Diary of a self-confessed scrap fabric hoarder.

Aside from knackered knickers, almost every bit of clothing that stays the course until it's threadbare will end up in my fabric scraps suitcase...It used to be a bag, now it's a suitcase. When it reached the verge of spilling over into a second suitcase I started to think seriously about what the hell I was going to do with some of this hoard (there are only so many rag dusters you can use in one lifetime, after all).

Some of the bulkiest pieces in my collection are old jeans. These can be hard to part with at the best of times, and more than once my questionable sewing skills have been invoked by broken-hearted friends with some busted up jeans they want fixing. I keep them mostly because there's nothing better for fixing denim than other pieces of denim, so some of my collection has gone towards extending the life of other jeans. But I've still been left with quite a few pairs to get through.

Since ditching plastic shopping bags a while back, I started a collection of assorted calico bags. Quality-wise it's been a bit hit and miss and often the handles give out within a year or two. So I decided to have a go at making tote bags from my old jeans instead, and checked out a few instructable type sites online. While there's a lot of great designs out there in DIY-land, let's just say that when it comes to instructions, I am usually completely confused by about Step 4.

As I really only needed some simple bags for grocery shopping, I decided I was probably way overthinking things, as usual, and I could very likely make them by guesswork (one of my favourite problem-solving strategies). Amazingly enough that approach worked (yay my brainz!) and I have since made around a dozen bags, which I have gifted, kept and sold.

So in keeping with a 'making stuff in 4 steps or under' approach, here's how easy it is:
No serviceable jeans were harmed in the making of this photo
1. Execute your jeans by cutting the leg off as high up as you can. If the top bit of your jeans is still good and you're happy with the state of your legs, you can of course now prance around in a pair of obscenely skimpy cutoffs. Bonus.

2. Cut up the inner leg seam so that you  have one long section of fabric. Depending on what style of jean you had and what dress size you are (and if you're on the curvier side, you're going to get a lot more bag for your buck) the section of fabric you have might not be straight (especially if they were flares or skinny leg jeans). Fold whatever section of the fabric matches up the best along its full length and trim the rest off.
These were flared jeans so there's a lot of excess fabric behind the seam along one half
3. Fold, pin and sew the top seam of the bag towards the inside (if you folded the fabric to include the hem of the jeans you only need to do this on one side, save yourself some time and keep the original hem as is). Then pin a seam along each side, with the right side of the fabric facing inwards. Use a measuring tape as you go to make sure it's at least relatively straight (but remember it's a tote bag, you don't need to go full OCD here). Trim any excess fabric along the side seam.

4. Sew the side seams and then pin and sew along the diagonal of each bottom corner (this extra seam is an optional but it does help give your bag a bit of shape and helps distribute the weight of the heavy things you'll be putting inside it one day...such as wine, so much wine...).

The final part of the project involves sewing on a strap. Old fabric belts, strong binding or accessories from old bags are perfect to use here. I pretty much go to town on attaching bag straps, and attach them with an X shaped seam surrounded by a square, just for extra double good measure (remember how much that wine weighs).
Note, I also add some binding ribbon to the inside of the bag along the top hem, this is mostly because I only do a single fold at the top as it gets too thick to sew otehrwise, instead I leave the hem edge exposed and just sew the binding fabric over the top.

This is pretty much all there is to it. I like to jazz mine up a little with old buttons or fabric scraps once I'm done, or you could attach a pocket to the outside as well.

I realise that as far as clear and informative DIY instructions go, this post is full of fail. But if you already know your way around a sewing machine and can measure a straight line then it's really pretty straightforward.

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