How to Make a Woven Throw Rug out of Recycled Denim Jeans
Every once in a while I have to get rid of a pair of jeans that isn't suitable for donating. Either the hems are frayed, there is paint splattered all over them, or there is a big slash in them that didn't come from the designer.
Whatever the reason, I don't mind it too much because I get to add them to my stack of blue jeans that I use in projects.
This woven throw rug is one of those projects. It does take some time, and a few pairs of jeans, but I think that the result is worth the effort.
I particularly like the way the different hues of the jeans creates a unique woven pattern.
It's a durable little rug that washes well. However, because the fabric strip edges are unfinished, you will get some fraying, but that adds to the interest of the piece.
So gather up all of the supplies you need and enjoy making your thrifty throw rug out of recycled blue jeans.
Sewing With Denim
There are some tricks when sewing with denim. It's not like other fabrics. This video may help guide you along.
What You'll Need
Hopefully you have a nice tall husband like I do so the jeans are long, but even preteen sizes will work with this. They just need to be long enough to get strips that adequately cover the backing.
Denim strips, 2" wide in various lengths
Cut at least 28 strips for this size rug. At least 8 should be 26" long to cover the longest diagonal portion.
Durable backing fabric like canvas. Any color you prefer.
1 piece cut 17" x 23". You can make this larger or smaller, but remember to adjust the lengths, and amounts, needed of the denim strips.
Heavy duty thread for sewing machine
Heavy duty sewing needle
Quilter's cutting board
Step 1 - Cut the Backing
Out of the canvas, cut out a rectangle 17" x 23". This will be the finished size of your rug.
Note: If you prefer to make it larger or smaller, you can. You'll just need to adjust the lengths of your denim strips.
Step 2 - Cut the Strips of Denim
Disassemble a pair of jeans and use the legs to get the longest strips. Don't use any of the seams, just the fabric.
Cut at least 28 strips at 2" wide for this runner, although you may need more or less if you decide to use a different size.
At least eight of the strips should be 26" long. The others can vary, as long as you have enough to cover the canvas backing.
Be careful using the rotary cutter. These are long strips that are hard to cut and the cutter blade is really sharp.
Step 3 - Mark the Canvas
The nice thing about the canvas is that no one will see it once the denim strips are sewn on, so go ahead and mark it up.
I use a sharp pencil, a quilter's ruler and a quilter's cutting board. This type of ruler will help you get that 45° degree diagonal line that you need. I also recommend using a pencil so any mistakes can be erased.
Using the ruler and the board, mark your cross hatch lines, 2" apart at a 45° angle.
Step 4 - Audition Various Strips of Fabric
Start laying out the strips of fabric, deciding which ones you like the best. Start with one direction before you start weaving.
If you look closely, you can see where I made a couple of marking mistakes, but they were easy to fix.
Step 5 - Finish Placing First Side of Strips
Do this step on a hard, flat surface. The piece will remain on this surface until it is ready to sew.
Once you like the way it looks, finish laying out the fabric strips in the first diagonal direction. Don't worry too much about the backing that is showing. As long as it not too large a space, it will be covered up once the other set of strips is in place.
You will need to play around a bit at this stage. The longer the strips are cut, the better, because it's easier to cut a strip down than it is to make it larger.
Step 6 - Weave and Pin
Now comes the tricky part, the weaving.
Start weaving the remaining strips in. Begin at one end and pin as you go, catching the denim and the canvas backing. While doing this, make sure the strips are still lining up with the markings.
I can't emphasize enough that you should pin while doing this. You will also need to adjust pins as you go, so have lots of extra pins on hand. This will help you when lining up the strips with the pencil marks and with the weaving.
Watch your fingers here. Sometimes it is tough to pin through the denim and canvas layers, and you don't want to get hurt.
Note: Remember to check your weaving before you add the next strip. I had to correct myself numerous times and it would have been a lot worse if I had to remove more than one strip to fix a problem.
Step 7 - Finish Pinning
Once you have everything lined up the way you like it, add more pins before sewing. The strips will shift when sewing, so the more pins you add, the easier it will be to sew.
Don't worry about the uneven edges. They will get cut off after sewing.
Step 8 - Sew
I use a simple straight stitch on my machine, using a sewing needle that is good for denim fabric and heavy duty thread as well. I sew down both the sides of every strip, using a quarter inch seam.
Start and finish one diagonal side, removing pins as you go.
Then repeat on the other diagonal. You can see in the photo above how it should look.
Watch that you don't sew over the pins and break your machine or needle.
Step 9 - Trim the Edges
Flip the rug over and trim off the excess to a 3/4" overlap. This will act as the binding.
Step 10 - Pin the Binding Over
Fold over the overlapping denim fabric to the back side of the rug, and pin in place. Do this around all four sides before sewing.
Step 11 - Sew Around the Border
Using a 1/4" seam, sew around the entire border of the rug. The corners will be tough, but go slowly and watch your needle so it doesn't snap or get caught.
Begin and end with good backstitching to secure it.
Step 12 - Add Non-Slip Backing
Without the non-slip backing, this rug will slip. Choose a good non-slip backing to add to the runner for safety.
The Finished Product
One of the things I like about this project is that it is very forgiving when it comes to the sewing. It is not that easy to sew through layers of denim and canvas. Your seams aren't all going to be straight, and the outside edges may be a little uneven.
But no one is going to get down on the floor and look that closely, and the overall look lovely.
Another nice thing is how different it looks in various light. The blues in the denim really change depending on what room it is in. Just take a look at this last picture versus the top photo.
I put my rug in our laundry room to brighten it up a bit, but this could go anywhere in the house. It would also make a nice housewarming gift for someone.
I hope you enjoy making your new throw rug!
I'd Like to Know
What do you do with your old jeans that can't be donated?
If you like recycling denim, here's another fun project to try.
Recycled Denim Coasters
© 2018 Claudia Mitchell