How to Cut Jeans Into Shorts (And Keep the Original Hem)

How to cut jeans into shorts

How to Turn Jeans Into Shorts

Knowing how to cut jeans into shorts is a useful and frugal skill to have, and it’s not that hard either! For this method, you don’t even need to know how to hem shorts because we’ll be keeping the original hem!

This works perfectly on a straight leg jean or pant and is an awesome solution to worn out pant knees. You want the hem to be about the same width as where you want the hem to go up to. Meaning, the leg opening needs to be about the same width as the thigh width, if you’re making them into shorts.

This is a great way to recycle old jeans and you can also use this technique to temporarily shorten the length of the pants for your growing child. Buy the pants long, shorten the hem, then let your stitching out later, and they are back to the original length.

This may be helpful for adults too, especially if you often find jeans you love that are just too long. This will work well with any pants as long as the width of the hem is about the same width as the place where you want the length to be.

Now here’s how you do it…

Supplies to cut jeans into shorts

Step 1.

With the pants on, find the length that you want the pants to be. Mark it with a pin or two, then take the pants off and start measuring.

I pinned the length on one leg, then measured from the bottom of the pant leg to my pin and matched the length on the other leg.

Sewing jeans into shorts with the original hem

Step 2.

Now measure from the bottom of the pant leg and up to right above the stitching for the bottom hem. This is the hem measurement – it is often a 1/2 inch or so.

Take the measurement of the hem and go up from your length pins, then mark that with pins too. So, you should have two lines of pins, about a 1/2 inch apart or whatever the measurement of the hem.

Keep the original hem of the jeans or pants when you shorten or make into shorts

Step 3.

Fold up the bottom of the pants to meet the top row of pins. Straighten out the fabric and pin the folded part of the pant leg in place all the way around. You can remove your pins marking the length now too.

Toddler jeans to shorts while keeping the original hem

Step 4.

I have to admit that I had a difficult time fitting the small leg opening of these toddler jeans around my sewing machine arm. It helped when I cut off the excess fabric first though. You can use pinking shears, a serger, or regular fabric scissors for this.

Note: If you are just shortening the pants slightly and want to restore the length later, don’t cut off any fabric.

Cutting fabric from pants

Step 5. Time to get the sewing machine out!

Use a thread that is similar in color to the pants you are altering – a color that will blend in well with the material of the pants. In case you didn’t know, there is such a thing as denim-colored blue thread!

Do a simple stitch all the way around the pant leg right below the folded up hem – so the stitch is on the part that is inside out from being folded. Remove pins as you go and stay as close to the hem as you can, without having to sew through the thickness of the hem.

How to hem shorts

Step 6.

If you use fabric scissors to cut the fabric, you will want to trim the extra fabric, if needed, and do a zigzag stitch along the cut edge of the fabric. You don’t want that cut edge to fray too badly!

Use a zigzag stitch to keep cut edges from fraying

Step 7.

Do the same thing on the other pant leg. Then you can unfold the hems and iron them flat. Viola!

Jeans to shorts

Step 8.

By the way, I don’t iron much, but I finally decided to replace the old iron I got right before college (which was many years ago). This Black & Decker iron is a thing of beauty – can’t believe how quickly it heated up. Anyway, back to business here…

If you are temporarily shortening the pants, and thus, still have excess fabric, it is helpful to do a few hand stitches along the seams to keep the hem from folding up. Or when you unfold the hem, do a top stitch right above the hem. Either way will keep the extra fabric in place and it will be fairly easy to remove all of the stitches to let the altering out later if you want to.

So easy, and they look so great when they are finished!!

how to cut jeans into shorts and use the existing hem


There you have it! Cutting jeans into shorts that actually look nice is easier than you thought, right?! It’s almost like magic! If you haven’t already, you might also find our post on how to make your jeans last longer helpful too.

I first saw this wonderful technique on Refashion Mama and Make It & Love It.

How to turn jeans into shorts using the original hem

See our favorite ways to recycle old jeans:

What to do with old jeans

See how to make your jeans last longer.

Types: Sewing, Adult, Teen
Categories: Clothing, Frugal, #StayHome, Spring, Summer


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