How to customise your jeans – patchwork style -tutorial

A couple of weeks ago I shared some of my latest handmade wardrobes makes which included my upcycled patchwork jeans. There was nothing really wrong with the jeans before I started chopping them about, apart from they were just quite plain and boring! I’ve been admiring patchwork denim for a while so I decided to give these jeans a facelift.

I think this would be a good project to do with a pair of jeans that you have fallen out of love with because of the leg shape. It would work well if you wanted to reduce flared or bootcut shapes.

I promised to share the tutorial for these, so here is how I made them.


A pair of jeans that fit around the waist and hips.

old denim jeans, jacket or fabric

1 metre (similar weight to the jeans) denim. I used this denim

embroidery thread (optional)

How to make:

Start by roughly mapping out your design with the pieces of fabric you have. You can get more colour variation by using the back of the denim for some of the patches. I used the original pair and an old faded, ripped pair as well as the piece of denim. Decide where you will cut each trouser leg off and how many patches you will sew on. I wanted mine to look deliberately random so made the cuts at different heights.

If you want to reshape the leg it is a good idea to pin excess fabric and try on to see how the shape looks. Once you are happy with the leg shape keep notes of how much you have reduced width by and at what points.

1. Using a set square or pattern making ruler draw a line at 90 degrees to the hem line on the front of the jeans.

2. Use this line to create another 90 degrees line where you want to cut the leg off. Using the same method do the same on the other leg at the point you have decided you wanted to cut.

3. Carefully cut through the jeans on these lines, make sure the back is not twisted so you are making a clean straight cut through front and back.

4. Cut the front and back pieces that you have removed from the jeans carefully along the seam lines, so that you have a separate front and back.

This is used as the pattern for your new jeans so if you have noted alterations to the shape make the alterations to these panels.

5. Once appropriately adjusted pin the panel to the denim fabric, mark a 1.5cm seam allowance around the edges before cutting. Repeat this for the second leg.

6. If you have another pair of jeans you are working with you might like to remove a back pocket and replace with one from the other pair. Carefully unpick the pocket from the jeans you are customising as well as from the pair that you are using for patching.

7. The stitching is very dense at the top edge of most jeans pockets so it may be impossible to remove the pocket without making a hole in the fabric. My new pocket was large enough to cover this so I used a tight zig zag stitch to cover the hole before sewing the new pocket on. You could leave this area without a pocket and add embroidery or leave plain.

8. Sew the new pocket in place. Join the new front and back leg pieces at the outer leg seam, neaten the raw edges with an overlocker or zig zag stitching. For one leg I used the right side of the fabric and the other I used the reverse to create more colour variation.

9. Unpick the inside leg seam. With right sides together pin the new lower leg panels to the appropriate leg, neaten raw seams.

10. Now cut some patches to stitch on. I used the reverse of a piece from the original jeans leg and a ripped piece from the old jeans. Cut the denim to the shape and size you like. I left the edges raw and stitched onto the jeans. I added some simple running stitch using embroidery thread over the ripped patch.

Before closing the inside leg seam I overlock edged the hems. Stitching through three layers of denim can be tricky for many machines so I decided to turn a single turned hem.

Sew the inside leg seam together, neaten raw edges before turning and stitching the hems.

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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