Turn a Pair of Jeans Into Your New Favorite Shorts!

Looking for some instant summer wardrobe gratification? Turn an old pair of jeans into comfy DIY jean shorts with this tutorial.

DIY Jean Shorts with a Contrasting Trim

Making a pair of jeans into shorts is a great way to repurpose jeans you no longer wear.

Perhaps they shrunk in the wash or look too bedraggled at the hemline. Whether for kids or adults, old jeans make the perfect candidate for like-new DIY jean shorts. With a quick bit of sewing, you can be ready for your outdoor adventures — plenty of pockets included!

First, determine how long you want your shorts to be and make the first cut.

measure inseam of shorts

Consider is how long you want your finished shorts to be. Knee-length, shorty-shorts or somewhere in the middle? Wherever you decide, the first step is to cut the legs, leaving a bit of extra length for hemming or other treatment.

Option 1: Cut at the knee and adjust

You can put the jeans on, mark where your knee is and then cut off at that point. Later, you can adjust until you get to your ideal shorts length.

Option 2: Measure the inseam

mark cut line on jeans

Another method is to measure the inseam of an existing pair of shorts, and then use that as a guideline to cut off the jeans leg. Remember to add a bit extra to this length, about 1 or 2 inches for hemming.

Next, you’ll need to decide how you want the edge of the shorts to look.

Now comes decision time. Are you a hemmed jeans person or a frayed jeans person?

Option 1: Rolled shorts

rolled up jeans shorts

If you want your DIY jeans shorts to stay at the same length, you can finish the cut edge with a serger to keep it from fraying. Then you can roll up your jeans, letting you choose different lengths depending on how far you roll them. Or, you could tack the rolls down at the side seam so they stay in place. 

Option 2: Frayed jeans (that don’t fray too much!)

running stitch on edge

Maybe you want that frayed look but also don’t want to sacrifice any length. Run a couple of rows of machine stitches about an inch from the cut edge. That way, if the fabric frays, it will stop at that point. By using a matching thread, the stitching won’t show on the outside.

Option 3: Add a contrasting edge

Another option for DIY jeans shorts a contrast edging, which will keep your jeans shorts in tact and use up some cute fabric scraps. Follow along the simple tutorial to learn how to turn jeans into shorts with an eye-catching contrasting edge.

Step 1: Measure the leg opening

measure leg opening

For this option, the first step is measuring the leg opening. Jeans are often very form fitting, and it might be more comfortable to have a larger leg opening for shorts. You can create that extra space by opening up the outside side seam into a slit. Here, the slit opening is about 3 inches long. 

Step 2: Reinforce the side seam opening

reinforce side seam

After creating the side seam slit, it’s a good idea to reinforce end of that seam with some machine stitches so it doesn’t pull open with wearing and washing. 

Step 3: Make bias binding

Now it’s time to make the bias binding. For the shorts in this example, the leg opening is 18″, plus two slits of 3″ each, plus some extra length to turn under the edges. That equals about 26″ of bias binding per each legs.

make bias tape

You can use a bias binding maker to make your own bias or use packaged bias binding. In this example the strip is 2″ wide to start and then pressed into double fold binding. 

Step 4: Attach the bias binding

start to pin on bias trim

Start at the top of a side slit and folder the edge of the bias to make a clean finish. Sandwich the jeans edge in the fold of the bias binding and pin all around the edge. 

trim ready to sew

Once your binding is pinned all around the leg openings, machine stitch the binding onto the shorts, making sure to catch both sides of the binding to encase the denim. 

Shorts with contrast trim
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