Upcycled Blue Jean Basket – Tutorial

Upcycled Blue Jean basket!
Upcycled Blue Jean basket!

So here it is, I promised to show you how I made this cool basket!

This is not a simple task, but it’s not overly complicated either. It is a LOT of work with many little steps – so this is a LONG post. Pay close attention, and if I missed something, don’t be afraid to ask! I searched everywhere all over Pinterest, google, and Etsy, and NO ONE is making baskets like this! So this was my first and only attempt (so far) at basket making.

Lets start with materials.

You can always size this down for a different sized basket. I am considering making more in different sizes and shapes.

***Sorry I don’t have exact measurements of these items—I don’t work that way generally. I’m just a fly by the seat of my pants kinda gal. I did try to take pics for the blog but I didn’t think to measure the dowels, the zip ties, or the blue jean sections. I like to make most of my stuff flexible so sizes can be easily adjusted. Sewing is a completely different story so we won’t go there!

  • I started with 4-5 pairs of jeans
  • A good heavy duty pair of scissors for the jeans
  • 6 or so  large heavy duty/ industrial sized zip ties  (*My hubby used to do A/C work and this is where I got these!)
  • clamps, clips, or clothespins
  • heavy glue that will bond plastic—I used 527 in this pic, but I ended up switching to Amazing Goop which holds plastics much better!
  • Pliers/ cutters for cutting the zip ties
  • Wooden dowels for side supports
  • needle and thread for hand stitching
  • Some quilt batting for cushioning the handle

DSC01662 DSC01665

I had the idea that I was going to make a basket, a rather large basket, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to weave it or braid it. I had started a braided rug-like thing a while back with blue jean strips, and I thought this would make a great bottom for the basket. The rug was taking FOREVER, so it was sitting in my to-do bag anyway and I’m glad to get rid of it!

First I began by cutting the buckle end off of the zip ties. I knew I would be using the plastic bands for the bottom support, the top support, and the handles. Just FYI, it took two bands each for the bottom and top circumferences of the basket. Do not glue them yet!

Second I began by cutting the legs off the jeans to get as much of the length as possible. I threw the top half of the jeans in a basket of jean scrap stuff that I will use later for another project. I don’t throw ANY part of the jeans away.

Then I cut one of the side seams open. This picture below was after cutting one seam so the pant leg is open. I cut the side seam out on the left, then the seam in the middle so that I was left with 2 strips of denim fabric with no seams.

DSC01663I was planning on cutting the bottom seam off the leg as well when I noticed that the seam was about the same width as my zip ties. So I threaded the zip tie through the bottom edge of the denim seam! It fit! I was super excited that I could leave part of the original blue jean look!

DSC01667How awesome is that?

Anhooo, moving on.

Planning on using this edge for the bottom of the basket—-Why not?—-I cut all the denim pieces about 10 inches up from the bottom leg seam. (SET THE LARGER PIECES ASIDE, you will need these later!) I knew I wanted the basket to measure about 8-9 inches tall and I needed the extra inch or so for the top seam too. So the 10″ pieces with the bottom hem you will be using now for the bottom of the basket. I began threading these blue jeans strips onto the zip tie until it was full. I added a second zip tie,  I overlapped the open edges of the zip ties through one of the seams. The seams were tight enough with 2 bands going through it that I did not have to pre glue them but I did add a drop or two of glue on them before sliding them together just for added support later. Once I had the diameter I wanted for the bottom of the basket I overlapped the two open edges of the zip ties (another drop of glue) and threaded them together inside one of the seams again. This should form a circle or oval depending on what size basket you are making.

Almost finished the oval!

I pre glued two of the plastic bands to begin the top edge of the basket. Leave one side open because you will need to thread the top edge through. These bands are so thick that they will NOT just glue together, you have to clamp them and walk away for at least 2 hours. The MFR recommends 24 hours for complete bonding, but it will be mostly dry after 2 hours.


Next I cut the denim at 1″ intervals. Actually I snipped a starter piece at the edge and then proceeded to rip the denim lengthwise on the grain. Denim will tear into perfect strips very easily if you cut it lengthwise. 🙂 The tearing automatically stops when you get to the bottom seam. Perfect!

DSC01672If you don’t have the image going in your head of how this is going to turn out, it should start taking the basic form now.  These strips of fabric are going to be the vertical pieces of your weaving.

Next fold each strip down along the top edge about an inch(wrong side inside the basket) so that you will form a tunnel at the top for the plastic band. Machine stitch 1/4″ away from the open edge of the jeans. ******I know this sounds confusing and I don’t know how to explain it better—-It is just like hemming the pants but you are leaving enough of a hem that the plastic band will fit through the top edge just as you did for the bottom. Check out the picture below to see if this helps!

DSC01675 Here I pre-pinned where I wanted my stitching. I folded the jeans over the edge of the plastic band so I knew how deep my seam needed to be. I took the plastic band out and then stitched the seams. I used a “chain piecing” technique, often seen in quilting, to get through the seams fast enough. This means I did NOT snip the threads in between each strip of denim, I just continued stitching onto the next piece as though it was one piece of fabric.

After all the stitching is complete, then go back and snip the threads in between the strips (if you want to—you may be fine to leave them stitched together).

Now insert the plastic band around the top edge of your basket. Overlap the edges of the band once you have the desired size you want. By this I mean—-Depending on your basket shape, mine is an oval and I chose for the top edge to be wider than the base. You may choose to have it the exact same size. It’s all about personal preference. 🙂


Place a little bit of glue on the plastic bands before you overlap them and make sure they are covered inside your seam. You may have to clamp the bands again  and allow to dry if your bands are not sticking together.

And now you can really see the basket taking shape!


Now add side supports. Cut wooden dowels (about 1/4″ or 3/8″ diameter?) into  9  inch sections or whatever the depth of your basket is. You need about 8 supports. Place them vertically along a strip of denim, evenly around the inside of the basket and stitch them by hand into the strips. Again I forgot to take a picture, but you are just whip stitching around the dowel, and through the denim, over and over from one end to the other. Now you can really see the basket coming together.

Next you are going to go back to the big pieces of denim.

With your scissors snip just a tiny bit of the edges at one inch intervals; approximately—a little size difference won’t matter, in fact it adds character, so don’t bother measuring! Then grab the two pieces and RIIIIIIIIPPPPP! Down the length of the jeans, just as you did for the smaller pieces. My husband actually said OOOO that’s cool, let me try, I wanna help!<<<<Something about guys and ripping fabric, LOL.>>>>> So  I had a big helper to rip my denim into strips. I used all of the pieces from those 4-5 pairs of jeans. I ended up with a big pile of strips., but I forgot to take a picture. 😦 Sorry— there are a few places I am missing pictures!!!

I took my denim strips to my sewing machine and stitched them end to end in random order. I made each longer strip about 3 pieces long in order to make my pieces that would be the horizontal strips of my basket. The three strip length was long enough to go around my basket with a little bit leftover.

Now to begin the weaving process—-the FUN part! I placed one strip along the bottom edge of my basket, leaving out about 4″ or so hanging out,  I began weaving the rest in and out of the vertical strips already in place. When I got around to the beginning again I decided to knot the ends together, and I rather liked the tied look of it.  I was originally going to stitch the ends together by hand, but this came out so much prettier. Gosh I love it when things just happen!


Here are the tied ends in the picture below. I decided to stagger each row as I began so that the knotted pieces each started one more row over for a pretty effect.

Detail of ties up close! ***and my label of course. :)
Detail of ties up close! ***and my label of course. 🙂

Once all the rows were completed I was kinda stumped on the top edge. I could see some of  the plastic bands in between the strips of fabric, YUCK. So I took some leftover strips and braided them—–with each turn of the braid I took one strip and wrapped it through the edge of the basket so I covered those ugly plastic strips poking through.

Now the basket has a beautiful braided edge all the way around the top. <<<And I think I just tied this one on the ends as well!

OK, for the bottom of the basket.

Here I used all my leftover “seams.” I have a box of seams from all the jeans I have recycled. You can use other strips if you don’t collect like I do. I sew these together end to end and then braid them together. Then I sew the braids together by hand in a round or oval fashion, like a braided rug. When I did this the middle of the “rug” puckered a little so I had to steam and press the finished mini-rug with my iron. DSC01692I used a little bit of homemade spray starch (water and a few TBLS of cornstarch) to get the fabric to stiffen a little and maintain it’s shape once I pressed it flat.


How cool is that? Hubby says, you should make a rug like that. I’m like really? No DUH, lol that was my original intent….but it takes SOOOOOOOOOO long and I only have a piece the size of a large basket….

After I was satisfied with the size and shape of the bottom of my basket I flipped the basket over and whip stitched it into place along the bottom edge of the jeans.

Ok, lastly, the handle! Ahhhh, I bet you can’t wait to be done with this project—-I know I was by this point!

I took four blue jean strips, about 8 inches long each (by 1- 1/2″ wide) folded them in half and stitched along each edge, leaving a strip in the middle that formed a pocket about 4 inches long now.  I took two of the plastic bands. placed a little bit of glue on each end, and slid the bands into each blue jean pocket. You should now have two plastic bands that have each end covered with blue jean strips. You will be using these “pockets” to stitch your handles down. These pockets ensure that the handle will not just fall out when you lift your basket by the handle.

I cut a two inch wide strip of quilters batting and wrapped it around the plastic band. Then I took my leftover LONG blue jean strips and wrapped them around the batting covered bands for a nice cushioned handle. I hand stitched the strips at each end of the handle. I made two of these handles and criss-crossed them as seen in the finished picture here:

Upcycled Blue Jean basket!
Upcycled Blue Jean basket!

You can see in the picture how I placed the handles. It actually doesn’t show the cross at the top but oh-well you get the idea? I placed the ends of the handles through the weaving and hand stitched them into place.

Finished! Viola!

This is a OOAK basket—-If I make anymore they will be different I’m sure. I would love to make some smaller ones for fruit bowls in the kitchen, or decorations around the house. The plastic bands do not offer enough support for carrying laundry or anything, so I wouldn’t recommend this for anything other than decoration. I actually thought it would be a cute PHOTO PROP for a newborn baby……for all you photographers out there. 🙂

This basket is being given away by Kelly Cronin Photography.

If you haven’t entered the contest yet please check it out HERE for all the information on the giveaway! Hurry time is almost up!!!

As Always — Don’t forget to visit me on ETSY, and LIKE my page on Facebook to keep up with all the goodies!!!!


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