How to Make Jeans into Shorts (and Keep the Original Hem)

Make cute jeans into cute shorts!

I love this clever way to shorten the length of jeans or pants while still 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 to want the hem to go up to. As long as the waist still fits, you can get another season out of those worn out pants!

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 the 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. Got it?

Now here’s how you do it…

How to turn toddler jeans into shorts with the original hem

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 professional hem

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 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

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

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.

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

Shorten jeans and pants with the original hem

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.

Keep the original hem when shortening pants and jeans

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 - shorten jeans with hem

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

Make shorts from jeans while keeping the original hem

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.

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

See our favorite ways to reuse and recycle jeans!

how to recycle jeans facebook

See how to make your jeans last longer.


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