DIY denim shorts, just like mom used to make, but better

Posted on 10.07.2011


Hey, remember the 80’s? They were fun. Remember how easy it was to get shorts back then? all you had to do was cut the legs off a pair of jeans (that you were suddenly too tall for) and voila! Shorts!

Things are and are not so simple today, depending on what jeans you happen to be cutting. Also, the frayed look doesn’t go over so well when you’re trying to wear the shorts to work, so there’s more to be done than just cutting, washing and drying.

So, remember about a year ago when a mostly new pair of Express jeans I had got a hole in the crotch area? Remember that I wrote them a somewhat angry letter expressing my disappointment, and how they responded so nicely and I got a kickass pair of ReRock jeans out of the deal? Well, about that. When I went back for Xmas last year and needed to buy a bunch of clothes, I ended up picking up another pair of Express jeans, because they were the only ones that fit the way I wanted them to. The ReRocks that were there that day weren’t doing me any favors in the looks department.

I ended up loving that Stella Ultra Skinny Dark Wash pair of jeans SO MUCH, that I bought another pair online a few months ago when they were on sale. And lo and behold, about a month after I got them, the original pair got a hole in the crotch.

Fool me once, shame on you. Twice, shame on me.

So here I was with a pair of jeans that I loved, and they had a hole in the crotch. Initially I just patched them up, but then I decided that I can’t possibly wear them to work, no matter how ‘IN’ the casual, often frayed look is here in Germany.

A little while after that, I decided that I should totally make them into a pair of shorts, because then I could heighten the fraying to a point of acceptable appearance, and get a pair of shorts in my favorite denim wash at the same time. The only problem with this is: although skinny jeans look good as jeans, when you have thighs like mine, they don’t look great as cut off shorts. Yes, if I were much thinner and less muscular, I could totally pull the ‘just cut off’ look off with them, but I’m not. So, there was work to be done. I’d have to cut them at the seams and sew in some extra fabric.

The upside to cutting jeans into shorts is that you end up with a LOT of extra material, so I had plenty of the same colored denim to use in the inserts. I cut a line along the outside seam (less stitching for me later) all the way up to where the stitching doubled, just under the pockets.

In hindsight, I probably could have gone a little further up, but I’m sure I’ll have another pair to try that theory out on in a few months. After that I got the fabric and held it up to the opening, trying to decide how I was going to accomplish this.

In case you are wondering, YES, I did all of this and all of the pinning while wearing the pants/shorts, because that is really the best way to make sure it’ll fit you perfectly, if you don’t have a body-double form to put things on.

After trying a few different ideas, I decided the shorts would look best if I kept the seam from the lower legs, adding an extra design element to the shorts. Granted, it wasn’t going to be perfect, but since these were already an exercise in frayed casual-ness, I figured a little imperfection might be a good thing.

I tacked everything in place, which was kind of a bitch since the legs were still kind of tight (them being skinny jeans and all). I didn’t stick myself at all, but I did have to reposition the inserts a bit to make sure that the seams were mostly straight. I’m glad that I did this, and you’ll see why in the photos later.

I couldn’t decide what I was going to do from there, but it was then that I noticed that the inner seam from the legs was going to be showing. I like the ripped-seam look, so I definitely wanted to keep that, rather than cutting it off for a more uniform appearance.

So I kept it. I didn’t tack it down, though, because it was sitting pretty well on its own.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the bottom of the shorts, because a cuff would have looked pretty cool. I wasn’t too interested in the idea of the cuffs taking away from the cool triangle I was creating, so I decided during sewing that I’d just sew a hem at the bottom and if I changed my mind, I could always add a cuff later without too much trouble. I’ve saved all of the fabric anyway:)

Last night Deb and Dominik came over to watch the Women’s World Cup game, and we planned it that way so we could sew together. Deb had a pillowcase she needed to fix, and I was planning to sew while watching the games anyway.

Neither of us has a sewing machine, so we were both sitting there on the couch with Dominik, watching the game. Awesome good time, seriously.

I found a cotton grey thread that matched the seam thread on my jeans, so I was using that to get everything connected. I noticed, though, that while it is a strong thread, it might need another line of stitching. Rather than doing two lines of the thick grey thread, I opted to make the second line a Gütermann black thread that is really strong, and against the dark blue/black denim and navy thread of the seams, it’s pretty invisible. Woohoo!

I sewed down the open seams, as well, to get them to be a bit smoother against my legs once the shorts were done. I didn’t finish with a ‘real’ seam along the bottom, because I think a small amount of fray will be nice. We’ll see how that works out. I don’t think these will need to be washed all that much, so I can’t see the semi-seam at the bottom being too much of a problem in the long run.

Here’s a few photos that I took today (between World Cup Games) of the finished shorts. I’m pretty happy with them! I doubt they’ll pass for having been bought this way, but I don’t care. No one else in Wü will be wearing them, and that’s the goal. Individuality that looks great. Always.

left side

right side

I’m glad that they’re more open at the bottoms now, I hate that ‘hot dog being squeezed by a tight rubber band’ look that happens so often. From this angle, you can see that the seams being added and kept in the center gives a bit of form to the shorts, more than would have been there if I just chose the part of the legs without the seam detail. I’m really happy with these and am absolutely wearing them today to lounge around the house watching football in.

We’ll see about wearing them to work later:)