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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Upcycle Old Jeans into Boutique Shorts

It's that time of year again.  It's hot outside, the kids need new shorts, and all their jeans are just sitting there mocking us with their worn knees. We have a few options: we can go shopping (fun), we can make shorts from scratch (even more fun), or we can cut off their jeans and call them shorts (functional but not as fun).

~ OR ~

We can make their old jeans into something new and fabulous! Shorts that aren't just okay, but super duper boutique-style cute! Like this ~

 There are a LOT of variations you can make with this tutorial, of course. The shorts can be made short or long, and simple or frilly, depending on the embellishments you decide to use. This was exactly what my daughter wanted, and I'm sure your girl will be happy to get involved as you make hers too! 

 The basic tutorial today will show how to add a cute fabric cuff to the shorts. (You will decide whether you want the cuffs to fold up or down. More on that later.) Then I will give a few ideas for embellishing and then the rest is up to you! What I love about this technique is that the finished edge is sturdy and the shorts are cute enough to wear just about anywhere! She can wear a coordinating top with them or just throw on a fun tee! 

Let's get started!

First, make sure the jeans still fit and decide how long you want the shorts to be. I usually cut just above the faded knee area and then figure out what I want to do from there. 

Use a straight edge to mark and cut a straight line across one leg, removing it. Then place that cut piece on top of the opposite leg (flip it so it's mirrored) and use that as a guide to cut the same amount off the second leg.  You could also measure the inseams to check for accuracy, but I haven't ever found that I'm off by doing it the way I just described.

You can hand the leg pieces over to your kids to play with; you won't need them anymore. 

 Now we will quickly figure the size of fabric we need for each cuff: 

First, measure the bottom edge of the shorts on one leg. 

The flat width x 2 will tell us the full width of the round leg. Then add 3/4" to that, for seam allowances. 

For example, these shorts are 6" across.  Multiply that by 2 to get 12".  Then add 3/4", and my final number is 12.75".  That is the WIDTH of each cuff piece (side to side). 

To figure the length (up and down) of each cuff piece, you can decide how tall you want your cuff to be, times it by 2, and add 3/4".  In my example, I wanted the cuffs to be 2" so I multiplied that by 2 to get 4" and added 3/4" to get a total of 4.75". That is the LENGTH of the cuff piece (up and down). 

Now I know that each cuff piece for my shorts will be 4.75" long and 12.75" wide. 

If you happen to like math equations, this might help as a review: 

Length = (cuff x 2) + .75" 
Width = (flat cut width x 2) + .75" 

Go ahead and cut the fabric to those dimensions. Don't forget to make one for each leg! 

Take one of the cuff pieces and fold it in half widthwise with right sides together, matching up the short ends. Sew the ends together, as shown in red above. 

Turn half of the cuff up so the fabric is now right side out and folded into a cuff shape. In the photo, the raw edges are at the top and the folds are at the bottom.  Repeat these steps with the second cuff. 

The cuffs are now ready! 

Pin like this if you want the cuffs to fold downward on the completed shorts. 

Option 1: Slide one of the cuffs up onto the leg with the fold at the top and the raw edges matching at the bottom. You will want the seam of the cuff to match up with the inside leg seam of the shorts. Pin the cuff in place around the bottom edge.   Repeat with the second leg cuff. 

Note: The above method is for when you want the cuff to fold downward from the shorts, adding length to the shorts.  If you would prefer for the cuffs to fold upward instead, forming a true cuff on the shorts and not adding any length, then you will put the cuff inside the shorts, as shown below: 

Pin like this if you want the cuffs to fold upward on the completed shorts.
 Option 2: As shown above, insert the cuffs into the shorts opening, lining up the seam of the cuff with the inside seam of the shorts. Match the raw edges and pin in place. Repeat with the second leg cuff.

Either option is great as long as both legs are matching! With both cuffs pinned in place, your shorts should look something like this for Option 1, or they would both be inside for Option 2. 

Using a sturdy denim needle if possible, sew around the pinned edges, using a 3/8" seam allowance. Repeat with the second leg.

 Then zigzag or serge to finish the raw edges so they won't fray. (I used my serger with the knife off because of the bulky denim seams!)  Repeat with the second leg. 

With the cuffs attached, fold them either up or down, depending where you want them to be. The seams you just sewed should not be visible on the outside. 

With the cuff where you want it, topstitch 1/8" from the edge to keep the seams folded upward and to keep the cuffs from flipping. This applies to both cuff options. For option 1, the topstitching will be on the denim (as shown in the photo above). For option 2, the topstitching will be on the bottom of the cuff. You can topstitch the top of the cuff in place as well, but it is not necessary. 

Look how cute that is!  You can be done now, or you can add more embellishments. This was my first idea: 

I love cute button accents, especially when they are fun shapes and sizes! I suggest using odd numbers of buttons and placing them off center to the outside, but you can do it any way you like. 

 My daughter wanted something more fluffy, however, so we made this scrappy flower. I cut several strips of fabric and gathered them down the centers using a basting stitch. Then I just gathered them in and sewed them in place. If you want more of a tutorial, I believe there is something similar in  our Megan's accessory pack pattern.  But really you can use any kind of fabric flower or bow -- or even store bought embellishments!  

We thought it would even be cute to add a flower to the pocket, or maybe make a braided belt to wear with her shorts! 

 But in the end, she wanted to wear her favorite long tee and have the flower on the cuff.  I think it's pretty cute there. 

That's my girl! 

I'm sure you can think of other ways to embellish these that I haven't tried yet.  I can't wait to see what you make!  

Let's Create!  ~ Kristen 


  1. These shorts are adorable! I tried to picture in my mind how you made the cute fabric flower embellishment but couldn’t quite figure it out. But your fabric trimmed short tutorial was amazing and very easy to follow! Thank you for sharing! I can’t wat to try this with my granddaughter’s old pants!

  2. It’s nice sharing! There are the comfortable jeans for women on sale at store