Turning Jeans into Shorts or Capris

So, today, we’re going to be taking an old pair of jeans and turning those said jeans into shorts (or capris). The fun part is we’ll be using fun, printed fabric scraps to make the cuffs for you new shorts, giving them a fresh, new look that’s personalized to your unique style. Check out the funky ones I made from my daughter’s “painter’s jeans” (below) – she loves them!

Spring is on it’s way, and with it, it brings the need for change, color, and fun!

The Short of it!

And, it’s not just shorts! You can turn jeans into capris, too! And, you can, literally, go from beginning to end of this project in about 20 minutes. How’s that for value? A new addition to your wardrobe, with no added cost, in about the time it takes to do your hair and make-up. Not only that, but it’s a form of recycling, too. You’re probably going to be using leftover fabric thats already in your pile. And, once your jeans are to the point where the knees can’t be patched and repaired anymore, you would normally just toss them, in lieu of a new pair, but with this project you can just turn those jeans into shorts and vóila! New addition to the Spring and Summer wardrobe.

Turn Jeans into Shorts!

Materials/Tools Needed for Shorts:

  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors and thread
  • Sewing pins
  • Old pair of jeans
  • 2 pieces of fabric

How to Make Shorts from Old Jeans:

  1. Cut off your jeans where you want the cuffs to be, and remember that you will be adding about 2” of fabric, give or take some. Cut both legs at the same time so they match. For capris, cut just under the knee. For shorts, cut them shorter than you normally would to allow for the fabric cuffs.
  2. Cut two strips of fabric the same size, and iron them. The size is really up to you, but if you want 2” cuffs, cut your strips to 5” (because you’ll be folding it in half lengthwise to create the cuff and you will need to allow for a 1/2” seam) . The length will depend on the size of jean leg hole. Just fold your fabric piece in half (short end to short end) and lay it across your jean leg. As long as it’s at least an inch or two larger than the leg, you’re good.
  3. Fold your fabric strips in half (wrong sides facing), lengthwise (long end to long end) and do a 3/8” straight stitch along the long, raw-edged side. Don’t forget to backstitch at the beginning and end!
  4. To determine proper length of your cuff, pin your strips around the outside of your jean legs, with hemmed edge of fabric matching up to cut edge of jeans. Start pinning from the “outside” jean seam, working your way around (don’t pull the fabric) until your beginning and end of fabric meet. Put a pin where the beginning of your fabric meets the end of your fabric (as a marker), and unpin the other pins, remove fabric, and sew a straight seam across the fabric you just marked with a pin. Cut off excess fabric.
  5. Pin your cuffs back on your jeans as you just did in step 4, starting with the fabric seam to the “outside” jean seam you matched up previously, and continue pinning all the way around.
  6. Sew a 1/2” seam from the edge (which should be about 1/4” from the first seam we made) all the way around, taking care to sew in a straight line. This will put a seam to the left of our first seam, allowing us to hide the first seam when we flip our cuffs over. Remove your pins as you sew, so you don’t break your needle. Fold your cuffs down, and iron.
  7. To finish them off, top stitch around the top and bottom edges of the cuff with matching or contrasting thread (1/4″). Jeans into shorts – that was easy!

If you are a more visual person, like myself, go ahead and click on my newest video tutorial on YouTube, “Turning Jeans into Shorts or Capris with Fabric Cuffs in 20 minutes!”, for a step-by-step guide to the process. And, remember that perfection is not key here – this project is wide open to creativity and adjustments, so have fun!


Congratulations – you just turned your ratty, old jeans into shorts! This same process can be used to turn jeans into capris, as well. You’ll see in my video tutorial (above), that I made mismatched cuffs on my daughter’s shorts to make them more interesting and fun. Kids love that – it gives them a one-of-a-kind garment, which reflects their one-of-a-kind personality, and what’s better than that?

How to turn capris and jeans into shorts!

And, don’t forget about YOU. I’m going to be making myself a pair of these this weekend, since they hardly take any time. I just happen to have a pair of jeans in my drawer that are thinning to the point of non-repair. It’s always the boyfriend jeans, isn’t it? :( But, there’s no reason to fret when I can just turn those sad-looking jeans into shorts for the coming season. And, goodness know that I need some shorts…with some style. Problem solved.

So, when you’re turning those “ripped, thinned, too short, too long, faded” jeans into shorts or capris, for yourself or for someone you love, remember…the sky’s the limit!

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