Embroidery Library

Upcycled Denim Tote

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.


Upcycle an old pair of jeans into a chic and sophisticated tote with this project tutorial. Inspired by Suzanne's Denim Grocery Bag featured in the Stitchers Showcase, this tote is perfect for trips to the grocery, or as an every day carryall.
 


Project Needs & Notes

-
Two pairs of old jeans for front border pieces, back, and handles
- 13" x 13" piece of denim
for embroidered panel
-
1/3 yard cotton fabric, 45" wide, for belt
-
1/2 yard fabric (like linen) for inner lining
- Medium weight (2.5 ounce) cutaway stabilizer
-
Air-erase pen
for marking

The design used in this tutorial is G4406, America the Beautiful Lighthouse Medley.

Finished sizes:
Large tote: 16 1/2" x 21" x 6" deep
Small tote: 12" x 15 1/4" x 4 1/4" deep


The step-by-step instructions below give fabric measurements for a large tote. If making the smaller size, use these measurements instead:

Center square:  8" x 8" (cut one)
Side border pieces (on front): 1 3/4" x 8" (cut four)
Top and bottom border pieces: 12 3/4" x 2 1/4" (cut four)
Back panel: 13 1/8" x 13 7/8" (cut one)
Bottom panel: 13 1/8" x 5 1/8" (cut one)
Side panels: 5 1/8" x 13 7/8" (cut two)
Straps: 5" wide by 32" (cut two)
Belt:  32 3/4" x 5" (cut two)
Inner lining:

   Front/back panels: 12 3/4" x 15 3/4" (cut two)
  
Bottom panel: 13 1/8" x 5 1/8" (cut one)
      Side panels: 5 1/8" x 15 3/4" (cut two)

This project was featured in the following:
Totally Totes Lookbook

 

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Using an air-erase pen, draw an 11" x 11" square on the denim fabric.

Leave a couple inches of excess fabric around the shape.

M
easure and mark the center of each side of the square. Draw lines connecting the marks; where the lines meet is the exact center of the square.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

A template is a printout of a design, and it's an excellent tool to plan where to stitch.

Print a template of the design from your embroidery software.
If you do not have embroidery software, Wilcom's TrueSizer is
a free program to use.

Place the template so that the center is over the center of the square. There should be at least one inch space between the outer edges of the design and the edges of the square.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Hoop the denim with a piece of cutaway stabilizer, lining up the marks on the fabric with the marks on the hoop.

Attach the hoop to the machine and load the design.

M
ove the hoop so that the needle is aligned with the center point on the fabric. Embroider the design.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

After embroidering, trim away the excess stabilizer from the back.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

To prepare the side borders, cut the legs off the jeans.

C
ut up one of the seams and lay the fabric flat.

Next, cut four pieces of the jean fabric to 2 1/2" x 11" high.

P
air up the pieces and align together, right sides together.

Pin in place and sew a 1/2" seam along one of the long sides.

P
ress the seams open with an iron.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Align the assembled side border pieces on top of the embroidered center square along the left and right sides. 

Pin in place and sew a 1/2" seam along the pinned edges only. 

Press the seams.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

To prepare the top and bottom borders, cut four pieces of the jean fabric to 17 1/2" x 3" high.

Pair up the pieces, right sides together.

Pin in place and sew a 1/2" seam along one of the long sides.

Press the seams.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Align the border pieces along the top and bottom edges of the center square/side border piece, right sides together.

Pin in place, and sew a 1/2" seam along the pinned edges only. 

Press the seams.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Next, piece jean remnants together to make a back panel.

Stitch together using 1/2" seams. Press the seams.

Cut a shape from the remnant panel to 18" x 19".

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

To prepare the bottom panel, cut one piece of fabric to 18" x 7". 

A
lign the bottom piece along the bottom edge of the front panel, right sides together.

Pin in place, and sew a 1/2" seam along the bottom edge only.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Align the bottom edge of the back piece with the open edge of the bottom piece, right sides together.

Pin in place and sew a 1/2" seam along the bottom edge only.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Next, lay the fabric flat.

To prepare the side panels, cut two pieces of fabric to 7" x 19".

A
lign the side panels with the left and right edges of the front panel, right sides together.

Pin in place and sew a 1/2" seam along the outer edges. Start at the top edges and stopping 1/2" from the bottom edge.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Align the bottom edges of the side panels with the short ends of the bottom panel, right sides together.

Pin in place and sew a 1/2" seam starting at the side seam and stopping 1/2" from the opposite side.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Align the remaining raw edges of the side panels with the side edges of the back panel, right sides together.

Pin in place and sew a 1/2" seam along the pinned edges.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Measure around the entire top edge of the outer shell of the bag. In this example the measurement of the circumference is 46".

Cut the waist band off the jeans just under the belt loops.

Measure the length of the waistband. If the waist band is longer than the circumference of the top edge of the outer shell, cut it down at the back removing as much as you need. 

Z
igzag stitch the waistband back together.

If the waistband is shorter than the circumference of the top edge of the outer shell, button the waistband at the front, tack it in place just under the button with a few zigzag stitches, and cut through the waistband at the back center.

Then, to extend the waistband, take the amount you are short plus two inches.  This will be the width of the "extender" fabric (this example is 9 1/2" short, so 9 1/2" plus two inches is 11 1/2"). 

 

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Measure the height of the waistband, multiply it by two, and then add one inch. This will be the height of the "extender" fabric (this example is 3" high, so 3" multiplied by 2 equals 6", plus one inch equals 7"). 

Cut a piece of fabric to the dimensions (in this example,
11 1/2" x 7").

Next, fold the short ends in 1/2" to the wrong side and press. Fold the fabric together, right sides together, align the long edges.

Pin in place, and sew a 1/2" seam along the long raw edges only. 

Turn the fabric right sides out and insert the raw ends of the waistband 1/2" inside the openings.

Pin in place and sew a 1/2" seam along folded edges of the fabric.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Turn the waistband inside out and align it with the top edge of the outer shell, right sides together.

Pin in place and sew a 1/2" seam along the entire top edge. Press the seam.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

To prepare the straps, cut two pieces of fabric to 5" x 32". 

F
old the long edges in 1/2" to the wrong sides and press. Fold the fabric with the long folded edges aligned, wrong sides together.

Pin in place, and sew a 1/4" seam along the long edges.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

To prepare the inner lining, cut the following pieces:

a.  
Front and back panels:
      17 1/2" x 21 1/2"

b.   
Bottom panel:
      18"
x 7"

c.    
Side panels:
       7"
x 21 1/2"

Assemble the inner lining just as you did the outer shell.

F
old the top edge of the inner lining 1/2" to the wrong side and press. Insert the inner lining inside the outer shell, wrong sides together.

Then
, insert the ends of the straps about 3/4" in between the layers with the straps about 2 1/2" from the corners of the tote and pin in place.

Align the top edge of the inner lining with the top edge of the outer shell.

Pin in place and sew a 1/4" seam along the entire top edge sewing back and forth over the ends of the straps to secure them in place.

 

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

To prepare the belt, cut two pieces of cotton fabric to 45" x 5". 

Align the pieces together, right sides together, and sew a 1/2" seam along one of the short ends.  Press the seams.

F
old the short ends in 1/2" to the wrong side and press.  Also, fold the long edges in 1/2" and press.

Fold the fabric again with the long folded edges together, wrong sides together, press.

Sew a 1/4" seam along the entire outer edges of the fabric.

I
nsert the belt through the loops and tie a bow at the front.

Free project instructions to create an upcycled denim tote.

Make your own upcycled denim tote from an old pair of jeans!

Find even more upcycled projects, too! The No-Sweat Tote and T-shirt Tote are other ways to transform unused material into fabulous new projects.

Upcycled Denim Tote



This project is featured on the Embroidery Library Pinterest page.

Pin it yourself using the "Pin It" button on this page.



Questions or comments? Let us know! Send an email to us; the address is stitch@emblibrary.com.


Products used in this Project: