How Do You Bring New Life To An Old Pair Of Jeans?

How do you bring new life to an old pair of old jeans?

My Inspiriation

How do you bring new life to an old pair of jeans?

As a surprise anniversary gift, my husband gave me a book on Boro textiles. Boro is Japan’s art of reusing and repairing fabrics and garments through patching and repairing. 

Traditionally boro layered and patched sometimes many layers of fabrics from vintage clothing to extend its life. Fabrics used were often hand woven cotton, linen and hemp made by farmers. 

To bond the often many layers of boro fabrics, stitching is used. The stitching is also a craft in its own right known as Sashiko, meaning ‘little stabs’. Sashiko goes back to the early 1600s and was used to decorate and reinforce already patched clothes. Boro and Sashiko could not be more appropriate right now, as we look to re-cycle and waste less resources.

The stitch marks can be random or form a repeated pattern, most often geometric. White was the main yarn color used in contrast with traditional indigo textiles. However occasionally a red thread was used to add interest or create a focal point in the designs. 

Planning The Project

Currently, I have no time to commit to creating a boro textile that I can transform into clothing. However, on clearing through some stored clothing, I came across an old pair of jeans.   

I must have purchased this pair of Calvin Klein jeans around 25 years ago. For some reason I could not part with them, even though I have been committed to skinny jeans for years! I still have a secret love for boot cut jeans, as they are so flattering. I am also a great believer in the saying “if you wait long enough, everything will come back into fashion”.    

The jeans are already patched as part of the original design, and the hems of the trousers were fraying. They seemed to be the perfect starter project for my first journey into Sashiko embroidery. 

You can buy Sashiko yarn and needles online, but I opted for a mercerised embroidery cotton that was readily available in my local craft shop. 

Planning the project

Embroidering The Jeans

I looked at various patterns, and eventually chose to opt for organic and random designs rather than geometric. For this first project, I decided that anything goes and just to have fun with the stitching. 

The hems of my jeans were especially fraying, and Sashiko seemed like the perfect way to mend them.

I think with Sashiko, you can’t really make a mistake and you don’t have to be too precious. The designs can be very formal or organic and I am certain that the fabrics and projects will dictate the way forward. 


This was no doubt a great way to try Sashiko, for the first time. I’m looking forward to a project combining Boro and Sashiko in the near future. I already have some old shirts (courtesy of my husband) saved for an upcoming project. 

Boro and Sashiko are slow sewing techniques, almost a meditation. A project can be days or even months in the making. They are a great way to save and preserve valuable textiles or garments that mean something to you. It can be a damaged favorite outfit, children’s clothing, or items from a loved one or family member. While doing so, you take these precious items from storage and give them a new life and a new purpose. 

My 25 year old Calvin Klein Jeans given a new lease of life.

Book List

There are many books available about Boro and Sashiko crafts, which can easily be found online or at your local bookshop.

I tend to avoid books that offer projects to make, unless that is if they are truly inspirational! Instead, I prefer books which just explain and teach the techniques, to increase your own creativity.

However, I loved the book that my husband gave me as a gift, which does have projects to follow and make. It’s Susan Briscoe’s “The Book Of Boro”, which I highly recommend.

Regarding the Sashiko embroidery books, I suggest one or both of the following:

Susan Briscoe’s The Ultimate Sashiko Source Book or Jill Clay’s Sashiko 20 Projects.

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(2) Comments

  1. Suzanne says:

    Very nice work! Love what you have done to your jeans. I live in Japan and am forever amazed at the number of textile and fabric crafts but do not read Japanese well enough, usually, to follow the meaning of craft books here. I will look into these books on Amazon.

    1. Thanks Suzanne! I love Japanese textiles and would so love to visit one day. Ihope that you are able to purchase the books.

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