Blue jeans are the classic go-to for millions and millions of us. Pretty much, jeans and a t-shirt is my standard, daily wear. No fuss, not fussy, and both can take years of wear. Every once in a while, though, I’ll wear out a pair of jeans and, I have to be honest here, it’s tough to just put them in the trash.
When we can, we patch them up and a local seamstress repairs belt loops that I somehow manage to rip on a regular basis. But, then, there are times when a pair of jeans is beyond repair, so I did a little research for ways to recycle them (“going green”, right?) and here’s what I came up with.
For most all these projects, some sewing skills will be needed. Looking ahead to a possible longterm power grid failure, a treadle sewing machine would be a good investment. Here’s what you should know about buying one of these old stand-bys, and this article details the sewing supplies that would be a good addition to your preps.
- Hand me downs — If a pair of jeans, and I’m thinking kids for the most part, aren’t full of holes, they can be used by younger/smaller members of the family.
- Store for TEOTWAWKI — Since jeans are so rugged and last for so long, keep larger sizes for clothing storage as kids eventually grow. They could also be used to sell and/or barter.
- Make a tote bag or purse — I’ve seen totes, backpacks, satchels, and other bags made out of jeans.
- Rifle sling — With a buckle, its length could be customized. The one in this image is a little on the fancy side, but is a good example.
- Use denim to make a quilt — With my sister’s help, my young daughter made a denim patchwork quilt. The sewing was basic and simple and the finished quilt is very heavy and warm.
- Sew a denim “ruffle” to the bottom of a dress or skirt to lengthen it — Modesty has made a comeback in the fashion world for a lot of girls and women, so this would be a way to get more wear out of a skirt or dress that has been outgrown.
- Make hot pads — Cut out 8-10″ squares of denim, layer them with Insul-Bright (an insulated, padded lining), and then stitch up.
- Make a hot rice pad for sore muscles — This is a simple project, makes a great gift, and who doesn’t appreciate some applied heat to sore parts of the body?
- Make a draft dodger to put along the bottom of a door or window — This is similar in design to the rice pad, but use sand to make it heavier.
- Cut offs — These were in fashion back in the 70’s. Not really fashionable anymore but when you need a pair of shorts, they take less than 5 minutes to create.
- Heavy duty apron — Tool aprons, kitchen aprons — they are all possible projects with old jeans.
- Herbal heat wrap — This is similar to the hot rice pad. Just add either dried herbs, like lavender or rosemary, or mix several drops of essential oil with the rice.
- Sew cut off legs together to create seat covers for home or vehicle
- Picnic quilt — denim, padding, plastic tablecloth or other waterproof material. The Survival Mom has these instructions for a picnic blanket — denim layer on one side, a plastic tarp on the other.
- Bibs — One pair of old jeans could give you 3 or 4 good sized bibs for babies and toddlers of different ages.
- Drawstring bags — dirty clothes bag, shoe bags, etc. Cloth bags like these are easy to roll up tight and have as an extra backpack if/when I ever need one.
- Cut off legs, sew end, fill with sand, sew top. Sandbag.
- Cut off the pockets and use them in different ways to hold things
- Pillow covers — This is a good use for several pairs of old jeans.
- Use old jeans to make patches for clothing, tarps, other heavy clothing. I always keep at least one old pair around to use for this purpose.
- Use fabric to reinforce other pieces of clothing — knees, elbows, etc.
- Painting or gardening pants — I have an old t-shirt that’s my “painting shirt” and the same with one old pair of jeans that I use only when I’m repairing a car, painting, or doing some other dirty work.
- Cover a tree stand seat
- Plastic grocery bag holder — I never know what to do with all those plastic bags but this would be a good use for one of the legs on a pair of jeans.
- Gardening apron — sew on additional pockets from other old jeans. This would be a good plan for an egg collecting apron, too.
- Charcloth — If nothing else, give this project a try for handy tinder.
- Cut up jeans, dip into melted wax for firestarter — Another creative survival use for old jeans.
- Strips of denim for tourniquets — Know your first aid before trying this, but tourniquets are back in favor as a way of saving a life when there’s no other way to stop blood flow and a life is in danger. These are the tourniquets our family’s kits are equipped with, but if there’s nothing else available, it would be necessary to find a creative solution.
- Dog bed cover — Use the instructions for the denim pillow cover — just triple or quadruple the size, depending on your dog.
- Rug from waist bands — Something innovative and useful from a part of old jeans that usually ends up in the trash.
- Part of patchwork fabric for other items — vest, stuffed animal, etc.
- Insulated curtains/window covering — We’ve not made these but if a denim quilt is as heavy and warm as I know it to be, denim curtains would be a really smart strategy to insulate windows from either the cold or heat. Line them with fleece or some other insulative fabric for even more protection. They would also act as blackout curtains if need be.
- Pockets as trivets — Double up on the insulation layer to protect table and countertops.
- Coasters — This would be a good way to teach sewing skills to kids, and the final project looks to be useful and fun.
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