Denim patchwork made easy

The quickest way to join denim pieces

Denim patchwork looks good on almost any project. And in most cases it is also a necessity, because we want to use old jeans and there is usually not enough width in the jeans’ legs to fill the pattern piece. So in order to make a canvas big enough for a pattern we have to join denim pieces one way or another.

This lovely cushion I have found in DapperAlice shop

Obviously first thing comes in mind – is a classical patchwork. Lots of squares and triangles sewn together. It looks really good, but it requires some skill, patience and time.

Another way – is sewing straight legs together. Here I have a tutorial for you you on how to join the legs keeping the original look. This way you will end up with a stripy design and it is good also, but sometimes you would like something more funky. Plus you have all those pieces to use up!

So what is the fastest way to join denim scraps? The raw edge denim patchwork!

In this photo tutorial I will show you my favourite way to join up denim pieces it is what I call “raw edge crazy patchwork”. I like it because it’s fast, easy and allows to use some nice pieces and some plain pieces. This way it is easy to make a canvas for your project as large as you need and to end up with quite funky and interesting design. Plus there is that ripped denim look, which is so on trend now.

It looks random, but there is some thought involved. So let’s look into it.


First, cut out your pattern for your project and gather some pieces of denim. When looking through all those swatches, put aside the ones that you like most and wish to use as the main focal points. For instance I like stonewashed parts, discoloured lines from back of knees, crinkles of all sorts and rips. Rips and hems are my favourite!

Iron all your pieces. This will help you to judge the exact size of each piece and the look of it.

From some unwanted fabric cut out shapes of your project pattern. Those will not be visible, they are just an extra layer to make the whole canvas stronger and they will also help you with laying the denim patchwork. So, cut fabric pattern shapes upon the paper pattern shapes but 1-2 cm larger – for seam allowance. Depending how strong you are planning for your canvas to be, you may be using different stuff, such as padding or interfacing of your choice.

Laying out

Decide for yourself where approximately your best pieces should go – in the middle, usually 🙂

Start laying some pieces right onto the fabric. Nice pieces go to the middle and plain ones towards the sides and bottom. Some pieces should go on top of other pieces, some – under. It will turn out nicer if you don’t lay them in a “fish scales” way, but in random. The more random – the better.

Make sure the base fabric is covered with denim pieces completely.

If you have two or more shapes to fill (like two sides of a bag), don’t forget to leave some of the same color denim for later for the side panels of the case.

When you are making a bag with a straight top for instance for a zipper to be inserted, start laying from this straight edge. Make sure that the grain of denim (texture lines) is parallel with the zipper line or the top of the bag. This avoids stretching and makes the result looking neat and professional with a very little effort.

It can be looking like a mess, but there are some tips to consider.

1. Make sure all the sides of all pieces are overlayed by minimum of 1-2 cm.

2. Make sure the denim pieces are covering the area exact or larger then your shape.

3. Do not overlay tough parts of jeans, such as waist, button hole, fly (where zip is), crotch point, etc. Too thick places are almost impossible to sew through. Try to keep them apart. And even better sometimes is to remove some thickness (from underneath) with help of seam ripper and scissors.

4. The same should be considered for the edges of the shape, where you will sew later. Especially avoid the belt loops.

5. If there will be a zipper or handles inserted after – make sure there is no tough denim layered on the way of the zipper or handles. Like in this guitar case.


Once the fabric shape is completely covered with denim pieces and you are happy with your layout, pin everything down to the base fabric. Pin in many places, so that the whole thing stays flat and holds together. Don’t forget the corners of each piece. Place pins in the way that is easy for you to handle the whole canvas while sewing and to be able to remove pins as you sew.


Sew right over, through all the layers (and the base fabric), along the edges of every denim piece.

Remove pins one by one just before they get under the machine foot.

I usually sew twice – first time with a straight stitch at about 0,7-1 cm distance from the edge, removing pins along the way, just before they are getting under the machine foot. And then I stitch for the second time with a narrow zigzag stitch and right at the edge. This makes it all stronger and the zigzag helps to fray the edges.

Your canvas is ready to use for your project

Iron the whole canvas now, place your paper pattern on top, secure it and cut out the desired shape.

Using the base as a lining

In some cases, usually for small pouches, the base fabric can play a role of a lining as well. This works really well with a pencil case like this >>>

Good luck with your project! I am sure, whatever you are making will come out quite funky with this raw edge patchwork technique.

As you can imagine, the denim canvas made this way is very strong and thick, so it is very suitable for making bags, pouches, cushions and furniture pieces, such as foot stools, bean bags or storage baskets.

Learn more about recycling denim here >>>

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