Making a No-Sew Belt Pouch from an Old Denim Jacket

By Dave Powell

I’ve always wanted a slim-profile belt pouch for carrying compact cameras. Most manufactured belt pouches have been too small or thickly padded for my cameras and taste. They created unattractive bulges under jackets and un-tucked shirts.

Then last week, Kate and I were doing a years-overdue garage clean-out, when I found this dusty old jacket in a plastic storage tub:

Denim jacket with pocket cut line shown in white

For about 20 years, I wore it when snow-blowing our previous home’s driveway. And since we moved to our condo almost a decade ago, the jacket is now nearly 30 years old. Translation: It no longer fits.

The denim itself is thicker and tougher than the material in my Levi’s jeans. But after so many decades of heavy winter use, the jacket’s insulated lining had mostly shredded away. So I almost tossed it into a rag bag… but instead, decided to turn one of its pockets into a good-sized camera belt pouch.

And I did it without sewing.

In the Operating Room

Using strong, sharp scissors, I cut out the pocket as outlined in white above. Since my largest belt is 1.25 inches wide, I figured that leaving a 4-inch strip above the pocket would give me more than enough material for its belt loop. Here’s how the pocket looked after surgery:

Pocket cut from jacket

Then, instead of sewing that strip into a loop, I folded it back and tightly wrapped two 4-inch lengths of 16-gauge brass wire around it. I then used needle-nose pliers to press the wires’ cut ends into the back of the loop to hold its material in place:

Front and back views of wire around belt loop

And a Surprise!

But then, I noticed something I’d forgotten. The jacket had “secret” side-opening pockets hidden behind the main ones. When snow-blowing, I usually stored tissues and extra glove liners in those slots. Here’s this pocket’s hidden side opening:

Side opening of "secret" pocket
And again, it opens into a full-sized cavity behind (and separate from) the main compartment.

In the opening photo, you can see that the resulting pouch is actually large enough to hold both of my travel digitals side-by-side (though I’ll separate them with a little bubble-wrap when doing so). The camera peeking out on the left is my “normal” Lumix DMC-ZS100, and the one on the right is the Lumix DMC-ZS3 that I converted to shoot digital infrared (as described here).

NOTE: The main pocket could instead hold my Yashica T4 and lots of film.

You can also see that the secret pocket is big enough to store a memory-card wallet behind the cameras. (Actually, it’s big enough to hold the card wallet and my iPhone side-by-side!)

And since this is a no-sew project, I’ll use tiny binder clips to close the secret pocket:

Binder-clip closures for 'secret" pocket

Next, I plan to similarly turn the jacket’s other pocket into a pouch that attaches to a standard neck strap.

Perhaps you too have an old jacket, shirt, pair of pants or shorts with fabric and stitching strong enough to “upcycle” in this way. If so, give it a try (even if it doesn’t come with secret pockets).

–Dave Powell is a Westford, Mass., writer and avid amateur photographer.

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About The Author

By Dave Powell
Trained in mathematics, physics, cosmology, computer programming and science journalism. Retired mathematician, award-winning technical and journalistic writer. 1989 winner of the Bruce B. Howat Award-- an international business-journalism equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. (Only one Howat was awarded each year, IF the committee in Geneva found an article they really liked. But I don't think the prize is granted anymore.) Also a past author and editorial advisor for Sesame Street... where I regularly worked with Jim Henson and Kermit!
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Comments

Evan Bedford on Making a No-Sew Belt Pouch from an Old Denim Jacket

Comment posted: 28/11/2023

Yes, denim is great. I've been using it for travel tool pouches for my car, motorcycle and bicycle. No sewing. Just cut a big enough chunk to wrap it all in, and then cinch some buckled webbing around it to hold it all together, and to keep the wrenches from rattling. And if I need to wipe grease off my hands, it does that also.
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Dave Powell replied:

Comment posted: 28/11/2023

A worthy addition, Evan, to the reasons for harvesting and saving old denim!! Dave

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Gus on Making a No-Sew Belt Pouch from an Old Denim Jacket

Comment posted: 28/11/2023

Great project Dave! I recently re-purposed an old t-shirt and some closed cell-foam sheets as a "camera cube" inside of a hip-bag I use for mountain biking, custom-sized and much cheaper than the off-the-shelf products! We have an old Pfaff sewing machine ("made in West Germany") that gets a lot of use making alterations and custom bags for bike touring.
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Dave Powell replied:

Comment posted: 28/11/2023

Great suggestion Gus! I also once used closed-cell foam sheets to strengthen the "floor" of an ordinary bellybag... when the bag carried four 110-film cameras to Rome. It didn't take much to turn the bag into a padded carry case. Another great way to "reorganize" camera bags is to use the padded dividers from other bags. It's often easy for velcro tabs on the dividers to grab onto the bags' interiors. Thanks for the suggestion! Dave

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