Sustainable Fashion

Easy Way to Cut Denim Shorts – Cheap & Sustainable!

So, you found some old jeans, and now you’re looking to cut denim shorts out of them? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Cutting your own denim shorts can be a fun DIY activity. Not to mention affordable and environmentally friendly.

I love to cut denim shorts because you can customize them exactly how you want. My favourite pair of shorts are actually some black Levi’s shorts I cut myself. It was 2 years ago now that I purchased this old pair of Levi’s pants from the men’s section at a second-hand store, which cost me only $4.99 +tax.

I want to share how I was able to make my favourite pair of shorts on Big Sister Blog. I want to help YOU make your own pair, all while becoming more sustainable and spending less money! I recently thrifted a pair of blue, high-waisted jeans and put a tutorial on cutting them into shorts on my Instagram reels.

1. Find denim pants to cut

There are lots of places to find the right pair of pants.

In my case, I didn’t have any old jeans to cut. I needed to go out and purchase a pair. I was cutting them anyways, so I didn’t exactly want to spend a lot of money on fancy jeans. The pants I ended up buying were a pair of black levi’s jeans from the men’s section at Value Village. The pair I recently bought was from Goodwill. This time, I found them in the women’s section for $5.99.

When you’re finding pants, make sure the waist is the right size. Try them on to ensure they fit. However, don’t worry about the fit of the jeans below your waist, hips, and butt. If the pants are too long or short, it doesn’t matter – you’re cutting them anyways. If the leg is too wide on you, don’t worry, it will fit right when you cut them off.

I would recommend looking at thrift stores and second-hand stores. Oftentimes they have high-quality brands. Shopping at these stores will save you money too. Not to mention, it’s more sustainable because you will end up reusing clothing that has been donated. Now with the pandemic and lots of stores being closed, you can even find cute thrifted clothing online for great prices!

Look in the men’s section too. When the clothing is organized in some second-hand stores, the wider-fit jeans end up in the men’s section, and the skinnier jeans end up in the women’s. To find high-waisted and loose-fitting pants, I needed to look in the men’s section. Try this out!

2. Use a template!

In my experience, I had a pair of my favourite shorts handy. I used this pair of shorts as a reference for the length I wanted. I would cut my self-made shorts and then hold them against my own shorts. If my self-made pair was still longer, I would keep cutting.

There’s definitely a more formal way to do this too. If you have a ruler or measuring tape, you can measure the inseam and outseam of your old shorts, and cut to those lengths on your new shorts.

Even if you have a pair of shorts that you don’t like very much, you can still use them as a reference. For example, if the shorts you own are too short, make sure when you compare the two pairs, your self-cut shorts are longer.

If the inseam is 3 inches, for example, you can draw a line at that point on the seam. If the outseam is 7 inches long, for example, you can draw a line at that point on the seam. Now all you have to do is connect the two lines with a cut.

3. Make your first cut

The next step is making the first cut. Eventually, your jeans have to become shorts!

This step is crucial. I would say that cutting off too much is worse than not enough. If you are very confident in your template lines, then, by all means, go for it! But I would recommend making your first cut lower down than the length you want. Start with 3 inches longer.

Once you make the first cut, try your “shorts” on. See how the length looks. Once they are on your body you will have a better idea of the length you want. Take them off then make your next cut a bit shorter.

Keep repeating this process until the length is where you want it. For the cuts, my advice would be to cut on a bit of an arched pathway. From the inseam to the outseam, cut the line with a BIT of an arched trajectory. I found this looked more natural on my leg. However, it’s all personal preference and what YOU like on your own body!

Remember, if you want your shorts to have a rolled edge, you will need to leave an extra 1-2 inches of length. When you try them on, roll them a bit to see if the length matches. If you want a frayed look, then disregard and cut to your desired length.

In my experience, the shorts somehow get a bit shorter over time… maybe consider keeping a little bit of extra length for this reason. I remember cutting my first pair of denim shorts and thinking they were a bit long at first. However, 2 years later, here we are – and they seem to be the perfect length!

4. What to do with the edges?

Frayed Edges?

One of the most fun parts for me when I cut denim shorts was deciding how much fray I wanted on the ends. I liked the frayed look because it looked relaxed and low maintenance. There are a few ways you can fray them, such as using a razor edge, but the best method for me was the washing machine!

Once I had the desired length, I put them in the washing machine on cold. I would check on them every once in a while since I was worried the fray would get out of control. However, it never did. I ended up taking them out at the end of the cycle and wanting more fray. I used 2 full cycles in the washing machine to get my perfect shorts.

After your shorts are done in the washing machine, throw them in the dryer. Over time, the edges will get more frayed, so do remember that!

Folded Edges?

Folded edges are nice because they give your shorts a clean look.

You can fold your shorts just once – that way the frayed edges are visible, but still folded upward to give the bottom a clean folded line. Typically, if you make a fold once it will be about 0.5-1 inches (depending on your personal preferences). Make sure you keep that extra length when you’re cutting, as you will eventually fold them upward, therefore losing that length.

You might see the pattern here. If you want to double fold them, make sure you have an extra 1-2 inches of length to fold up. The double fold is safe because your shorts will be free of any frayed edges. These shorts will look nice and clean because the fray will be tucked in.

Once you fold the edges, you can iron them down to form a line. You can also just wear them around the house for a bit, with the folds you created, and they will naturally wear into this position.

Caring for your cut denim shorts

Some people like to sew a hem to control fraying. For my shorts, I never did this because the fraying was controlled. In my experience, all I needed to do was wash my shorts as I regularly would any other pair.

If you want to add a hem, you need to sew a line just above the bottom edge. You would thread your sewing machine with a thread that matches the colour of your shorts, and then sew it around the circumference of the edge on each leg hole. You can find more tips on hemming your shorts here if you’re interested.

You did it! You’re a DIY expert!

Now you’re finally done! It’s time to show off your new shorts!

Cutting denim shorts is such a fun at-home activity. Share your new knowledge with a friend, and you guys can cut denim shorts together!

Fashion doesn’t need to be expensive. Fashion doesn’t need to be bad for the environment. Cutting your own shorts is just one example of that. You can be cute and trendy while also being within your budget. Stay tuned for more fashion tips in the future!

Thanks for reading! I’d love to see what you make. If you found this article helpful and were able to make shorts yourself, send me a picture of the shorts! You can find me on Instagram or send it to my email! Happy DIY ladies!


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