cut first one piece, then traced that one to get the right measurement for the second. | Source

Common Sewing Terms in This Hub

Term
Meaning
Right Side
The side of fabric visible when project is done.
Wrong Side
The side of fabric which won't be seen when project is done.
Seam Ripper
A tool for removing the stitching between pieces of fabric.

The Strap
Before you start cutting, you need to know how long to make the strap. One way to do this is to measure the distance between your right shoulder and your left hip, and double that.

For me, that came out to be 23 inches, which turned out to be a total of 46 inches long.

You may want to shorten that by a few inches, because the length of the bag will further down on your body. It all depends on personal preference.

If the final measurement is short enough, you may be able to cut along the length of the leg for one, solid strip of fabric for the strap.

If not, cut two pieces instead. They should be roughly 3 to 4 inches wide for a comfortable sized strap. I only did 2 inches, and it turned out to be a little thinner than I had originally wanted.

Bridge
Lastly, cut a bridge to put between the back of the bag and the flap. There should be more than enough fabric left over from either one of the legs to do this.

It should be as wide as the bag, and about 2 to 3 inches thick.

Here's the lining and its labels.
Here's the lining and its labels. | Source

The Lining

Once your jeans are settled, it's time to go at the lining. Trace the pieces you've already cut from the denim onto the fabric you're using for the lining.

I used a lighter, off-white canvas, which worked wonderfully.

You should have enough fabric to cut one continuous piece for the strap when doing this. So, cut one piece instead of two.

As you're cutting, pin a bit of paper with the names of each part of the bag that you're addressing. For example, the flap would be "flap", the back would be "back", etc.

Dritz Quick Turn
Dritz Quick Turn

These make the job of turning fabric tubs, like straps, much easier.

 

Start Sewing

Strap
Sew the denim strap pieces together at one of the short ends, and press the seam open. This will get rid of any discomfort of a ridge of fabric digging into the shoulder.

Then, sew the lining to the denim, right sides facing. Only sew along the long edges, but leave the ends open.

Once they're securely together, turn the strap right side out. This can be pretty tricky, especially if you have a narrower strap. I used a long crochet hook to help me out, but there are products available called tube turners.

Once it's turned, press it flat and set aside.

The Body
Sew the front piece made out of the leg to the back piece, made out of the seat, together. The right sides should be facing, and the top should be left open.

Press the seams open.

Repeat this process with the lining, as well.

At this point, you'll have two rough bags: one made out of denim and the other from the lining.

The joining piece sewn to the flap. If you left the button, use care when using the sewing machine, or skip that area around the button and sew by hand.
The joining piece sewn to the flap. If you left the button, use care when using the sewing machine, or skip that area around the button and sew by hand. | Source
One of the straps sewn to the bag. It's a little lopsided, but it's worked for me so far. If you'd like more security, sew over it again.
One of the straps sewn to the bag. It's a little lopsided, but it's worked for me so far. If you'd like more security, sew over it again. | Source

The Flap
Sew the denim flap to the denim joining piece, and do the same with the lining equivalents.

Then, sew the denim and lining pieces together, leaving the bottom open.

Once finished, turn right side out and press with the iron to flatten.

Handles
To attach the handles, pin them to the wrong side of the denim bag, and adjust them to the desired length. Once they're where you want them, attach them by sewing a rectangle with an "x" in it. This is just a simple way to make sure they're secure.

Join the Bodies
Turn the denim bag so the right side is out, and put it into the lining. Sew the front edge together, leaving the back open. Turn right side out.

Flap To Body
Using the sewing machine, attach the joining piece to the back of the bag. Finish it by hand stitching the lining closed with a slip stitch.

Once again, go over the seams with the iron to flatten the shape a little more.

At this point, you can add a zipper or Velcro, if you'd like a more secure closure. There are also some pretty neat hook attachments available which would work nicely with this style of bag.

Enjoy your new bag!

How to Do a Slip Stitch

That little pocket is perfect for holding a cell phone. The bag itself holds quite a bit of stuff.
That little pocket is perfect for holding a cell phone. The bag itself holds quite a bit of stuff. | Source
The back of the bag. I still need to do something with those dark patches from where the pockets were before.
The back of the bag. I still need to do something with those dark patches from where the pockets were before. | Source

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    • khmazz profile image

      Kristen Mazzola 3 years ago from South Florida

      Such a cute idea! I would have never thought of something like that! Voted up!

    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 3 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thank you! :) It was fun to put together.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      Very cool and you know I love to sew. My daughter has an old pair of jeans with sparkly pockets and this would look really cute for her. Nice instructions.

    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 3 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thanks! If you try it, I hope the bag turns out well!

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