Lo Tech Making: Upcycle Your Jeans

Some people think that making has to be with computers and fancy printers but this is not the case.  Making can also be crafting AKA lo tech.

On one Earth Day teens brought in their old blue jeans to turn them into purses or messenger bags.

We have a popular crafting club among our adult patrons at my library so I asked a couple of the ladies if they would bring their sewing machines and teach teens how to sew.  I taught teens how to hand sew.  I provided iron on patches, fabric paint, and gems to decorate their bags.

Sewing Machines

Sewing machines are a popular trend in maker programs. But a sewing machine isn’t a fancy $2000 machine, you say.  A sewing machine doesn’t have apps and wifi, you say.  Teens will think a sewing machine is for grandmas, you say.  Be prepared to be surprised.

I’m in my 30’s and I had to take sewing in middle school, so I’m familiar with a sewing machine.  Teens today, however, have never touched or maybe even seen a sewing machine so they will be nervous when they see that needle jumping around.  But after you teach them how to thread it and use it, their little faces after making something from scraps is priceless.

Why is it Important?

You will be surprised at how many teens don’t know how to thread a needle.  Sewing is a skill teens need to learn for adulthood.  Using a sewing machine isn’t a necessity but the ability to hand sew is a useful skill.

If you don’t have sewing machines, you can make lots of things by hand sewing.  It will just take longer. You can make pillows, purses, and there are tons of things you can make from t-shirts but that’s a different program.

Connected Learning

If you are modeling your teen programming after YALSA’s connected learning initiative, a sewing program is considered connected learning.  Sewing can be a gateway to fashion design.  Teens have their own style and they take a lot of time cultivating that style.  What they don’t realize is that their meticulous eye for clothes is basically fashion design and that they can take that interest and make it into a career.  The wonderful thing about fashion design is that you don’t have to go to a four year university so this can be a career for your not so studious teens.

If you have a community college near your library, you can invite a fashion design student or the professor to teach a class in the library.  If you know that there will be high school teens attending your program, partnering with the community college or design school can be beneficial to the school because it’s an opportunity for them to recruit students.


Sewing machines are expensive.  They can be $50-$500.  If you are willing to invest in two machines, you can do all types of sewing programs for an indefinite amount of time.  You can also ask for donations from staff or patrons.

One Christmas, we used a Christmas tree and made it into a wishing tree.  Instead of ornaments, we put items we needed on paper ornaments and patrons could take the ornament and donate the item printed.  This is a great way to ask your patrons for items you can’t afford and it doesn’t have to be during Christmas.


2 thoughts on “Lo Tech Making: Upcycle Your Jeans

  1. What a great program idea! We have been debating adding a sewing machine to our space, and this is definitely some good encouragement to take the leap 🙂

    • Currently we have been borrowing them to test the waters. Teens really like seeing so we will be investing in a couple for our makerspace.

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