This jeans messenger bag started as a “I wonder if I could…” kind of project. In this case, I wondered if I could make a small messenger bag out of one pair of jeans (plus fabric for lining). It turns out the answer is YES. And it’s turned out to be one of my favorite bags to carry.
I wanted to retain as much of the character of the jeans – the hem, the side seam, the back pocket, even some frayed edges like you see on distressed denim. But I didn’t want it to look too much like jeans. So I decided against using the top part of the jeans as is, like you see in a lot of jeans bags. And I wanted it to be lined, with no raw edges on the inside. Casual, but not ratty.
The hem was just begging to be made into a flap, so I used that as my jumping off point. A bag with a flap. A messenger! A recycled jeans messenger bag!
From there, it was just a matter of figuring and working it out in my head as I went.
And then I went back and made another one – with improvements suggested by my talented mother-in-law – so I could write it up as a tutorial for you.
Recycled Jeans Messenger Bag – with a Jeans Hem Flap
What you need
- 1 pair of adult jeans, preferably straight leg. Boot cut is okay but flares will be difficult to use.
- 1/2 yard quilting weight cotton for the lining
- Bits of lace and fabric scraps to embellish flap
- Glue stick
- Cut the legs off the pants just under the crotch. Cut all the way up inseam so each leg is now a flat rectangle. You may notice them hem is curved or wonky. That’s okay – we can work with that.
- Cut one leg 19″ from the bottom hem. Trim to 14″ wide. (The width is flexible. You can go an inch more or less depending on the size of your denim piece or personal preference.) This is the bag body.
- Cut the other leg 8″ from the bottom hem. Trim to 12″ wide. (Or 2″ less than width of first piece.) This is the flap.
- Cut the remainder of the second leg (the larger scrap) into strips 1 3/4″ wide.
- Cut one of the back pockets from the seat of the pants. Keep the pocket on the jeans, just cut around it 1/2” on all sides.
- From the lining fabric, cut pieces the same size as your denim pieces. (14” wide x 19” tall, and 8” wide x 19” tall)
- Embellish the flap as desired. Some ideas include – strips of fabric or lace, appliqués cut from vintage fabric, dimensional fabric flowers, etc. Go wild.
The step may seem weird but it has a purpose, I promise. The hemmed edge of your flap is most likely curved in some way. This step will help you fold under the edge of the flap lining to match that curve.
- Take your flap and flap lining to the irony board. Place the flap on top of the flap lining, wrong sides together and with 1/2″ of the lining peeking beyond the hemmed edge of the flap.Fold the edge of the lining up over the hemmed flap edge, and iron to crease. Set the flap aside.
- Iron under a 1/2” seam allowance down each side of the flap lining.
- Place the flap lining on the flap, wrong sides together and with the flap lining centered across the flap. Pin or glue in place, and edge stitch around the three folded edges. (If you glue in place, be sure to iron it for a few seconds to make sure the glue is good and dry before you sew it on your machine.)
- Trim sides of the flap close to the lining.
- Zig zag raw edges of denim to help control fraying. Use a shorter stitch to better control the fraying.
- Sew the pocket on the bag body piece 2” from the top and 2.5” from the right side. I sewed around the pocket three times – once close to the edge of the pocket, once 1/8” from the edge of the fabric around the pocket, and then a zig zag around the raw edge to control fraying.
- Remember that weird step where we folded the lining up over the hemmed edge of the bag flap? We’re going to do the same thing for the bag body. (Sorry, didn’t take a picture.)
- Fold bag body almost in half vertically, with hemmed edge ½” lower than the raw edge. Stitch sides with 1/2” seam allowance.
- Repeat the above step for the lining.
- Now we’re going to box the corners. Pull the corners at the sides, then turn the fabric and flatten so the side seam now goes down the middle.
Sew across the triangle (perpendicular to your side seam), 1” from the point.
Trim off the point to reduce bulk.
Add flap to bag
- Place the lining inside the bag body, right sides facing. (Lining should be turned right side out. Bag body should be inside out.)
- Insert the flap BETWEEN the lining and the bag body, with raw edges together and the right side of the flap facing the right side of the bag body (back).
Center the flap between the side seams, 1” from each side. Pin in place.
- Sew raw edges between side seams with 1/2″ seam allowance. DO NOT SEW THE FRONT YET.
- Turn the bag right side out through the large hole across the bag front.
- Pin or glue the flap lining in place across the open edge. Top stitch all around the top of the bag closing the front opening. (Sorry, no photo again. I got ahead of myself and started forgetting to take photos.)
- Sew strips of denim together, ends overlapping, to make two 54” long straps 54″. I overlapped the pieces by 3/4″ and stitched a box shape for extra strength. Start your second strap with a shorter strip so the joins will be staggered when the two straps are sewn together.
- Place the straps wrong sides facing and sew down each side 1/4″ from edge.
- Zig zag stitch down all sides to control fraying. Use a shorter stitch to better control the fraying.
- Sew the strap to the bag outside, centering the strap ends across the side seams. Stitch in a box shape with an x across for durability.
Your bag is done! Yay you!