Jean Genie

A favorite pastime at YarnCon was handing one of these to passers-by, and asking them to determine what it was made of:

Most folks knew it wasn't wood, but from there we heard guesses from granite to plastic. Only a handful got it right: these are made from denim; specifically, my family's worn-out blue jeans!

We're pretty hard on jeans at Casa Sinclair; we're not what you'd call fancy people, and while I may have a dress or two in my closet, I can't recall whatever for. After plenty of wear, love, and the occasional patch, jeans end up in the stack of "too risqué to wear, too tattered to donate" while I ponder what to do with them next.

These days, some of them end up down on the workbench. To make my denim jewel closures, I use a technique borrowed from surfboard manufacturers and knife-handle makers: lamination. I thought you might like a few peeks into the transformation.

After the messy, dusty work of cutting the biggest pieces of fabric from the legs and culling them into a stack the same size, I can get to work making the laminated sheets.

All my supplies need to be set up and immediately at hand; once the epoxy is mixed, the clock is ticking!

Most laminating epoxies are quite toxic to handle; the one I use was the most environmentally sensitive one I could find, both in the way it's made (high bio-based rather than petroleum-based content) and the way it behaves (low off-gassing and odor). It's pricy, but totally worth it in the lower environmental cost and in the air quality of my workspace!

One by one, each layer of denim is saturated with the mixed epoxy, then smoothed out to release air pockets. Layer, saturate, smooth, either until the mixed epoxy runs out, or I run out of denim layers, or the block is as thick as I want it to be. I plop it into a plastic bag, smooth it out again, clamp it between boards, and let it sit overnight. Once it hardens and I trim the edges, the material looks like this:

From there, it pretty much works like wood; I can saw it, sand it, drill it, and use most of my normal tools.

This latest batch, I cut smaller for buttons. What do you think, should I drill them with holes, or put a shank on them? What's your favorite type of button to use? Comment below and let me know!

This latest batch, I cut smaller for buttons. What do you think, should I drill them with holes, or put a shank on them? What's your favorite type of button to use? Comment below and let me know!

Once they're fully sanded smooth with the corners rounded, the cut bits get a lacquer finish with a slight metallic sheen, and the closure is adhered. The current batch have a silver cufflink-style fixture, which works especially well with knits with a bit of heft to them; you can check out the finished pieces and order here.