Denim feathers! Aren’t these fantastic? My cousin showed me these a couple years back. They’re really fun to make, can be used in a zillion different ways, and are a great way upcycle old denim jeans or jackets. Let’s get making!
Old denim, preferably in a couple different shades
Heavy string or twine – I use cotton baker’s twine
Scissors or rotary cutter & ruler
Rubber glove (not vinyl)
Note** When cutting denim, make sure you cut in alignment with the grain of the threads. It’s important that your cuts be straight with the grain. You’ll see why this is so critical in the step below.
Also, if you make these with the fabric oriented in one direction, you’ll get blue feathers, the other, white. Pull out a few threads from the edge of the fabric to figure out which orientation you want.
Pulling the warp threads, or blue ones, your resulting feather will be white. Alternatively, pulling the weft threads, or white ones, results in a blue feather. I find it easier to pull the blue/warp threads. The white/weft ones are usually tighter and require a bit more work.
Cut your denim into 1-1/2” wide strips, then cut those strips into 3-5” lengths, depending on how long you want your finished feathers to be.
Measure twine to be about 2” longer than the denim strip.
Using a very narrow zigzag stitch and short stitch length, sew the twine down the center of the denim strip. Make sure the twine lines up with the grain if the threads, otherwise the “unraveling” step will be very difficult.
Cut the corners off of your denim strip, in a rough “feather” shape.
Pull away the threads going the length of the feather. My preferred technique is to pull from the top, separating the thread with a pin or seam ripper, then using a gloved hand, pull the threads out. The rubber glove really helps maintain a grip on the rather tightly woven threads, and helps reduce fatigue of your fingers.
Repeat on the other side of the feather.
Trim around the base of the feather, if desired. If you want your finished feather to have a straighter, more defined edge, carefully trim that too.
Snip off end of twine.
Your fantastic feathers can be used to:
- Adorn a jeans or a jean jacket
- Make feathered earrings — I added some crystal beads
- Decorate a gift box
- Make a fancy bookmark
Tips and tricks:
- Cleaning. You shouldn’t machine wash anything that uses these feathers, as they curl up and generally get very ratty after machine washing. Best to remove them before washing, or spot clean. Dry cleaning might also work, I just haven’t tried it.
- Troubleshooting an out-of-alignment feather: Have a seam ripper handy and use it to pull out the threads and snap them off where they cross the center seam. If you can avoid this problem altogether, best to do so.
- If you want the feathers to have a naturalistic “curve,” still cut them straight with the weave, you can curve them when you apply to your finished project.
- These can also be made with other types of tightly woven fabric or other colors of denim. Go crazy!
Have fun, and make something beautiful! xx
Shannon WoodallAugust 18, 2020 at 10:58 am
Where have I seen these before???
Tamara BergAugust 18, 2020 at 5:06 pm
BarbaraMay 10, 2021 at 4:04 pm
What a neat idea!
TeriAugust 18, 2020 at 12:31 pm
Super duper. I’ve never seen these beauties before. I do upcycle jeans in my home too. Jean quilts turn out super cute and can be taken to a picnic or outdoor concert.
Thanks for sharing
CaroleSeptember 20, 2022 at 12:36 am
Fabulous idea. Love it. Thanks for sharing