How to Make Your Own Sustainable Tote Bag from Denim Jeans

DIY Sustainable Denim Tote Bag

DIY Sustainable Tote Bag

In this post we will be DIY-ing our very own sustainable tote bag but before we get to the steps, it is story time! Since our nationwide Movement Control Order aka MCO (again) started over a week ago, we have been spending so much time at home given that most of us have to work from home. This has urged me to repeat one of our compulsory MCO routine last year which was spring cleaning. Oh my, who would have imagined how much new junk I can come up with within one year! Got to blame that on unnecessary and impulsive shopping on Shopee website.

One thing I noticed in this spring cleaning is how many clothes do not fit me anymore ESPECIALLY my jeans! I cannot believe I used to own so many pairs and since I have not really gone out anywhere, I have sort of neglected my wardrobe. Staying at home all day long also meant my screen time has increased exponentially but being a fair diplomat that I am, I divided my time fairly between YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest – the perfect procrastination combo. My extra exposure to these magical sites probably has rubbed off on me with project inspirations to work on during this lock-down.
As I was reading an article on Facebook about sustainable fashion, I glanced to my side at the pile of “Clothes That Had Shrunk” in the basket by the door. Like a lightning, I was struck with the idea of repurposing some of the clothes into something that I can actually use because obviously I cannot wear shrunken clothes, right? So, I head over to Pinterest and voila! DIY sustainable tote bags! I love tote bags and I certainly love SUSTAINABLE tote bags but most of all, I love FREE sustainable tote bags (because I will be making it!!). I manage to make TWO tote bags with one pair of jeans. See how I did it below.

Things That You Need

  • A pair of old jeans
  • A ruler
  • A pair of sharp fabric scissors
  • A fabric chalk or marker
  • A sewing machine or needle and thread if you want to hand-sew
  • Pins

    The First Bag – The Simple Denim Sustainable Tote Bag


    The steps in making the first tote bag

    1. First, we are going to start by laying down the jeans flat on a large and even surface like a floor or a big table.
    2. Measure 45 cm from the bottom of the jeans legs and make a line using the chalk and cut according to the line.  
    3. Take one of the jeans legs and cut along one of the seams horizontally to open up the fabric. Repeat on the other jeans leg and now you have two wide fabrics for the bag.


        4. Cut 4.8cm squares on the bottom corners of the fabric.

        5. Sew the seams on the two sides and the bottom part of the bag.

        6. Join the sides of the square and sew horizontally with some seam allowance along the line.


        7. Put aside the top part of the jeans for the second bag.

        8. You can design your strap however you like it without using the jeans fabric, but I like the cohesiveness of the simple look on the tote bag by using the same material.

        9. For the strap, I cut each of the strips on one side of the seams. Then I joined two strips together so that I will have a long strip for the strap. Repeat the same process for the other strip.

        10. Unfortunately for me, I was not left with much fabric to make wide straps, but I improvised. I folded the two sides of the strips in the middle and used a zigzag stitch function on my machine to sew the strip into a decent strap.

        11. Lastly, sew the straps on the bag and you are done with your first DIY denim sustainable tote bag.

           There you go, the first tote bag is done. Really, its that easy. Try it to believe it 

            Just in case you are more of a visual person, here is the tutorial video which I refereed to while making this bag. I improvised a little bit on the straps part because I wanted to fully utilize the jeans and minimize fabric waste. Always feel free to improvise and make it work for you.

            The Second Bag – The Multi-pockets Denim Sustainable Tote Bag

            The steps in making the second tote bag

            1. Similar to the first bag, we start by laying the jeans flat on an even surface. Make sure the top of the jeans is lined up straight.
            2. Cut the uneven parts of the bottom part of the jeans and then, sew it in straight line.

            3. My phone battery died at this point so, I did not have the photos for how I sew the middle zip part of the jeans, but this video will guide how I sew it.

            4. Repeat the same steps for the straps and that is about it. Now you have your SECOND bag from ONE pair of old jeans!

            One of the best things about making your own sustainable tote bag is that you can maximize the usage of the materials you have by doing proper planning and subsequently minimize waste. These are the only scrap fabrics I was left with after making the two bags. It is amazing!

            Of course you can accessorize or add embellishments on the bag as you wish to make it more personalized. For me, I prefer my bags to be simple (also because I was too lazy to add them on).

            About tote bags

            For those who are new to the anthropology of bags, a tote bag as defined by Collins English Dictionary as a large roomy handbag or shopping bag, and often unfastened bag with parallel handles that emerge from the sides of its pouch. The word tote is probably originated from Low German tute ("bag").  Totes are commonly referred to as "shopping totes," it is self-explanatory, but this type of bag is ideal for transporting store-bought products home.


            Tote bags are robust, strong, and allow you to transport your recent purchases with ease, whether it is groceries from the supermarket or the latest outfit loot from the mall. In addition, more supermarkets are joining in the effort to be eco-friendly by using fewer plastic bags and encourage customers to "Bring Your Own Bag" (BYOB). I believe that a lot of us care for the environment because when I go for my regular weekend grocery run, almost everyone brings their own bags to pack their goods (either they are going green or just trying to save on the extra charges they impose on the plastic bags but both ways work for me). I have this habit of checking out others’ shopping bags while standing in line at the counter and once too often I catch myself mentally complimenting those with the cute ones. Most of the time, I have to fight the itch to ask where they got it from. Hence, more the reason to make my own cute tote bags! Going back to the sustainable fashion article I read on Facebook, it was actually a post by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) regarding the environmental footprint of the fashion industry. Did you know how much water is utilized to make our jeans?
            According to the article, 3,781 litres of water were used to produce ONE pair of jeans also that cloth dyeing and treatment accounts for roughly 20% of global wastewater! Another article by The Technology Times stated that fashion consumes 93 billion cubic metres of water per year, enough to cover the requirements of five million people.
                 Those facts were enough to convince me that recycling and upcycling as much items as possible are crucial. But let’s pause for a moment and review, what are the differences between recycling and upcycling?


            Infografic by Morocco Method


            Recycling –  Process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products. Recycling can benefit your community and the environment.
            Upcycling  Process that can be repeated in perpetuity of returning materials back to a pliable, usable form without degradation to their latent value—moving resources back up the supply chain.
                 There is no better time than the present to take a step into the sustainable living lifestyle. I have decided that I would be upcycling my “shrunken” jeans into a fashionable piece that I could use. I dedicated this entire week into research for this project and glad to announce that I have made really good friends with YouTube and Pinterest. There are so many ideas I have pinned up in my board on Pinterest and the plethora of tutorial videos I keep on rewinding on YouTube. To stay true to my theme which is sustainable tote bag, I ended up with not one, but TWO designs which maximizes the usage of ONE pair of jeans.


            So if you have time in your hand and have that extra pair of jeans which you no longer wear, try out this DIY. Comment below if you did and share some pictures with us too. It is also one way of destressing during this crazy times.
            Happy week ahead guys and until our next blog...... Bag in, bag out!!

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