How to Make Denim Yarn From Old Denim Jeans: A Tutorial

I’ve been working on this one for a while. And boy, am I glad to have this one crossed off my list!

Where to start? I saw a braided wool rug on Pinterest (where else?) and thought that it would look great in denim. So, off I started to figure out how to make the strips to make braids and then (eventually) get it made into a rug.

Of course, the way I envisioned the rug, it would have to be many shades of blue, worn to perfection by being worn. I have always been a big fan of denim quilts, having made many of them, so I know that it all had to start from old pairs of blue jeans. And since The Kid and I are big fans of thrift shopping, so a new item was added to the shopping list. And its great, you can find a variety of sizes and denim qualities and colors easily. And I found jeans in size 58! Do you have any idea how much fabric that is?


So, I’m getting ahead of myself. I did a test and took pictures so that I could write a tutorial on how to turn old jeans into a braided rug.

  1. Collect from your closets old and unworn jeans. You can also get them from friends and co-workers; I once posted a note in a common area and my co-workers rewarded me with over two dozen pair! Also, as noted, I also buy them from thrift stores; keep an eye open for when they run specials… in this case, the two pairs of jeans I bought were on a day when the thrift shop had half off orange tags:


2. Next, you have to harvest the fabric. I created a tutorial on how to do this with the least amount of waste, you can see it here. This is what I have when I finished taking apart this pair of jeans:

3. Because I am a quilter, I have a cutting mat and rotary cutter, but you could achieve the same results with scissors. Cut the fabric into 3″ strips, maneuvering the material to get the most uninterrupted strips. I find that this does not have to be cut on the grain, in fact, there is more ‘give’ later when you’re braiding if you do not.


4. Cut the strips, using all the fabric. I collect the smaller pieces and have used them in making denim quilts.


5. You’ll want to trip edges to make them even, including the top strip even though you will only get about 8″ of fabric that measures 3″ wide.


This represents all of the strips from this single pair of jeans and the scraps.

6. I then separated the strips into three piles roughly equal and joined the strips with a single zigzag stitch along the edges. This resulted in each of the three pieces being about XXX” long.


7. Now, moving to the ironing board, we’re going to turn these strips into binding by turning the two edges to meet in the middle and then ironing in place:

8. This sets the crease making it easier to then sew together. Moving now to your sewing machine, I fold the two folded edges together…


…and sew a seam a scant eighth of an inch from the edge. This locks the rough edges inside and will reduce the amount of fraying and lengthen the life of your rug. I found this to be a process that requires special attention, as you’re sewing through about four layers (and up to eight on seams), so I had to guide it through the tough areas or I would be looking at multiple broken threads on each length. I also used a heavy duty thread to minimize breaks.

9. At this point, you need to repeat the last couple of steps until all your strips have been turned into (what I referred to as) denim yarn. It is then ready to turn into a rug.


Each of these lengths are approximately 39 feet. In this case, since it is a single pair of jeans, the color is uniform, but if you’re making lots of denim yard for a large rug, vary the color and value will result in a more interesting rug. The older the denim is, by the way, will also result in a softer rug under foot.

10. I overlapped but offset the ends of the three pieces of denim yard and sewed them securely.


11. Then it is time to braid!


I had my son hold the ends with a pliers so that I could really tug hard as I braided, but you could also loop it over a door or some other brilliant way (share with me how you do it!). I then braided the three lengths.


I simply clipped the ends together and then wound the braid into a circle. The total length of the braid was just under 39 feet and ended up being a circle with a diameter of 12 inches. I didn’t take a lot of time winding it, but normally I would take more time to make the braid lay flat and sew them together while winding.

So, there are the instructions for making denim yarn and turning into braid. I’ve been working on my yarn for some time and started with this prepared bundles:


The step I left out of the instructions that I used here, was to wind the three inch lengths of fabric into rolls to make it easier to work with. I found after a while that the 39/40 feet length was about as long as I wanted to make the yarn and still be able to easily work with it without tangling. I think it is a matter of preference and offer the length that works for me. I also started sewing about four inches down on each length (and end about 4 inches before the other end), so later when I begin braiding, I can quickly connect the lengths and continue braiding.

Many hours of ironing and sewing went into turning those rolls into this yarn (isn’t there some beautiful variances in color?):


Which when tidied up and stacked neatly looks like this:


The next step is to start braiding!


About MacCupcake

Obviously, a big Mac fan (my first Mac was the first Mac) and mother to the most awesome kid in the world. A techno-junkie and self-proclaimed geek... I love anything and everything relating to computers. Addicted to collecting Pyrex! Also love making things and figuring out how to make or adapt existing stuff into something new! Always ready to try something new!

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