A Guide to Sewing With Denim Fabric

How to sew with denim

Denim Fabric, also known as heavy twill, and jean fabric has a long history. It was once considered to be a fabric used for work clothing, due the tough nature of the fibers.

Jean fabric however, has been a prominent fashion fabric for many decades now.

Sewing Patterns for Denim Fabric

Jean fabric comes in so many varieties, there many more sewing projects to create with denim than ever before. Here are some pattern examples of how denim can be used. 

 Fabric Samples

Jean fabric has various qualities, but generally, denim comes in two weights, lightweight for shirts and dresses, and heavy weight for jackets, pants and skirts.

Denim can be used to make bags and wallets, as you can see in the photo above, it was cleverly used in this piece of jewelry. Denim is now being used in just about anything you can imagine.

Denim fabric now comes in so many different styles and variations of color and patterns.

Denim has change drastically over the past 5 decades. Here some example of denim you can purchase either online or from your local fabric store. Think outside the box to see all the possibilities for jean fabric. Bags, hats, jackets and other garment projects the possibilities are endless. 

How To Sew Denim Fabric


  • Thread: Use a heavy thread for denim, such as upholstery or top stitching thread for sewing heavy denim fabric. Use all purpose polyester thread for a lighter denim. The image on the right is top stitching thread and it comes in many different colors. 


  • Pre shrink denim at least twice for heavy weight and wash darks separately due to bleeding.
  • Nap denim generally doesn't have "nap" but some brushed denim does give varying depths of color, so by your own discretion, layout according to "with nap" or without.

Stitch Length

  • Stitch Length: I like to use a 3.0mm to 3.5mm stitch length on heavier denim and light weight denim a 2.5mm to 3.0mm is a good guide. It depends on the weight of the denim and your machine, so use your own discretion.
  • Serge the seams for best results, but if you do not have a serger use a straight stitch presser foot for seams and finish the seam edge with zig-zag stitch as denim can ravel. 
  • You may want to use a roller foot for bulky seams in the crotch area and side seams.
  • Press on high heat with a steam iron.
  • Use sharp scissors or rotary cutters.
  • Mark with a tailor’s chalk or fabric marker.

More Information about denim

7 Things You Should Know About Your Jeans from a Denim Expert

Scott Morrison Denim Expert

Scott Morisson is an expert on the topic of denim. This is and excellent article to read and prepare yourself for sewing denim garments. 

History of Denim

The 1800's to 1900's

Denim was used as a workhorse fabric. It was strong and durable and farmers and cattle ranchers as well as, plantation workers (better known as slaves) wore this canvas like fabric because it was inexpensive, easily accessible and did not require much maintenance.

During the gold rush, denim remained the fabric of choice, and continued its strong workhorse reputation. Levi Strauss started his wholesale business in the mid 1850's and supplied gold miners with denim fabric. To this day, the company remains a family run business.

With Hollywood movies producing western movie heroes in the 1930's, denim became fashionably appealing.

During the Second World War, men went to war and women were in the factories, Rosie the Riveter posters, sees fit for women to wear denim and it becomes more practical and acceptable.

In the 1950's young rebel teenagers wear denim and leather as a status symbol. Breaking out of the strict fashion restraints of society and their parents and brings denim pants into the mainstream of fashion.

The 1960's and 70's hippie era, gets creative with denim. Embroidery and paint is now used to make denim fabric unique and individual. Denim is now being notice all over the world as a specialty fabric.

In the 1980's, designers are now making denim more of a status symbol than ever. Designer denim seems to be the fashion choice and over-alls and basic "Levis" jeans is now becoming fashionably unpopular.

In the 1990's designers are using denim in anything from shoes and purses to jewelry as well as garments other than pants and denim jackets. The price tag of these items is now going up and up.

In the year 2000 and beyond, denim has become more of a status symbol than ever before. These days, it is not uncommon for young people to spend hundreds of dollars on jeans, (or should I be saying asking their parents) just to say they have this designer label or that designer label.

Therefore, no matter what reason you choose to use denim fabric, whether it is a purse, garment, or home decor, save the designer price tag for the rich, get creative and sew your own denim projects.