DIY: Denim Cut-Off Shorts

January 26th, 2010 § 22 comments

j crew shorts

Ah, the winter shorts. So contradictory and impractical of a trend that it’s spread like wildfire. Even J.Crew can’t help pairing their shorts with blazers, classic cardigans, or crisp button downs (just see above for proof). So who am I to fight it? I actually love the winter shorts trend because it’s just like wearing wool tights with skirts or dresses only better; No worrying about your skirt flying up in the wind or your dress static-clinging to your nyloned legs. You get the best of both worlds.

Since I’ve been getting so much mileage out of my recently purchased tweed shorts, I decided to take a pair of scissors to an old pair of jeans and gift myself a second pair of winter shorts. A denim cut-off pair. I think it was around the mid nineties that I last turned a pair of jeans into cut-offs, so I proceeded with caution and recorded the transformation for your benefit as well. In just a few easy steps, you too can be the proud owner of a pair of denim cut-offs…


  • Old jeans to be cut up
  • A pair of well fitting shorts for comparison purposes
  • Scissors

The Process:


Pick a pair of jeans that you won’t be sorry to cut up. Of all the jeans I brought abroad with me, I was most willing to part with these black DKNY ones that I thrifted a few years back. Since I’m really liking a narrow or skinny jean cut as of late, I decided to breathe new life into this flared pair by converting them to shorts.


It helps if you already own a pair of well fitting shorts that you could use as a measuring guide. These don’t have to be jean or dress shorts, even a pair of workout shorts would do if you like how they fit and the length is a good indicator for how long you’d liked your new pair to be. I love the fit of these tweed shorts, so I used them as my measuring guide. I found this to be easier than trying to mark the jeans or to indicate with pins the length I’d like to achieve.


Simply lay your model pair of shorts on top of the jeans and cut a few good inches lower. Make sure your jeans are laying the same way as the shorts –  with the hem seams lined up. The front waistband will be lower when the hems match up (see top image for example). Don’t match up the waistbands because this will result in uneven leg seams once the shorts are on (you need more fabric in the tush area).


Once you’ve double checked that the shorts and jeans are lined up correctly, start cutting a good section below the hems of the model shorts. Account for rolling the hem if that’s what you want to do and err on the longer side with your first cut.


Once you cut both jean legs off, roll the cuffs for your desired end effect and try them on for fit. Trim another inch or two off if they’re too long or enjoy more of a trouser shorts look. Style as desired.

Now, any tips on what to do with that left over jean fabric?



§ 22 Responses to DIY: Denim Cut-Off Shorts"

  1. amy says:

    I love the helpful hints for chopping a pair of jeans or pants and transforming them!
    For those of us who are short, a cuff can tend to make us look even shorter (because of the line it draws across the leg), but you don’t have to be able to sew at all to turn the cuff under and seal it permanently with a hot iron and a little Stitch Witchery from any sewing or craft store.
    You asked about the leftover denim… Why not turn it into a little clutch or envelope purse?

  2. admin says:

    Great tips, Amy! Especially for the no-sew cuff!

    And yes, a little coin purse or clutch was what I was thinking of as well… we’ll see what happens….


  3. Great tutorial. A bag or purse of the leftover fabrics, of course, :)

  4. Rachel says:

    Great tips! I’ve been wanting to cut an old pair of jeans into shorts. This gives me more reason to go for it! Plus, your pair turned out really nice!

    I like Amy’s suggestion of using the denim for a clutch. That would be cute!

  5. Ris says:

    I keep jean scraps to mend other jeans with. I tend to wear my jeans to death and then try to resurrect them by patching them with other jeans. Time consuming, but inexpensive, especially if you have a penchant for fancy jeans like I do.

  6. Katie says:

    You could also make a couple very cute denim flowers (or other shapes) out of the scraps from the handbag to turn into brooches, hair clips, or put on a headband. Just cut out several shapes, graduated in size, and sew (or glue, but sewing gives a nicer finish) them together. I made something similar out of felt for my friend Chelsie here: The great thing about pieces like this is you can customize them (buttons, charms, old clip-on earrings, etc.) and they don’t have to be perfect and look cute when they fray.

  7. Trisha says:

    I also like the purse idea. My aunt always saves jeans-material and then sews them into blankets to use while camping– sturdy, warm, and washable.

  8. Raquelita says:

    Here’s a great tip for using up (some of) the leftover denim:

    …so cute!

  9. Luinae says:

    Thanks for the idea, S!

  10. Jackie says:

    I’ve used denim scraps to make a purse before, but make sure your machine can handle the thickness of the fabric.

    Your hair looks great! I tried the curly girl method too and I use co-wash about half the time and sulfate free -poo the rest… my hair couldn’t handle full-time co-washing either.

  11. Audi says:

    I’ve heard that the legs of cut-off jeans can be stuffed, sewn up at the ends and used as dog toys, but my dog has jaws of steel that could shred even the sturdiest denim in mere minutes, so I haven’t tried it.

  12. MissWiniW says:

    I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while but I’m so nervous about cutting up my jeans! What happens if I want to wear them again later? (despite not having worn them since I can’t remember…) Dilemma.

  13. Kendi says:

    Okay first off, I am very envious of how your wear those shorts. Your outfit is just precious, as are all of them. I’m not sure if i can pull it off quite like you, but I think that I’ll try!

    Great DIY lesson! I think that I’ll cut off some black jeans as well.


  14. Brande says:

    Fabulous! As I was waiting for the comment page to load I was thinking of what to write. “I’ll definitely try this come summer!” was the first thing that came to mind. No sooner had the thought hit me than did I realize how ridiculous it was. No way am I waiting *months* to try this! I found a pair of magenta tights on clearance last week and I think they’re about to make their debut. =)

    Also, I have several pairs of worn-out jeans that I’ve been looking to recycle and I found this website the other day:

    Have fun! Thanks for being an inspiration!

  15. spiritscraft says:

    Don’t forget to allow for different fits on the waistband. If you are cutting a high waisted item and and using a low waisted shorts as a guide, be sure to allow for needing more length in the leg on the altered pair.

  16. Carolina says:


    I know this is sort of an old post but today I followed your instructions and turned my jeans into shorts. I was a bit nervous, but I loved how they turned out! I paired them with a loose white shirt, black boots and tights. However, today was unusually cold where I live in (Mexico City) so I was a bit cold. Maybe this outfit will be better in a couple of weeks, when the weather improves.

    And I’m liking the idea of turing the left over denim into flowers, I’ll give that a try soon!

  17. [...] have a good winter pair? Thrift a pair of shorts (you can always adjust the length yourself) or DIY a pair of old jeans you no longer wear. S. Category: Beltless, Layers Upon Layers, Research Casual, The Short of It, [...]

  18. [...] mit ein wenig Geschick auch einfach ein altes Modell kürzen – eine kleine Anleitung dazu gibt es hier! So kann man sicher gehen, dass man ein echtes Unikat [...]

  19. [...] if they sit lower on your hips, too. I’m terrible at cutting the jeans, but there are some awesome tutorials out there if you need a little more advice. These are a little shorter than I’m usually [...]

  20. Andrea says:

    Once I made a little owl out of my denim cut-offs. His name is Berty :)

  21. Kate says:

    Awesome! I have about 5 pairs of old jeans I want to turn into cut offs for summer :)

  22. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thanks, However I am having difficulties with your RSS.
    I don’t know the reason why I can’t join it. Is there anybody else getting identical RSS problems?

    Anyone that knows the solution can you kindly respond?

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