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Make Your Own Cut-Off Jean Shorts to Save Money

Susan enjoys travel, art, writing, and natural products. She lives in Kent, just outside of London.

These cut-off jeans have the hems turned up.

These cut-off jeans have the hems turned up.

How to Cut Jeans Straight to Make Shorts

If you have an old pair of jeans that you don't wear any more, then consider making them into a pair of shorts. You can create knee-length shorts, mid-thigh ones, Daisy Dukes, roll-up hems, or frayed edges—it is entirely up to you. Stop wasting jeans that are no longer in style, and save money, too.

1. Decide on Your Style

To make cut-off shorts fit correctly, you need to take a few minutes to prep. Before you start, think about what you want the finished shorts to look like.

  • Decide how far up the leg you want the shorts.
  • Do you want a turn up?
  • How deep of a turn up do you want?

This is important because it will affect how much you cut off the legs.

I made my husband a pair of denim shorts that he wanted just above the knee, and with a turn up of an inch (2.5 cm.)

2. Try Them on and Pin Them Up

Try the jeans on and get someone else to place a pin where the finished shorts should sit on the front of the leg.

Now, if you want a turned-up hem, place a second pin further down the leg to allow for the turn up. So, if you want an inch (2.5 cm) turn up, then place this second pin 2 inches (5 cm) lower down to allow enough fabric for the hem to roll over twice.

If you want to leave the hem raw and frayed, you only need to allow an extra 1/2 inch (1 cm) as raw edges usually curl up a little.

3. Turn Your Jeans Inside Out

  1. Carefully take the jeans off while leaving the pins in place.
  2. Turn the jeans inside out.
  3. Make sure the crotch seams are level.
  4. The waistband should not be level, the back waistband should be a lot higher than the front waistband. See picture. This is important.
  5. Smooth the jeans out so they lie flat on a table or floor.

Flatten Your Jeans Carefully Before You Cut

Make sure the crotch seams are flat.

Make sure the crotch seams are flat.

4. Cut the Jeans Down

Using a good pair of sharp scissors, cut the pinned leg in a straight line. The cut should be angled to go up slightly at the outside leg seam. Only about an inch higher at the outside seam to the inside seam.

Once cut, fold the jeans carefully in half and mark the uncut leg with pins. This is to make sure both legs are the same length, and are cut at the same angle. Now cut the second leg to match.

Cut in a straight line with a slight angle.

Cut in a straight line with a slight angle.

Fold the jeans in half to make sure the length and angle of the cut are the same on both legs.

Fold the jeans in half to make sure the length and angle of the cut are the same on both legs.

Finish the Hem on Cut-Down Jeans

If you want a turn up on the legs of your cut off shorts, you have finish the hem as follows:

  • Fold the hem up once on each leg and iron it flat.
  • Then turn the hem over again and iron again. Take your time to make sure it is neat and even.
  • Sew a few small neat stitches at each seam, inner leg, and outer leg, to hold the turn up in place. There's no need to sew along the whole hem as it should stay up once it's ironed.

If you want a frayed and raw hem, just pull a few strands of cotton out along the cut edge. If you want an uneven hem, chop a few pieces out but don't make them too big. You can always make a few more cuts if you want more. Wearing and washing your new shorts will fray the edges naturally.

Frayed hems look good too. Just pull some of the cotton threads, then wash the cut off shorts.

Frayed hems look good too. Just pull some of the cotton threads, then wash the cut off shorts.

How to Distress Your Cut Off Shorts

If you want your shorts to look aged, worn and distressed, then you can achieve this yourself and make a unique piece of clothing. Put your shorts on and mark places where you want holes or cuts while you are wearing them to make sure they end up correctly placed.

  1. Sandpaper them. Take a clean piece of rough sandpaper and rub hard on places where you want a worn out look. Sandpaper quickly breaks the denim threads and this effect looks good around pocket edges and along seams. The longer you rub, the more threads you will break so stop often and check what you are doing.
  2. Use a razor blade to cut slits in a few places. Be very careful of your fingers and any piece of furniture you might be leaning on. Pairs of small slits look good. Don't make the cuts too long because the shorts will completely lose their shape.
  3. Scrape scissors back and forth in areas to make distressed patches.
  4. Use bleach if you want to fade the colour. You can dilute bleach in water and lay your shorts down flat to make an even fade all over. Make sure you wash the shorts after 20 minutes or so to stop the fabric rotting in the bleach. You can also splatter neat bleach in areas of your shorts by dripping the liquid from a large spoon. Take care not to get the bleach on carpets or floors in the process. To fade just some areas of the denim, like the front of the thighs, rub bleach on with an old rag and leave for a few minutes before washing.

© 2017 Susan Hambidge