Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Three Jeans


My teenage son is still growing – while this is bad for the wallet because he needs new clothes so often, it is good for the sewing room as I get his castoffs. Old pairs of jeans and shirts lie about the sewing room for months because I know they are too good to give away but for what purpose can I actually  use them? I think about ripping out zips and cutting off buttons but all that fabric just left there…. Week 2 of M3 had me wearing a denim patchworky coat I made a few years ago when the son’s growing rate was almost overwhelming. I simply cut up all the jeans into rough squares and sewed them together until there was enough ‘fabric’ to make the coat – McCalls 4394. I’m afraid you have to go to ebay nowadays for this pattern.

dscn0445 dscn0449

I lined the coat with quilting cotton, stitched onto the pattern pieces a la Chanel to hide the many raw edges and seams on the inside. There was nothing precise or measured in this patchwork approach reckoning I could get away with uneven patching because it was denim and it is supposed to look a little ‘rough’.

A lovely lady from Stitchers Guild, Alison, makes super pinafores and aprons, usually in denim, chambray and other earthy natural tones and her unique style is in the inspiration for a dress just recently made from three pairs of too-small jeans.

Start with the jeans. In this case three pairs, two from teenage son and one pair of mine that were once fashionable.

Cut off the legs as close to the crotch as possible to maximise the useable fabric. You could rip out the hems but I just cut these off too – life’s too short….



DSCN3798Cut one side seam off each leg so that you have sort of rectangular shaped pieces of fabric. If your jeans are very flared or wide legged, these shapes will vary of course but this will add to the uniqueness of your fabric. Press the legs flat  if necessary and stitch them together. Don’t worry about lining up the seams – this fabric is most emphatically NOT perfect.


However, you do need a straight(ish) straight of grain. I managed to do this by folding the fabric lengthwise and pressing well, testing the grain as I pressed.  One again, don’t worry if the seamlines don’t line up – you’re trying to get the straight grain on the fold, not the edge.


I didn’t create much fabric from three jeans  – about 36″ wide and just shy of 2.5 m  – but just enough to make another Audrey dress, vintage Vogue 1137. This is the same pattern I made for SWAP in the navy boucle so I thought it would be quirky to make it again in this patchwork denim – and as a tribute to Alison’s pinafores. The four pattern pieces are all cut on the fold, so I knew the straight of grain would be running up the centre front and back.



I like the way the original seams create their own shapes in the dress and the different denims don’t quite match. I utilised as much of the original jeans as I could – though I did add a semi-exposed 14″ jeans zip in the side seam. Using any other fabric than this denim, I would have ripped that zip out and tried again, but the wobbliness just seems to suit (that’s my excuse). 


Because this dress has a bodice and a separate skirt, sway back adjustments are easily done at the waist join and there’re 4 darts in the front skirt and 2 in the back so it’s easier to get a perfect fit around the hips too.

Only the bodice is lined and I used a bit of leftover cotton. Usually I line the whole dress but this version is just a bit more casual.



So, rip out and cut up to create your own unique fabric – and this one carries memories of my son within it.


43 thoughts on “Three Jeans

  1. Wow love your dress, so nice 😉

  2. Fantastic given me food for thought as my children are now grown up there are not too many cast offs any more so shall have to look in charity shop!!!

    • That’s where these jeans would have ended up Evelyn so go look!
      I soooo look forward to the day when I can say “my children are grown up”

  3. Great Job! Love it! I have a whole bin of outgrown jeans in my attic waiting!

  4. It’s super cute, Ruth, really really nice.

  5. What a great idea! Loved your coat and really like having the backstory. You are so creative and you always look so put together! Thanks for sharing a great dress.

  6. I love the idea of refashioning old garments. Your dress is wonderful.

  7. This is truly Fabulous Ruth – You’re a gem. and such an awesome fit! I will learn how to fit like that one day as I grow up in my sewing – thanks! -Jo Lynn

  8. Ah! This could be my sort of project Ruth! Totally wonky and yet rather fantastic! 😉

  9. You are so resourceful! If the day ever comes that we can no longer buy fabric, God forbid, you will never have a problem as you find fabric everywhere:) Great dress.

  10. This is so cute and creative! I’ve always wanted to make something substantial with old blue jeans…….. love what you did!

  11. What a fun playful dress you have made! I really like the way you incorporated details from the original jeans as decoration (and pocket), and am honored that you find my own quirky projects to be inspiring. That is the thing I like the most about the electronical world, that connection to folks I’ve never met in my daily life, where we can each share what we know and what we do with that knowledge.

    • Alison, without you – nada. Thank you for the idea and although you may not realise it YOU started this – let’s see what else grows from this idea….

  12. Love your dress! very clever and I know you’ll always enjoy those memories when you wear it or see it in the closet.

    • What?? The lie in ’til lunchtime memories, or the Ill do it tomorrow, or some sort of computer speak that I don’t understand memories! Those sort of memories? All I wanted were the jeans….. LOL

  13. That is well cute. And I love the shoes. The three of you really work together!

  14. Wow wow!! What a fun dress you have made! You are such a clever girl. I knew it but your creation made me re-realized. Great job!!

  15. At first it looked like that tiny strip of tan fabric was you skin and it was a top and skirt but what a dress! Love the wonky zipper shape…artsy people would kill for that! Thank you for all the steps and such great photos and using the pocket and belt loops so cleverly! What a winner!

  16. Wow! So cool! I love the side view where you can see the tapered inset piece and the slits at the hem. Very clever!

    • That’s just how it happened Meigan – sorry to disappoint you but there was no grand plan – serendipity is to get the credit on that one. Thanks for commenting

  17. Thank you for giving us some insight into your process. How come when you do it, it looks cool, and if I did it would look really bad and home made. But I just might give it a try anyway 😎

    • Hey, home made is NOT bad – you know better than that – next post idea… thanks for that
      Anyway, give it a try – look at Chanel – they charge over £2000 for a strapless denim shift, yours will be staggeringly gorgeous.

      • For me handmade is good, homemade, not so much. I think I will try that Marcy Tilton asymmetrical skirt, Vogue 8561. I thought that was what you used for your skirt at first glance.

  18. Belt carrier as front decoration! FANTASTIC!I find your creativity so inspiring, oh, and you look great in that dress too 🙂

  19. Amazing examples of refashioning!!1 Wow!

  20. That is soooo cool! Love it!

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