What to do with old jeans, what to make with them, or how to reuse them, is a big question in some families. Denim jeans are the kind of clothing that rarely wears out evenly. They easily get holes in the knees, leaving plenty of sound fabric down the backs of the legs. They wear out in the inner thigh, and the lower legs and fronts still look brand new. Or they’re so long-wearing that they are completely outgrown before the fabric even starts to wear out. There are a lot of uses for old jeans that will keep all that good fabric from going to waste.
Patching and mending jeans is a great way to prolong their lives, and there are a lot of methods for that. My advice is to always sew down the patch, even the iron on ones, to avoid the adhesive peeling up and to keep the patch from looking ratty. Shaped patches of patterned cotton can even look like decorative appliqués.
There does come a point, however, when jeans have been patched and mended too much. Sometimes the worn fabric around the patches just won’t hold the stitches anymore. At this point, though, there is usually still plenty of good fabric left. The upper thighs and lower legs rarely wear as much as the rest of the jeans do.
To retrieve this good fabric, start by washing all the worn out jeans you’ve collected. Then settle in with some sharp scissors and start cutting. Remove seams by cutting along each side of the stitching, leaving a long strip. It’s not worth trying to undo the stitching, because the seams are generally serged and very narrow, meaning that ripping out the stitches will be very time consuming but save a very little bit of fabric.
Cut the inseam out, from the cuff of the leg, up to the crotch, and back down to the other cuff. If you’d like the top of the jeans intact for any reason (the crotch up can make cute purses and aprons if the fabric isn’t stained or worn there), cut the jeans across at crotch level, making two open legs, and one tube of seat and waist. Otherwise, continue cutting along all the seams, cutting the jeans into four pieces; two font legs and two back legs. Depending on how you will use your denim fabric, you might also want to trim away the fly, the belt loops, and the remove the back pockets.
Trim off any worn fabric. It’s best to do this as you cut the jeans apart, so you won’t be tempted to use any of the weak fabric in your project in order to get just one more piece cut from the jeans. Any fabric that is whitened, or thin enough to see light through, or just too worn looking should be removed, because weakened denim easily tears along the stitching, and using it in a new project can make the new item wear out much too quickly.