It’s safe to say that making overalls occupied my life waaaaaay too much the past month, and I’ve looked at 10,000 pictures of women wearing overalls on Pinterest, but it was all worth it because I’ve whipped up a treat for you: A tutorial on how to make overalls from jeans. Not from denim material, not buying store bought overalls and making them your own. No. Jeans. You have them, you want them to be overalls because overalls are the cutest, and now they can be.
In the past few years, I’ve noticed that overalls have come back into style but and that there aren’t very many DIY tutorials to make them from preexisting denim jeans. I’ve seen a ton of tutorials to make overall dresses from scratch, I’ve seen patterns to sew overalls of all kinds, and I’ve seen tons of overalls on Pinterest, but where are the tutorials to make overalls from jeans? If anyone knows of any, please link in the comments section, because I’d love to see someone else’s take on this.
Why this remains such a mystery to me is because overalls where originally made from preexisting denim. Originally, the overall was a pair of pants connected at the waist to a shirt, with suspenders. It wasn’t until 1927 that the overalls we know came into existence as workwear. Thus, it seems like such an obvious transition: take two pairs of jeans of roughly the same wash, and make them into overalls.
That said, I can see why it would be easier to buy them, likely deterring people from making their own. Sewing with denim is hard on one’s sewing machine. It’s also a pain if you’ve never worked with it before. And you have to sacrifice two pairs of jeans to a project that might not work out. Luckily, I had my wife’s old jeans to play with. Because she’s a few sizes up from me, her jeans gave me the perfect medium to experiment. The conversation that happened when I asked to use her jeans was hilarious. It went like this:
Me: “Hey, I want to make overalls, can I use your old jeans that you’re no longer wearing?”
Her: “……Overalls? Like from the nineties?”
Me: ” Yeah! Overalls! Trust me, it’s a thing!”
Her: And you want to use my jeans?”
Me: “Yes, I need jeans that are slightly larger than my own.”
Her: “But, to make overalls right? I’m so confused.”
Me: “Trust me.”
1 week later….
Me: “Check out my overalls!”
Her: “You’re the cutest! I get it now! Overalls!”
Since overalls became acceptable again to wear, I’ve reminisced on the overalls I used to wear in the 90s and early 2000s. I had lavender corduroy overalls that I would wear with a white t-shirt with a smiley face (the original emoji). I had denim overalls that I’d wear with a crop top and butterfly clips. My least favorite part about wearing overalls, aside from having to get pretty much undressed to pee, was definitely how the straps would always loosen throughout the day and I’d have to readjust in the bathroom at lunch. Overalls back then where way baggier than they are now, so the lower they got the easier it was to trip on one’s pant legs. I honestly thought I’d never wear overalls again, and definitely not as a grown-up. But here I am, 31 and wearing overalls as I type this, no regrets.
Some Notes Before You DIY Overalls
This is definitely an intermediate sewing garment sewing tutorial that calls for buttonholes, and some creativity on your part. Definitely don’t get discouraged if you’ve never made a buttonhole before, here’s a great tutorial on how to make buttonholes.
Setting out to make overalls from jeans was rather easy at first, with some glitches happening toward the end of my adventure with the denim buttons. I literally broke 8 of those tiny nails you pound into the back of the button. Yesterday, when I was frantically trying to photograph the overalls after a long weekend of too much pie and lots of lounging, I accidentally popped another button off the sides of the overalls as I bent over. It wasn’t pounded in as well as it could have been, and the fabric around it was loose from too many attempts. What I came to realize is that the denim buttons you buy at the craft store suck. The only part of this project where they were super necessary was on the top of the overalls where the straps come together with the buckles If you decide to make some overalls for yourself, I will not judge you if you just use regular buttons on the sides, life is too short for disappointments in DIY projects.
Choose two pairs of jeans that are several sizes larger than you normally wear, and a little longer too. I’m a four, my wife is a ten, and her jeans were large enough to get into without unbuttoning or unzipping, but not so large that I felt like I was swimming in denim. You need them to be a little bit big because you lose about 2 inches on each side when you add the buttons, but you have to have side buttons or you can’t get into your overalls. I also wanted overalls that were loose but not too loose, like mom jeans but not mom jeans.
I chose two pairs of jeans that were a similar wash, but you could also make overalls from contrasting jeans, it’s up to you!
I was unable to find strap adjusters at my local fabric store that were the same size as the hooks (eyeroll), so this tutorial does not show you how to make your straps adjustable. If you want adjustable straps, this tutorial from Annika Victoria is fantastic, and will teach you how to make straps that move! If you think this is that big of a deal, you can do as I did and just sew your buckles into your straps.
Sewing denim can be a pain. I would recommend first cleaning your sewing machine of dust and debris before you start, and giving it some sewing machine oil. Definitely, invest in a denim needle. Some people think that denim looks best with a top stitch with thick denim thread. While I agree that this looks nice, I didn’t feel like it was necessary for this project. I used a beige thread that corresponded with some of the colors in my denim.
Also keep in mind that denim ravels, so any raw edge I’d suggest sewing up with your serger or a zig-zag stitch to avoid it getting messy when you wash your overalls.
Let’s get this party started!!!
- 2 pairs of jeans, 2 or 3 sizes larger than what you typically wear.
- Overall strap buckles
- 2-6 denim buttons (or 2 denim buttons and 4 regular buttons)
- Sewing machine with denim needle and matching thread
- Seam ripper
- Tailor’s chalk or another marking tool
- Tape measurer
1. Decide what pair of jeans you’ll use for the pants portion of your overalls. If that pair has some excess on the bottom. I cut off about 3 inches and set aside. I chose to keep my overalls unhemmed for now, but hem if you need to.
2. Wearing the jeans that will be the pants portion of your overalls, take 3 measurements: 1) The front of your waistband. 2) From the waistband to the top of your bust. 3) The width of your bust. Mine were: 18 inches, 13 inches, and 12 inches. I decided to make my front piece 15 inches on the bottom, 13 inches a the top, and 13.5 inches down the middle, which left me enough excess material to hem the sides up.
3. Measure whatever your second measurement was up the middle of one of the pant legs you plan to cut (again mine was 13.5) and mark. Cut at the mark. Then, cut down the non-felled seam (in the second picture). You will now have a flat piece of fabric with a seam going up the middle. Using your chalk, draw out the measurements of your front piece, and cut it out. Press, and set aside.
4. Make your pockets: Remember the excess you cut off your first pair of jeans? Get it. Cut the pant leg pieces open the same way, on the non-felled seam.
Pin these pieces right sides together, matching up the felled seam down the middle.
Sew together, leaving a 1/2 inch of seam allowance. Press open seam. This will be your front pocket.
Cut off any excess material on the sides of your pocket, and press sides into a hem on each side.
5. You can choose to keep your pocket plain, or you can add other pockets to your pocket. I chose to add the small useless pocket that’s on most jeans near the waistband, and a back pocket from the pair of jeans I was already cutting up. Sew any additional pockets or embellishments on neatly. (Note: the smaller pocket was last-minute addition, which is why it’s not featured here.
6. Pin your front pocket to your front piece, and sew around the edge neatly. I sewed around it twice so it would really stay on there.
Hem your front piece on either side, and press.
7. Make The Back: Mark half the front measurement that you already took (remember, mine ended up being 15, so now I’d end up with 7.5) on the remaining top of your jeans from where cut off (DO NOT cut from the intact pant leg, because that will be your straps later). From the side, measure about 8-9 inches down (or more if you have a really long torso, less if you have a small torso), and then draw a diagonal line up from that to the end of the bottom of your jeans with your ruler.
Cut out this piece through both layers of fabric, so you end up with:
Iron this piece, and set aside.
8. Now you get to make your straps. Cut off the entire in-tact pant leg that you’ve been saving.
At the top, draw a diagonal line based on the diagonal your just created with the back piece.
On the right side, draw a straight line the length of the pant leg. On the left side, draw your next line with a slight curve, drawing out a strap that’s about 3 inches wide going down. Cut out on both sides of the pant leg so you have two strap pieces.
9. Hem the curved part of your strap pieces with a rolled hem. Do not yet hem the straight side. Press.
Pin the diagonal sides of the straps to the diagonal of the back piece, and sew.
Trim any excess material from the back piece so it aligns with the strap pieces. Press seems down toward the straps, and sew a top stitch. Then, hem the entire length of the back and the other side of the straps with a rolled hem.
10. Take the pair of jeans you plan to use as the pants. Remove the front button and sew the fly down along the edge up to the waistband so the opening that you would normally unzip is completely hidden.
11. Cut open the sides along the seams, until about 1/2 inch up from the pocket.
Sew raw edges with a zig zag stitch on each side. Hem the front side with a small hem. You may need to do this part by hand. Using your seam ripper, remove the small pocket that sits inside the functional pocket on your jeans (featured in picture above). You have to remove it in order to make your buttonhole. I used mine as another pocket on the front piece because I really liked it.
12. Pin your front and back pieces to your jeans at the center and sew them down along the waistband. This was about where I tried my overalls on for the first time, once after I pinned, and once after I sewed to make sure I got the fit correct.
13. Using the manufacturer’s instructions, insert your denim buttons at the top of the front piece, of each side. My instructions called for hammering the nails in. Follow the instructions for adding buttons to each side of your pant legs, on the back edge. Or just use buttons, up to you.
14. Add 2 corresponding button holes on the front sides of the slit in the pant legs. Now you can effectively button and unbutton your overalls.
15. Add your denim buckles to your straps and pin. Now is a good time to try your overalls on to measure where you want the straps to land in relation to everything else. Sew your buckles in by folding your straps along the edge and sewing down. You now how have overalls, how cool is that?
If you liked this tutorial, let me know by commenting below! And if you make overalls, please definitely let me know. I’d like to see alllllll the overalls.