Deconstructing A Pair of Jeans With the Least Amount of Waste

I recently found instructions on how to create a rag rug. Of course, I want to try to make one with denim. And not new denim, but the soft, broken-in denim, like your favorite pair of jeans. And the best place to find that is, in fact, an old pair of jeans. Or rather, in a lot of old jeans.

So I started collecting old pairs of jeans. Off to my favorite thrift stores and second hand shops. Actually, I wanted a nice variety in the colors, so I picked some that looked new and were dark blue, and I picked out some that had wear and fading and were almost white in some cases. Then there were pairs in the middle, a nice hue of blue, some with fraying and some with spots – like the thighs or knees or butts. I started looking for the larger sizes and the lower priced pairs.

Side note: Even thrift stores have sales! The stores that we visit seem to have a color rotating method. It keeps stock fresh and making room for new arrivals. Always check at the front for which color is discounted.

So, The Kid and I had hit a GoodWill store on a different side of town while we were out delivering a dresser. The colors of the day where white and yellow -50% off – so I headed to the men’s jeans section. I found ten pairs of jeans in sizes larger than 42″ waist sizes marked at $2.48… so I walked out of there with lots of denim material and only spent about $12! Couldn’t buy that much new material in a store and this was soft and had a variety of colors.

Then it was time to take apart the jeans. I searched the internet for instructions, but I either found ways to do it that were inefficient (taking the seams apart with a seam ripper – yeah, right) to those that wasted too much fabric. I had instructions for using other portions of the jeans, like the waistband and outside seams, so I didn’t want to waste anything.

So, I decided to write my own instructions as I took apart the pants. There are a couple of terms that I will use that might not be obvious to all readers:

a. I will refer to the thread as gold, although it may be a different color.

b. If you’re not comfortable handling a single edge razor, a seam ripper could be used, but it will dull very quickly. In fact, the razor blades that I use are really only stay sharp through two to three pairs of jeans. Once I find some resistance in pulling the razor blade, I switch for a new one.

c. I will refer to seams as “inner seam” and “outer seams”. Inner seams are folded in and have no outside stitching, while an outer seam has the bulk on the outside and will have decorative gold stitching:

Inner:Outer SeamsOkay, let’s take apart some jeans:

1. First up is removing the brand label. Not all jeans have these, although I have found that most do. I found a cute use for them, by re-attaching them all to a denim pillow. May or may not do this, I guess when I’m done with the rug, I’ll see if I have enough.

DSCN34752. I have found the fastest way to take apart almost everything related to the jeans. Slide the razor blade at a corner and carefully pull towards you. Continue all the way around.

3. Jeans are tough. And one of the things that make jeans so long lasting is the reinforcement at stress points. Like the back pockets and belt loops and bottom of the zipper. The key to making it easier to deconstruct a pair of jeans is in tackling these reinforcements. Cutting through the reinforced seam is the most straightforward and easiest way to loosen the remainder of the seam.

DSCN34744.  I start by cutting through all of the belt loop reinforcement – just the bottom, where it actually connects below the waist band. Then, one by one, pull the belt loop away from you and using the blade, cut just the gold threads.

5. Next, we’re going to remove the waist band. I actually have a project that will use the waistbands and the belt loops attached (at the top), so it is important for me to cleanly cut the seams.

6. I find a spot where the seam isn’t reinforced or that it has more than one row of stitches. And then it is just a matter of cutting all those seams. I find this to go pretty quickly, the two areas you will find that need more attention is at the the ends – where the button hole and button come together. Just keep pulling back on the seam to reveal the stitches.

7. Next we’re going to remove the zipper and all of its components. I know some would like to keep the zippers, but in my case, I know that I would never reuse them. I rarely use zippers, but when I have, they have been much longer than the ones that come from these jeans. This is the first waste product.

Using sharp scissors, cut as close as you can to the outer seam.

DSCN3515Continue all the way down around the curve to the seam.

DSCN35168. Then repeat on the other side of the zipper.

DSCN34909. Now continue cutting to the side of the ‘out’ seam. This will continue around to the waist in back (between the pockets).

10. Now you have essentially two separate legs. Now you want to split the seams to capture as much of the fabric as possible. Start by cutting along the outer seam all the way to the bottom hem. Cut through the hem.

DSCN349311. Now cut off the hem and set it aside. I actually have used all of my hems in a very special project. It is SO cool! Just because I keep and use something, doesn’t necessarily mean you will, so keep only what you want and can use.

12. Now, lay the pant leg out. Then fold it in half, right sides together based on the inner seam. Now, cut off the inner seam, keeping as close as you can to the seam.

13. As you cut the inner seam, you will fun into the pocket as it is incorporated into the seam. Translation? Many layers of fabric! So once you have reached this point, open the fabric and cut with as few layers as possible. You also may have to contend with rivets at the pocket site. These can be heck on scissors, so be careful!

14. On the front (with the pocket) cut the outer seam to remove the pocket. I have a project in mind for the mini-pocket (or change pocket) so, I cut away most of the pocket construction and the white portion. I try to leave some fabric around the smaller pocket, so I can accomplish this other project.

15. Now time to remove the back pockets. You could actually do this at any point in the project, but I like to have everything already done and then sit down on the couch with my box of razor blades and remove the pockets while I watch television.

2015-05-12 21.11.10Again, pull the sharp edge across the reinforcement at the both corners, once or twice. Once you’ve gotten past the reinforcement seam, the remainder of the pocket is pretty easy.

I’ll share with you my little secret. Some of this fabric is going to be used to upholster a wing back chair. And removing the pocket reveals a darker fabric underneath and adds more visual interest. Even if you are cutting the fabric for use in a quilt or some other project, the difference between the faded and not-so-faded fabric.

16. Steps 10 through 16 as necessary to complete the deconstruction. When you’ve done, this should be the total pieces from a single pair of jeans to be discarded. I save the outside seams but the not the inside seams.

DSCN3518And here is my bounty. This pile represents about 30 pairs of jeans, ranging from size 30 all the way up through 54″!

IMG_4209The fabric shown in the photo above, is to be cut into strips and then braided into the denim rag rug.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 4.19.00 PMI actually have much more that I am deconstructing slightly different as I am using it for a upholstery project. I got the idea from the photo above. I just love the juxtification between the formality of the chair yet informal fabric of salvaged denim. The small hints of pockets and seams just adds to the overall delight.

My chair is a little different than the style above, the back has a tufts rather than a flat surface. And this is where the different shades of blue will bring such a uniqueness to it.

Here are some other images that influence me:

Okay, that’s it for today. If you have further questions, comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them!


Taking the “Pane” out of Making Stained Glass

You can thank the Kid for the title of this post. I just love his quirky sense of humor… gets that from me, I suspect.

I promised to give you some tips and hints about using glass paint to make faux stained glass. I have been using the products from Plaid, their Gallery Glass line. Of their product line, I have used both the glass paint and the “leading” strips. I stumbled onto their products at an estate sale, purchasing a large box of craft products ostensibly for the beads and paint and some other items. But since I now had the supplies, curiosity got the better of me and I set off to figure out how to use it.


After much trial and error – including the mistake that the paint was to be brushed on – I finally got the hang of using the paint. I’ve gotten quite adept at using it with some very nice results.


DSCN1996This particular glass contained was a 99¢ glass vase from a thrift store. I liked that the edges were rounded. I started with the leading strips, these particular ones are an eighth319OU8-c8+L inch wide. They are adhesive that once applied are able to be adjusted for a few days. But once they have been on the glass for a few days, they are permanent. I started but running lead around the top and bottom and then divide the space with an additional one or two lines. Then as it appeals to me, I make vertical and diagonal lines. I use a razor blade or exacto knife to get the joints very tight. I continue until I am satisfied.

DSCN1997Then it is time to add the color. Don’t be afraid to fill into the blank spaces with a lot of paint, the thicker and wavier you make the paint, the more distorted and “stained glass-like” it will appear. I like to lay the piece on its side and fill in all of the areas that are presented. The glass is dry to the touch in a few hours but can be disturbed if touch or scratched. I like to let the paint set up for at least 24 hours before applying any real pressure.


DSCN1999Continue with random color selections until you’ve completed all sides. Allow to dry. It’s that easy!


I’ve done a number of pieces, round, square and even flat panes of glass. I am working on a piece that is almost finished that will decorate the top portion of a arched window in my kitchen, of course in my favorite colors: red and white! The paints are almost fully cured and then I have to install it. And of course take some photos. I hope you will come back and see my results.


PS – For those interested, I am not being paid for nor sponsored in any way for the mention of any products in this post. I just like the way that these particular products work and want to share with you my success.

Kid’s Room Re-Do, Part 2 (We’re making progress!)

Got up early and decided to get this post finished and published!

I think I’ve mentioned once or twice or a hundred times that I am a big lover of recycle, reduce, reuse. The Kid too. So when it came time to outfitting the new room with furniture, I really wanted to find the perfect pieces.

In a recent thrifting trip, one that we happened upon completely by accident and almost didn’t stop, we found this lovely piece. Unfortunately, I don’t have a ‘before’ picture with the drawers in. But you can see that it needed some love.

I always go straight to the furniture sections at thrift store, the Kid heads to electronics. For someone still in his teens, he has a ‘nostalgic’  spot for “antique” computer and gaming equipment. Definitely need a lot of storage space in his room for his beloved collection.

This particular thrift store had a pretty sizable selection of furniture, unfortunately, most of it was junk. You know, those mass pieces put out in the last few years of particular or pressboard and with little to no personality. The prices of this stuff was pretty high too. I see a lot of those entertainment centers that were so popular when 32″ televisions weighed more than VW Bugs and were almost the same size. Now with flat screen televisions being mounted on the wall, those entertainment units are a dime a dozen. Most of them aren’t worthy of a second look though.

I found one recently, though, made of solid wood that I turned into a play kitchen. You can check it out here.

Anyway, we were just about to leave the store when I saw a few “older pieces” that had been shoved toward the back. I guess who ever was organizing the store didn’t see the value in all-wood, handmade furniture from 50 years ago. Good for me, bad for the store. And the store was running a promo of 30% off all furniture. The piece that caught my eye wasn’t marked and I had to track down someone who could tell me the price. Considering how overpriced everything else was, I figured this would be well out of my price range.

Obviously the young man “in charge” obviously wasn’t one of those who recognized quality, not real quality. When he took a look at the piece, he quipped “$40”, almost with a question mark at the end. I asked if the discount applied and he said yes. That means that I was walking out of there with this all-wood, quality piece for thirty bucks!

So, it just fit in the back of my car (have I told you about my little SUV? It is so versatile and I can work it to death!) and carted it home. Of course I forgot to take a photo before I started working on it, but here it is with just the drawers in the center removed:

You can see that this piece is all wood… it is such a wonderful piece, worthy of restoration. So, I jumped right in and after a light sanding, I started to apply the first of five coats of my beloved Deep Space Black. I used a foam roller and light coats, it comes out so beautifully. The paint is a semi-gloss, so even though the finish is soft, it is still shiny. It is beautiful.

Here is the crowning glory. In keeping with the mechanical/industrial theme of the room, I wanted to use unique handles. The ‘ribbon bow’ look of the original handles is beautiful, but not in keeping with the theme. After searching high and low and not finding what we’re looking for, I had an idea.

I saw this idea on FAB… have you been on the site? Wonderful selection of unique and wonderful stuff. A few weeks back, they showed these lamps:

I was determined to incorporate this design into the room. And I thought… why not handles for the console? So off to the Home Depot (I wonder if I can get corporate sponsorship for as much as I visit this guys!?) to browse the piping aisle.

And here is what I came up with:

So, here’s a short tutorial about how I did it. Obviously the handle is three pieces, you simply screw the three pieces together. Each handle is two 90 degree couplings with a 3 inch nipple. But how to attach it to the console? The Kid actually came up with the idea… fill the pipe with wood and then using a wood screw,  install it through the existing hole.

So using a wood dowel, I simply screwed it into each handle end:

Then clamping it and sawing it off even with the end of the piping joint (a couple needed to be sanded to get them level with the end of the coupling):

This is what you end up with:

And here are the five handles ready to be attached to the cabinet. Be forewarned, these are actually meant to be used in plumbing, so they are dirty and greasy. I used some ‘GooBeGone’ (although any degreaser or soap would probably work) and an old towel to thoroughly clean them before I attached them. After working with them during the process, my hands were absolutely black!

And here is the finished piece, with the handles attached. It really adds a nice ‘industrial’ touch to the console. He will be putting his television on top of the cabinet and then the gaming systems in the side cabinets. When he plays, he simply needs to open the cabinet doors and he will be ready to play! And when he is done, everything is neatly hidden and stored in the drawers and cabinets.

So, there is the finished product. I am so pleased with how this turned out and with a relatively inexpensive total. The cabinet was $30 and the total hardware was about $25. The paint, which I have been using for many projects, was $30 for a paint-and-primer semi-gloss and I already had all the painting supplies. I estimate the total for this piece right at $60! I would have spent ten times that amount in Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn for a similar piece and I wouldn’t have been half as happy with it. 🙂

Up next is to finish painting the room. First thing in the morning! At the same time, I think we can get the ceiling fan and task lighting installed. We may actually get so far as to get all the furniture pieces into the room, once we have the bed assembled. It is a whole ‘nuther project! Keep coming back for the next installment!

Okay, thanks for stopping by!  Happy Crafting Y’All!

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