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Upcycling Old Jeans into Quick Overalls

Updated on October 22, 2013

With Halloween around the corner, you may be finding yourself in need of a few clothing items. Your local thrift store is often a great place to find treasures for a costume. But maybe, like me, you have been searching and searching for that one key piece and it simply eludes you. For myself, I needed overalls. Now let’s face it – adults don’t often wear overalls. Toddlers and kindergartners wear overalls and look downright adorable. Throw a pair on a fully grown woman – not so much. Needless to say, every thrift store in the city had not a single overall in sight. I even tried tearing apart the men’s section, but I still had no luck.

Desperate, I decided to make my own and discovered that it is actually very easy. Maybe you are like me and need a pair of overalls for an adult costume. Perhaps there is school play or church function and your 10 year old is in need of overalls and you don’t want to shell out $20-$40 on a pair they will probably never wear again. Follow these simple steps and even with beginner experience, in less than 2 hours you can have a perfect pair of overalls. (1 hour for the seasoned sewer.)

Important Tips Before You Begin


Please check your Owner’s Manual for specifications on your machine and make sure that it is rated to handle the density of jeans. Not all machines are created equal.

Should you discover that your machine will not handle jeans, consider using khaki pants or dark colored dress pants.

You will need a heavy duty needle. A basic universal needle (size/gauge 11 or 14) will NOT penetrate two layers of jeans. It is very important to have a heavy duty needle (usually 16 or 18). If you are not sure, go buy a new one. It is well worth the time it takes to purchase them to avoid the utter frustration of watching your needles snap like matchsticks.

What you Need

1 pair of jeans/pants that fit

1 pair of the largest jeans/pants you can find that match in color

Scissors or Rotary Cutter

Ruler

Your Choice of thread color

Pins

Large Work Surface

Buttons (Optional)

Cutting the Jeans

Uncut pant Leg on Left.  Pant leg with bottom seam removed and sectioned into 2 sets of strips on the Right.
Uncut pant Leg on Left. Pant leg with bottom seam removed and sectioned into 2 sets of strips on the Right.
Back Pocket and back leg cut out for bib section.
Back Pocket and back leg cut out for bib section.
Back Leg cut out for side panels.
Back Leg cut out for side panels.
Make four of these out of the leg sections.
Make four of these out of the leg sections.
Pieces you should have when you are finished cutting.
Pieces you should have when you are finished cutting.

Cutting the Jeans


  1. Cut the jeans off a little above the knee, somewhere around mid-thigh. Remove the bottom hem. The legs with be used for the straps of your overalls.


  2. Cut out 3-4 inch strips from the legs of the jeans, leaving the seams behind. The thickness is entirely up to you. Depending on the size of the jeans, you should hopefully be able to cut two strips from one leg, netting you a total of four strips.


  3. Flip pants over and cutting along the seams, remove one entire back panel from the rear of the pants. You want to cut above the back pocket as high as possible, avoiding the belt loops. This will be your “bib” section.


  4. Cutting around the seams, remove one entire back panel, stopping just below the back pocket. If needed repeat this on the front of the pants for an additional panel.


  5. Even out the edges of the two front leg panels and make yourself at least four rectangles. Measuring each panel to the appropriate size. Two rectangles should end up wider than the other two, because two will be for the back. The other two will be sewn onto the “bib” section and will not need to be as wide.


You are now ready to begin sewing.

Sewing the Jeans

Hem side panels.
Hem side panels.
Place right sides together and sew.
Place right sides together and sew.
Bib portion, with two side panels before being trimmed.
Bib portion, with two side panels before being trimmed.
Trim excess.
Trim excess.
Preparing to sew on back panels.
Preparing to sew on back panels.
Right sides together, continue sewing on back panels.
Right sides together, continue sewing on back panels.

Sewing the Top Section


  1. Hem the top of each rectangle. A ¼” – ½” seam should be sufficient. Remember to back stitch just after you start and just before you finish to lock your stitches.



  2. Take your “bib” section and make sure that the edges are straight and even.



  3. Decide how high you want your side panels. Use the back pocket as a guide and place one of the smaller rectangles somewhere near the bottom of the back pocket. Once you have decided what looks good to you, flip the rectangle across the “bib” panel, right sides touching.




  4. Sew them together. Again a ¼” – ½” seam should be sufficient.



  5. Repeat step 2 and 3 for the other side panel.



  6. Using the remaining two larger rectangles, continue sewing them on to the last panel, right sides touching until you meet around back on the other side. Right sides always need to touch so that your seams will be on the inside once you turn it right side out.



  7. Trim off excess.

Sewing the Straps

Folding both sides until they over lap.
Folding both sides until they over lap.
Folding each side individually.
Folding each side individually.

Sewing the Straps


Your needs will determine how you sew your straps. You may decide to simply fold both sides inward until they overlap just a bit and sew one straight line right down the middle.


Or you may decide that you want a more traditional look. In this case you would need to fold in one side about ¼” – ½” and sew a hem. Then repeat for the other side.



For an adult you will more than likely need all four strips. For a child or teenager, you might get by with only two straps. It will all depend on your needs.



Do not sew your straps on to the overalls yet. They will be in the way when you try to sew the overalls onto the pants.

Assembling the Overalls

Overalls inside out around waistband,
Overalls inside out around waistband,
Pins to mark either side of belt loops and zipper.
Pins to mark either side of belt loops and zipper.
Remember the brads hiding beneath.
Remember the brads hiding beneath.
Starting point for sewing.
Starting point for sewing.
How to skip over the belt loops and start again on the other side of the pin.
How to skip over the belt loops and start again on the other side of the pin.

Assembling the Overalls

  1. Turn the "overalls" inside out and slip them around the waist of the jeans you want to sew them to.





  2. Line up the bottom of the overalls with the bottom of the waistband. You can sew your overalls to the waistband if you choose. I did not want to push my machine by sewing through the thickness of the waistband, so I choose to go below it.




  3. Using pins to mark where to stop and start sewing, pin on either of the zipper. Pin on either side of the belt loops or brads. You want to make sure to pin outside of these items, you do not want to forget that they are there and accidentally sew over them and damage your machine.




  4. You should be able to put the pants into your sewing machine on one side of the zipper area and sew all the way around the waistband without removing the pants from the machine. When you come to a pin simply back stitch, then stick forward to the pin again. Turn your hand crank until the needle is no longer in the fabric. Lift your sewing arm and push the pants under the foot until you are on the other side of the other needle. Then lower your sewing arm and continue sewing. Repeat until you come full circle to the other side of the zipper.






Adding the Straps

Straps attached to the front.
Straps attached to the front.
Second set of straps sewn to the first set.
Second set of straps sewn to the first set.
Attach straps to the back,
Attach straps to the back,

Adding the Straps

Using the reverse lever/button on your sewing machine, you should be able to sew back and forth several times to make a good solid strong stitching to attach the straps.


  1. Attach the front straps to the front bib section.





  2. Attach the second set of straps (if needed) to each other. I choose to simply place them on top of one another and sew. You could place them "right" sides together and make an inner seam that would not be seen when wearing the overalls. I was afraid however, of having a large uncomfortable lump. This would also require you to sew through 4-6 layers of jeans depending on the way you made your straps.


  3. Cris-cross the straps and attach them to the back of the overalls. I recommend crossing them because you will not have any adjustments that way you would with normal overalls. Also, because there is not a high back on these overalls the way traditional ones have, the straps will fall off of the shoulders far easier. The crossing helps eliminate that possibility.

All the Fun is Done

Now you have a simple pair of overalls without using any extra resources. These make great costumes for a church play, school fair, dress up bin, Halloween Costume, Scarecrow at a Pumpkin Patch, the options are endless. Enjoy!

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