11 Creative Ways to Customize Jeans

Jeans are a wardrobe staple all around the world.

While some prefer their denim plain and simple, many like to give theirs a little flair, from adding fun hems and bedazzling with gems to using patchwork decorations. Ready to get creative? The following ideas are super fun, easy and versatile, plus they won’t break the bank! 

customize jeans 

Ideas for jeans you’re making yourself

1. Fabric variation

Take your favorite jeans pattern (the one you know fits like a glove) and add some design lines to change them radically! For this stretch denim pair of jeans, I slashed the legs with horizontal lines to create an asymmetric look. (In need of more inspiration and encouragement? Our Sew Designer Jeans class has some great ideas, tips and tutorials!) 

Each side of each leg was designed separately, so they are totally different from each other, alternating the denim and a stretch deep gray corduroy.

Want to try it yourself? Keep these tips in mind:

  1. To keep your original pattern from getting marked up, trace it onto another piece of paper before adding the design lines. 
  2. Accurately label each portion of the pattern, adding “this side up” notes and sequentially numbering pieces so the puzzle comes together easily.
  3. Add seam allowances where needed, and don’t forget to add notches too, to further help you matching!

2. Topstitching 

Use topstitching to spice things up as you sew! Stitch two (or even three) parallel rows in different shades, use metallic or rainbow thread, like in the photo shown below by Turtle Birdies. (Using the pattern by Serger Pepper Designs). Make sure you have enough seam allowance to support the topstitch width, or add it to the pattern before you start cutting.

Additionally, showing off the fun stitch designs your sewing machine can create is a fantastic way to incorporate topstitching! 

Ideas for jeans you already own

3. Decorative embroidery

Bright threads embroidered on denim.

If embroidery is your jam, we have some awesome tips to help you create the perfect pair of customized jeans like the ones shown above. You can use a sewing machine or hand embellish any design you’d like, the possibilities are endless! 

4. Beading

Take the embroidery look to a whole new level by adding beads to the mix. Choose a minimal polka-dot design, or build up your skills and create something more extravagant. Myra Wood has a fantastic class to get you started with bead embroidery.

5. Buttons and studs 

If you want a somewhat subtle hint of flair, buttons and studs are a perfect place to start! Buttons along the pockets or studs along the zipper add a pop of color and dimension without going over the top. 

6. Painting

Grab your favorite acrylic paints and get to painting! You can use stencils, go totally free-hand, or both!

If you’re painting (or bleaching), make sure you insert a piece of cardboard inside your jeans so the colors don’t run through to the other side. 

7. Denim-on-denim embellishments

Reproduce your favorite mandala-style design or an easy flower pattern using scraps of denim fabric! No need to do the whole leg — just a few spots here and there work just as well. One idea is this adorable flower embellishment. If you stitch a strip of denim to the top of the legs and wash the jeans with something red, the frayed lining will turn pink like pictured above. 

8. Distressing

While distressing jeans can create some amazing outcomes, if done improperly the results can be less than ideal. Lesson 9 in Angela Wolf’s Bluprint class goes into further detail on distressing techniques.

9. Patches 

You don’t need a hole to hide under the patches, they can simply be decorative! Among the coolest patches I’ve seen are the Sashiko patches such as the bug patch shown above. 

Another modern style of patches that mixes up different techniques is Vicky’s Shibori’s heart patches. The tie-dye effect of these patches adds a wonderful element of variety to a plain pair of denim.

10. Creative hems

If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, then hems are the way to go! A scalloped hem, fringe or ribbon can all be used to add just the right amount of zest. This is also a great idea if you have a pair of pants that you love but are just a tad too short. 

11. Trims and lace

Trims and lace can be stitched almost anywhere on your jeans. Lacing along the pockets or sequin ribbon along the seams adds a festive pop of color and a feminine flair! 

Do you have additional ideas for customizing your jeans? We would love to hear them! 

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