Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Turning Jeans Into Shorts

Welcome back! Today I am turning a pair of jean pants into shorts in preparation for the warmer weather! One of my favorite reasons I like to make my daughter’s jean shorts is that I get to pick the length of the inseam. I always get so frustrated when buying her shorts. I feel the inseams are far too short. The method I’m showing below is good for any woven material. If you have a pair of knit pants you’d like to turn into shorts check out this tutorial here. Let’s get started!

  • Pair of old jeans
  • Thread
  • Topstitching or Denim needle
  • Scissors
  • Marking pen
  • Seam gauge
  • Ruler/Measuring tape
  • Sewing Machine
  • Pins
  • Iron
  • Seam bumper - folded up fabric or purchased tool

  1. Have the child try on the pants and mark the new hem. Add the seam allowance, I used 1”. Alternatively if you want a cut-off look, do two rows of stitching above the hem line to control the fraying instead of the double folded hem (you wouldn’t add a seam allowance).

  1. Time to draw the cut line, here are two methods:
    1. You can use the method in step 2 from the knit pants here.
    2. Using a ruler or measuring tape, measure from the bottom hem to where you want to cut (with the seam allowance added).  Do this at several spots around the pants’ leg. Connect the dots with a straight line. Use the same measurement for both legs.
  1. Cut on this line through both layers of fabric.


  1. Measure and double fold under the new hem, and press. A trick I learned to do when hemming is to measure the fold at the front and the back of legs first (not near a seam), pin these in place then tug the fold in a couple different spots, for some reason this always helps ensure a straight hem. I am sure it has to do with grain lines or something but to me it is magic. In the picture below you can see that the turned up fabric on the wrong side isn’t even, but the actual hem line is - MAGIC.

  1. Prepare the sewing machine - I used a topstitching needle, topstitching jean thread in my needle, and a regular thread that matched in my bobbin. Test drive your stitches with scrap fabric to get the desired look.

  1. Time to sew! Stitching on the right side of the shorts, stitch all the way around. If you don’t want to see the bulk of a back stitch or locking stitch just leave a tail of thread (from the bobbin and needle) to knot at the end. Meaning - just start stitching without the stitches being secured yet! Once you are at the beginning again go one stitch into the stitching you already did, and cut the thread leaving enough tail to knot.
    1. To help your sewing machine get over the humps of the seams (especially that flat-felled one) use a bumper (scrap of fabric or purchased device) to assist the foot, you can see mine in the picture below.  Once the foot has hit the seam, put the needle down. Lift up the pressure foot and place the fabric or device underneath and put the presser foot back down. The presser foot should be level, if it isn’t you risk getting skipped stitches.
    2. Jean seams’ can be very thick, to help soften them, take a mallet or hammer to them before you sew. I also usually hand turn my wheel and and go slow.

  1. If you didn’t secure your stitching this next step is for you! On the wrong side of the shorts pull on one of the bobbin threads, this will pull the loop of the needle thread to the wrong side. Tie these two threads into a knot. Repeat this step for the other pair of threads.


  1. Press the new hem using a press cloth, and you are all done!!

A couple more things:
  • If you don’t want to show off your topstitching skills with contrasting thread, use a matching color thread.
  • If you want to prominent topstitching but want to use a matching color and can't find the color in a topstitch thread, use the stretch stitch. This will give a thicker stitching line. You can find out more here.
  • If you tried the contrast thread thing and you can’t stand to look at it - cover it up with ribbon, lace, ric-rac, fabric or whatever!
  • Embellish the new shorts with iron-on patches as I did below



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