Home » Featured » Turning Long Pants into Shorts (and making it look good)

Turning Long Pants into Shorts (and making it look good)


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Turning pants into shorts is nothing new.  I know.  (I’ve even done it before on this ‘ol blog.)  But sometimes we need a good reminder that we don’t have to go out and buy all new shorts for our kids (or even ourselves) for the warmer weather.  Okay, maybe I’m the only one that needed the reminder. 


So I recently dug through all my kids pants and set them in a pile……..and turned them all into shorts.  It was an instant wardrobe update for my little ones.  (Okay, and I also bought a pair of clearance pants that I changed into shorts.  Now is the time to buy pants for really cheap.)  Do you need to hurry and do the same thing?  I bet your kids have outgrown many pairs of pants and maybe you were planning on donating them?  Wait!  Don’t donate!!  (ha…..that sounds horrible!)  But keep them and make those little pants last another season.  And then thank yourself for saving your budget some money.  (And then consider buying a new purse with all that saved money.  Because who doesn’t need a new purse for spring?!)



And here are my 2 preferred methods as of late.  The double hem for a cleaner (and more store bought) look or the frayed and weathered look.  Both are great and are quick fixes.






I can’t help but love this weathered and cutoff jean look.





Even though some may cringe at the sloppy cutoff style……I kinda love it.  You know adding frayed sections to your clothing goes against all traditional sewing rules, so don’t tell your mothers/grandmothers that I purposely damaged the fabric.  Eeeeek, she’ll want to try and help me mend them.  (Because I think my mom sort of flinched when I told her I put those frayed spots there on purpose.)





Cutoffs always seem to come back into style.  Maybe because all it takes is one little whack, and your old jeans still have some life in them.  Thank goodness!



Love them.  (and that kid!)




However, if you want to keep things a little cleaner…… about making your alterations look store bought.  And add a double hem.  (Don’t be afraid……the double hem is super easy with a double needle.  And definitely something you want to try on your regular ‘ol sewing machine.)





And after sewing them and giving them a good press, they look like they came from the store that way.





I’m sure you have mounds of long pants with holes in the knees, maybe some pants that are outgrown in length and are now high-waters, or hand me downs that are just now fitting but it’s the wrong season to wear them.  Don’t get rid of them…….use them!





And then marvel at your handiwork.  And your bigger bank account. ;)




Need a refresher course in turning pants into shorts?



First of all, decide on the length that you want.  For boys, I like them around the knees or a little longer.  And since it’s early in the season, I want them to be long enough until the end of the summer.  So I went with “plenty long” in length.  The easiest way is to set a pair of shorts on top of your pants, that already fit your subject.  Then add an extra inch to that length and then cut.


Then fold that pant leg over to the other side and use it to cut the second side.  This will assure you that your pant legs are the same length.


Then, serge or zig-zag the raw edges.


Then, fold under each pant leg one inch, pin in place, and then look to see if they look straight and even.  Adjust if necessary.


Then pop in your double needle and use about a 3/4 inch seam allowance.  Remove the pins as you go……and remember that you can backstitch just like normal with the double needle.  (Need help with the double needle?  Click here.)  However, if you don’t have a double needle or don’t like using one……..just create 2 seams right next to each other, about 3/4 of an inch from the bottom.

**As a side note, if you are sewing your 2 seams separately, go slowly and keep those lines and straight and as evenly spaced as you can.  Otherwise, it will look extra homemade if the lines are squiggly and all over the place.



Then iron flat.  Always iron.  It makes a world of difference.



If you use the double needle, here’s what the other side will look like.




Now, onto those crazy frayed jeans. 


First, chop them off……right at the length you’d like them.


Then, reduce your stitching length a bit.  I lowered mine from about a 3 (which is the standard length on my machine) to a 1.5.  Using a smaller stitch at the bottom of the jeans will hold the fabric in place where you want it to and won’t allow it to fray past the seam that you make, after lots and lots of washing/drying.


Then stitch about a 1/4 inch (or less) from the bottom of the jeans.


Here’s your seam.



Now, for the fraying.  Grab some sand paper and start rubbing.  Here’s my tip though………only sand an area right to left.  That way, you’ll still have some of the base threads to cover the actual hole.  If you rub left to right, you are cutting through the vertical threads in the fabric, but the horizontal ones will stay intact.  So don’t go crazy…… don’t want gaping holes.  Just keep rubbing until you get the look you want.  And remember, it will always fray more after you wash it.



Then throw those jeans in the washer and dryer (you need to do both for optimal fraying) and that’s it.



Now you have some quick shorts for summer.







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This post is sponsored by:


Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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  1. Brittany says:

    Do you ever hem jeans into shorts using the original hem?

  2. Maryanne says:

    Are there any ideas or things you can do with the leftover pant legs??

  3. Grandma Sue says:

    If you cut jeans really short, Be sure you are cutting so the hem will be straight across the thigh. At knee length or mid thigh, it is easy to keep it straight, but when it gets shorter (for girls mostly) you want to be certain they don’t slant up. I have also seen shorts that have the pocket hanging out—ewwwwww! Don’t go that short!

  4. Sonya says:

    I never even thought about this and now I’m mourning the pair of GAP grey chinos my friend gave me for my kid that had a hole in the knee and I threw away! Hopefully I won’t ruin my karma because I am hoping to go to our Sally Ann to find some jeans for myself that I can turn into shorts. Thank you so much for this tutorial.

  5. Comfort Babatola says:

    I used to do this a lot when my first son was your sons age. Now he’s 16 and doesn’t think it’s cool anymore. My 7 yr. old on the other hand, thought I was ‘awesome’ (well, at least for now) when I turned his favorite pant with the holes in the knee to a short.

  6. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I used them on a pair of my jeans that had some spots around the cuffs and were wearing out. I now have capris. :) And I bought a new pair of summer shoes instead. I think the “capris” aren’t hitting quite right, so I’m going to make them into shorts in a couple weeks as it gets hotter. I’m sure I’ll use this technique on my girls’ clothes, too, but I enjoyed the benefits of my first try.

  7. Becca says:

    I finally got around to doing this. I seem to be really unlucky with needles (I break them all the time). About 3 inches from finishing my first pair of shorts, I broke my double needle. Urgh! I used a regular needle for the second pair, using the foot as a guide for the second seam. They came out perfectly. I showed my husband and he didn’t even understand what I was having him look at because he thought I just bought the shorts. Yay! My five year-old is wearing them today!

  8. nicole j says:

    thanks for the reminder. i’ll look for cheap pants. i had to turn my 3yr old sweat into shorts because of the holes. they don’t look as great as yours, but that’s ok. he doesn’t care.

  9. Maricris @ SittingAround says:

    Just perfect. Not just because of the weather. My kids have pants who still fits on the waist but too short for them already. he,he.

  10. anshu says:

    Thats a quick and easy project. Just my kind…and great tip on making those holes.

  11. Lisa says:

    Your children are all beautiful!!! x

  12. Wilhelmiina says:

    Good sewing!

  13. Isetta says:

    I was at a yard sale today and found two pairs of lightweight plaid pants and thought they were kind of cute but not really sold on them. Then I remembered this post and I know they will make great shorts for my little girl in a couple of years. Thanks for the great reminder on repurposing!

  14. Whitney says:

    So now all you have to do is come up with a great tutorial on how to use the cut-off pieces of the pants to make something fabulous. I always hate throwing away them away, but there never seems to be a good use for them.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Save them for patching knees in other jeans that you aren’t ready to cut off yet.

    2. Julie Snow says:

      or to make a denim quilt

  15. Anand Mistry says:

    Very good sewing tutorial! I’m searching for full one… Can anyone help me to find out similar tutorial which help me to sew full jeans pent for boy.

  16. Laura says:

    You know, I have no idea why I never think to do this. Such a perfect idea considering winter was SO mild. I feel like the kids were only wearing long pants for a few weeks! Definitely going to do this.

  17. Janae Anderson says:

    I love this! It would be perfect for the jeans my 7 year old just cut in shorts (without asking) … however she cute them way to short… no daisy dukes allowed at this house ;)

    If you are interested, I am having a give away on my blog…worth over $100 of craft projects here is the link

    I would love it if you wanted to take a peek!

  18. Regan says:

    Wow! I just discovered this website and it is amazing. These hand-made clothes look like they came from The Children’s Place or something!

  19. Joanna says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I needed it. Also makes a little more space in the full drawers if I don’t buy more!

  20. Denise says:

    While I admire the tutorial, I just have to say that you are so right. The first priority for money in spring is a new spring purse!! What is it about spring that makes me want a new purse? (My new purse was perfect for a trip, and cost $13 at Target, BTW). :-)

  21. ira lee henson says:

    you are so right on with this tutorial. i was looking to buy my little man some new shorts, i went to american eagle for kids (77) and i could not believe it?!?! every pair of jean shorts were cut off and hemed just like this- $25-32 a piece!!! so i just went to chopping off them bad boys and viola- new cool shorts!!!

  22. Maureen M. says:

    I love this!! Perfect also for getting the appropriate length shorts when you can’t find them! Both my girls are tall and thin and we always have trouble finding shorts that aren’t too short. Excellent post :)

  23. Anonymous says:

    Dear Ashley

    Please don’t think basic refreshers aren’t worth posting I’m about to become a beginner (getting my first sewing machine this weekend) and it’s blogs like this that make me believe in myself. You give me the confidence to try. Keep post the basic and the harder things and we will all keep appreciating every one of them.

    Thanks from Lillian in PA

  24. Alessandra says:

    I love it!!! great job!!!

  25. Melissa Coates says:

    cutoffs really never go out of style! You did a great job too! It’s old news but I made one of those ruffle shrugs you had a tutorial for from a long time ago. My little girl looked so cute in it with her Easter dress, her Grandma had to make two more just like it for the other cousins! what a hit! You come up with the cutest things and your tutorials are easy to follow. Thanks!

  26. Heather says:

    Thanks for this post. I have been trying to find maternity shorts at local consignment stores and can only seem to find pants! I am definitively going back and buying the pants and cutting them into shorts! Thanks for showing me how!

  27. beatriz says:

    I love the things you come up with. Admire that you find the time to do it all.

  28. Amber says:

    I love it! Seems we both have shorts on our mind!

    I did a similar post but made my little ones pants into a pair of rolled hem shorts!

    You can see it at

  29. Disney says:

    Oh, Ashley, I have infinity pair of pants for myself and Paige to do this for. I love how easy it is! And you’re so right-the double hem looks fantastic! :O)

  30. Tricia says:

    Who says cut off jean shorts can’t be store bought! Check out these boys shorts from Old Navy. They have them in toddler sizes too! or

    Thanks for the info! I will be chopping jeans soon!

    1. katie says:

      yeah, but did you see the price?

  31. Mrsblocko says:

    You had to make the worn spots yourself? Sheesh. My 6 yr old daughter does that to her pants just by wearing them. I have to mend her pants or I’d be buying new pants every month. Sometimes I wonder if she even walks on her feet, then I look at the shoes I bought her 3 months ago that she has worn a hole through the toe. And I don’t mean her foot has grown so much that the toe has worn through, she has just worn a hole through the toe.

    the shorts look really cute on your little guy though!

  32. Donna says:

    Great idea, have a pair of trousers that I accidentially singed with the iron last week (thank goodness was on the bottom of the leg) and I noticed my son’s jeans were getting kinda short so bought him new ones today. Any ideas on how to make the waist smaller as his new jeans fit him in length but kind of big on the waist – wish I had the same problem, lol.

    1. katie says:

      i have done this with my jeans :) here are a couple of pics

      this is how they look

      and this is the inside

      basically just see how much you need to take in and divide in half. then make a V with chalk behind the pocket and go all the way up and sew the sides of the V together. do this on both sides. and you’re done! :)

    2. katie says:

      oh, and when they start getting smaller on his waist, just seam rip it right out for more room :)

  33. Lex Malla Books says:

    Great idea! I like the look of the double stitched hem a lot.

  34. Janina says:

    I love it! I just did this about 3 days ago….I wish I had seen it before haha! But I have quiet a few pants I need to cut! Thanks!

  35. Kiersten says:

    I was JUST going to do that today! I was noticing that all of my daughter’s pants are too short and she has NO shorts. Perfect!

  36. Bethany says:

    I just have to say that your little man is such a stud! Seriously so cute. :)

  37. StephwJ says:

    Any tips for making a rolled cuff on the frayed jeans for my girlie? And would this also work with skinny jeans?

    1. Amber says:

      Yes! Just posted a tutorial on how to make rolled hem shorts at
      Or for the direct link,

      Hope that helps!

    2. StephwJ says:

      Thank you so much! I really needed this I’m a real newbie to sewing.

  38. Andrea C says:

    Double needle question.
    I bought a double needle, and have tried three different types of fabric (sweatpants, teeshirt type and then a regular cotton) and with all three, a top thread kept breaking. Any tips??

  39. tiffany wynia says:

    awesome ideas. we live on a farm so i do this to chore pants. sometimes the pants fits in the waist but not the lenght so this is a wonderful idea.

  40. Theda says:

    A double needle!! That’s how they do that….I need some sewing lessons obviously. Thanks for posting this!

  41. Becca says:

    I saw a double needle in the store the other day and thought, “hum?” Thank you. Now I know what to do with my four year-old’s beloved camo pants with the hole in the knee. There’s no way they’ll fit next year, so a patch is out of the question.

    1. Bekah says:

      Wow. Just trimmed MY just turned 5 year olds beloved camo pants with the hole in the knee! Please tell me your child’s name is Simon! That would be just too strange!

    2. Becca says:

      Too funny. We live parallel lives. It would be really weird if his name was Symon (spelled a little different like our names). But alas, he’s Dillon.

  42. Jessica Smith says:

    I have just recently went through all of the kids clothes. I have a pile of pants that I am turning into shorts. I was actually just looking at them and trying to determine how I wanted to hem them….. thanks for the ideas!!

  43. Tiffany says:

    Growth spurts beware! You are going down…

  44. Anonymous says:

    it’s only 10 degrees, so not that warm here in britain, but i love the idea. im definatly going to try it when it gets warmer. (if it gets warmer!)

  45. Sam says:

    I’ve been stocking up on pants in the clearance sections to make into shorts! Good think I haven’t yet, it’s cold today! If only there ways a way to make shorts into pants.

  46. Pam @ diy Design Fanatic says:

    What a cutie patootie! Great post and reminder !

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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