The Denim Chronicles, Part I, and a little backstory

I’ve got a ton of old denim in my fabric stash.

About 16 years ago, I decided that our grungy white Ikea couch needed covering. What’s more durable than denim? Virtually everyone I know has at least one or two pairs of old jeans in their closet that they never wear, but haven’t gotten around to getting rid of. The plea for discarded jeans went out to my friends and coworkers, and they did NOT disappoint. It took me around a year (off and on) of dissecting jeans, cutting squares, sewing squares into big patchwork fabrics, then assembling it all into an epic slipcover. Each of the cushions and pillows were individually covered as well, and we had a one-of-a-kind denim couch that lasted for several years. Eventually we wore too many holes into the cover and compressed the cushions so much from all our lounging around that we got rid of the couch. The legacy of the patchwork denim couch endures, though, in the pile of leftover denim in my stash. Too much to just toss, and since the jeans had already been cut apart, obviously I couldn’t donate them. 

The patchwork denim slipcover, with my little dog Daisy sitting on it.
Aww, I miss my little Daisy dog so much. ❤

Fast forward to now, and the pile of denim has moved with us to Phoenix, in spite of my desire to get rid of it before making our cross-country move. One less heavy box to worry about, right? Well, my hoarder husband (Bazz) convinced me otherwise, and the denim is taking up not one, but TWO drawers in my sewing room dressers.

Two drawers full of denim scraps from old jeans.
It’s gonna take a while to burn through all of this nonsense.

After being deprived of my sewing machines, supplies, and stash for a year while we rented a small condo and got ourselves established in Phoenix, we bought a house and I was able to finally unpack and set up a proper sewing room. What better way to get my sew-jo back than to use up some of that mountain of denim by making a purse? 

I have this bag that I bought last year at Kohl’s that I use for my work purse. The bag is the perfect size to hold all the junk that I feel like I need to cart around with me during the work week. So I took a bunch of measurements, made some sketches, ripped off an idea from Pinterest, and got to work copying the black bag. 

Because I was going to piece together the front of the bag from denim scraps, brocade, and add a zipper as a design accent, I thought it would be a good idea to use muslin as a foundation. I always use a nice heavyweight non-woven fusible stabilizer when I make a purse, so I stabilized the muslin and started piecing.

Partially pieced front of purse with scraps, lining, and additional denim pieces in the background.
The infrastructure.
Fully pieced exterior of the bag, laying flat before being sew into purse shape.
The outside of the bag.

For the lining, I used some red brocade fabric that I had in my stash. I have a lot of these brightly-colored brocades. I saw them at JoAnn a hundred years ago and fell in love, so I bought a bunch without having any project in mind and without knowing that it’s the worst fabric in the world to work with. The stuff frays like crazy and distorts off grain at the slightest movement, so I opted to fuse a lightweight stabilizer to the back of the fabric to keep it under control. That’s probably one reason why I haven’t sewn with the brocade much; it really misbehaves. Block fusing the brocade made a huge difference, so I’m going to stop avoiding the rest of the brocade in my stash and find some projects to get that stuff used up.

Pile of brightly colored brocade fabrics, with edges fraying into a mess of tangled threads.

The purse came together great, right?

Sure, until I had to actually marry the outer layers of the purse to the lining and get everything finished up. I like to topstitch around the edges at the top of the purse to keep the lining in place, but in some areas (stitching over the straps), I was stitching over EIGHT layers of fabric and interfacing.

Close up view of the top edge of the purse where strap is sewn in, showing the thickness of the layers of fabric.
There are at least 8 layers of fabric there, I promise.

I broke 6 needles, y’all. SIX. I was going to fish the broken needles out of the trash and take a photo of the carnage, but when Bazz took out the trash last week, he actually remembered to empty the can in the craft dungeon. Good job, Bazz! (Really, good job. Thank you.)

I only had three inches of topstitching left when I gave up because I was worried I was going to break my sewing machine. So I ripped out the topstitching that I was able to do and called it a day. It was getting on 5pm on a Saturday anyway and I could hear my stomach screaming at me because I had managed to forget to eat all day.

Finished photo of the purse.
Sometimes “good enough” takes precedent over everything else.

Some features: I went all out (woo!) and ordered little purse feet for the bottom of the bag from Amazon (the JoAnn by me didn’t have them. Jerks). It makes it look more professional and protects the bottom from grungy crap.

Photo of the bottom of the purse showing the metal feet.

I sewed this kick-ass zippered welt pocket thingie in the lining. Here’s the tutorial I referenced. I took it slow and ended up with a really good result.

Photo of zippered welt pocket.
I told you it was kick-ass.

The lining also has this big zippered pocket that divides the purse into two sections, which I love. I like pockets and compartments for all my stuff so that my purse doesn’t turn into a black hole of flotsam.

Photo showing the inside of the purse featuring the center divider pocket.
The red brocade used for the lining was a PITA to work with.

As for the outside of the bag, I do like the way the zipper accent turned out, how it frames the center pieced section. I’m not 100% sold on the dragon embroidery I put on the bottom right, but I left it rather than swap it out for a plain piece of denim.

Photo of the finished purse.

I still, of course, have a mountain of denim to work through. I have a bunch of ideas for using it up, so I imagine you’ll be seeing a fair bit of recycled denim on the blog. Next time, however, I’m taking a break from denim and you’ll get to see my first forays back into garment sewing. 

Thanks for stopping by! You can also find me over on Instagram @pinkyandlalacreate. I’m trying not to post too many dog and cat photos. 😉

— Cat  =^. .^=

10 thoughts on “The Denim Chronicles, Part I, and a little backstory”

  1. Finished > Perfect from what I read. Still looks pretty darn good to be. I might have gone with an Arcanum blue dragon with Sky blue highlights and then glaze in Deep Sea shadows, oh wait, this is thread and not paint…


  2. Wondered what you’d been doing! Great blog, Cathy. And informative for anyone who wants to give their own inner creative some wings. Your work is really special.


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