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Denim is a very durable and versatile fabric. It has been used in fashion from couture dresses to casual jeans, swimwear to accessories. For some people, finding just the right pair of jeans is the definition of the perfect wardrobe. When those blue jeans, for whatever reason, become not-so-perfect anymore, it's time to give them a second life and upcycle them into another fashionable item for your closet.

Prepare Your Jeans

Lay the blue jeans flat on your work surface and, using your ruler and chalk, draw a line across the front of the jeans from hip to hip, right under the crotch.

Cut along the chalk line removing the legs from the upper portion of the jeans.

Pick up one of the jean legs and cut off the bottom hem and inside seam. Be sure to cut very close to the seam line so you'll have plenty of fabric to work with to make your vest. Repeat with the other leg. You now have two rectangles of fabric with a seam down the center of each one.

Cut the waistband off your jeans right along the seams. Use the seam ripper to remove the belt loops if they are attached to the pants. If the loops are sewn entirely to the waistband leave them as is. You will be using the waistband as the neckband on your vest.

Make Your Pattern

Lay your button-down shirt, front side up, flat on your work surface.

Pin tracing paper over one side of the shirt so you can make a pattern of half of the shirt front, not including the sleeves. Your pattern will include the armhole, shirt side, bottom edge, button-hole edge, neckline and shoulder.

Trace the shirt's edges and seams with your pencil on the tracing paper.

Unpin the paper from the shirt and lay it flat on your work surface. Draw another outline 1 inch away from the line you traced. This is for your seam allowance.

Adjust the neckline of your vest by drawing a line from the inside of the shoulder to a point midbust on the button-hole edge. This will give your vest a V-neck. Cut out your paper pattern on the seam allowance line.

Lay your button-down shirt backside up, flat on your work surface. Measure from one side to the other, right under the armpits. and make a note of the measurement. This will be the width of the back of your vest. You will be adding a 1-inch seam allowance to this measurement when you draw it on the denim.

Sew a Blue Jean Vest

Lay one of the jean legs flat on your work surface. Do not open it up, but keep it folded in half with the seamed edge on your left and rough edge on your right. Lay the front vest pattern on the jeans so the inside edge of the vest is aligned with the rough edge of the fabric. Pin the pattern to the fabric being sure to pin through both layers.

Adjust the pattern by folding it up and repinning in place if you decide you would like a shorter vest. If you would like the vest to be longer, use your ruler and chalk to draw a line, directly on the denim, from the side bottom edge of the vest pattern down to whatever length you'd like your vest to be.

Cut out the two pieces of your vest front and remove the pattern.

Measure the length of your vest front from the arm hole to the bottom edge and make a note of it. Now you have the length and width for your back piece.

Lay the other jean leg on your work surface. Open it up, right side up with the seam flat in the center. Add one inch to the length and width measurements you took for the back piece of your vest. Use your chalk and draw a rectangle that size on the denim. Cut out the rectangle.

Drape the jean waistband around your neck and center it at the back. Determine how long you long you want the neck strap to be, add another inch to each side for the seam allowance and make a mark with your chalk. Cut the neckband to the length you marked.

Pin one end of the neckband to one of the vest front shoulders, right sides together. If the shoulder is wider than the neckband just wrap it to the inside of the neckband then pin in place. Trim the excess fabric if necessary and stitch the neckband to one shoulder. Repeat on the other vest front shoulder. Double stitch for durability. Now you have two vest front pieces attached to a neckband. The style of this vest is like a halter top, so there will be a gap between the neckband and the back of the vest.

Lay the back piece right side up on your work surface. Lay the vest front on top of it, right sides together, and line up the side edges. Pin the sides together from armpit to bottom edge. Sew the sides to the back of the vest. Double stitch for durability.

Fold all the raw edges of the vest under 1/2 inch to the inside and sew close to the edge, using the presser foot as a guide. Fold over again 1/2 inch to the inside, sewing close to the edge for a nice finished look.

Put on your vest and determine where you would like the button to be placed to hold the vest closed and mark the position with your chalk on the vest.

Remove the vest and place it face up on your work surface. Place the button slightly above where you made the chalk mark. Using the button as a guide, draw a dotted line slightly larger than the diameter of the button.

Set your sewing machine to buttonhole or zigzag stitch and sew around the dotted line. Do not stitch directly on the line. Cut a hole between the stitches to make your buttonhole.

Overlap the front edges of the vest where the button will hold it together. Use your chalk to mark the other side of the vest through the buttonhole where you are going to attach the button.

Thread your hand-sewing needle and knot the end. Push the needle up through the back of the fabric where you made the mark for your button. Feed the button onto the needle and sew the button to the front of the vest.


If you aren't a fan of the one-button look, add more buttons down the front. You could also attach grommets to the front edges and lace the front closed. Other options to keep the vest closed include using snaps or a zipper.

About the Author

Amy Lyn

Amy Lyn has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and development. She has worked with nonprofit, arts, education and technology organizations. Lyn holds a B.A. in journalism from the University of Massachusetts.