Denim Month: Upcycled Denim Pinafore

donated jeans

I was gifted a couple of pairs of old Lee jeans size 30”x30”.  The jeans were not in good enough condition to give to a charity shop, and the owner didn’t want them mended, so I felt entirely happy reimagining them as a pinafore for me. The pattern I used is one I made myself, based on a ready to wear garment, but it is very like the Tilly and the Buttons Cleo, and I think the Rickey or Callie pinafores by @thefoldline would work, or the Grace Pinafore by @thepatternpreacher, or the Penelope by @madebyjacksmum… There are so many you could try! 

taking apart denim jeans

I chose to take the jeans legs to pieces, undoing the hems, top-stitching and seams to get fabric I could use as the pinafore panels. The shape of the legs lend themselves to being used ‘upside down’ because the pinafore is wider at the hem than the bodice. I also removed the waistband and unpicked the belt loops on one pair. 

I was able to leave one pair of denim ‘shorts’ intact, which I will donate to a charity shop in the summer, and some ‘fabric’ has gone into my stash for future projects or mending. For the record I am 5’3” tall and measure 35” – 30” – 36”, and I prefer to wear above the knee length dresses. The number of pairs of jeans you would need will inevitably depend on your size and preferences, and the size of the jeans you have found.

Cut in half, the waistband wasn’t quite long enough to make the pinafore straps, but it was simple to add a bit more to the length and then top stitch the whole piece (where I’d unpicked, plus the new bit). My pinafore uses the original button and buttonhole!

Taking apart denim jeans to show reuse of the waistband

Designing as I went, I decided to use a back pocket from the  jeans to make a bib pocket on my pinafore:   

Unpicked left-side jeans pocket on a gridded board
Unpicked right side jeans pocket on a gridded board

Here are some process shots of the front and back of the dress:  

Front view of jeans pinafore showing sewn pocket bags in polka dot fabric and recycled pocket on the front
Back view of jeans pinafore showing denim pocket bag and recycled straps

As you can see I used some spotty scraps for the pocket bags on the front, but denim on the back as this may show. 

sewing together pinafore

I chose to sew my seams on my domestic sewing machine, and then neaten with my industrial overlocker before top stitching. I top stitched with the appropriate thread on the top, and ordinary sewing thread in the bobbin. This needs a bit of balancing of the tension, but I have found many machines don’t like the thicker thread top and bottom. Flat felled seams may be more authentic, but they take much longer without the specialist machinery used in a jeans factory, and this denim is a heavyweight cotton.

thread, labels, denim

As it happens, I ran out of my yellower top stitching thread and swapped to a golden shade rather than buying more. As you may have realised, I love to use what I have! Ditto, I saved all the labels from one pair of the jeans to reuse in my garment. I also added a Kylie and the Machine ‘me made’ label to a side seam.    

"me made" label sticking out of a seam

These were all sewn on by machine, except the leather one (which I decided to stitch on by hand rather than risk making additional holes in the leather).

The insides:

inside of pinafore

And the outsides:  

outside of pinafore

Because I chose to use the old denim there were inevitably some parts that weren’t going to last so I also did a bit of basic embroidery by way of mending. This is the back panel where the straps meet.

And this is the front. I used running stitch to make the stems and leaves, chain stitch for the flowers and French knots for buds. The thread I used was ancient haberdashery from my stash.

embroidery on pinafore

Tricia Morris @morrissews on Instagram 

photo of Tricia in her new upcycled pinafore raising a glass of wine to the photographer

I have always made clothes, but what I make has changed over the years. Where once I made suits for work, then evening dresses, I now make more everyday wear.

I learned to sew at secondary school where I took O and A level Needlework. I then did a 4 year sandwich course at the London College of Fashion, specialising in Production Management. I worked in the clothing industry as a Production Manager at various levels including Factory Manager, before moving on to the Sales team. As a Sales Director I sold to Marks and Spencer, Woolworths and Laura Ashley. My job was to liaise between the customers and our designers, and the factories making the garments. Since then I have been a housewife and mother but have taken up teaching sewing a couple of times a week now that the girls are grown up.


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