How to Make Shorts Out of Pants That Are Too Small

Turning too-small pants into shorts is a great way to repurpose your old clothes.
Turning too-small pants into shorts is a great way to repurpose your old clothes. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Don't give up on your favorite pants just because they're too short or have holes in the knees; make them into shorts. Denim jeans, khakis, black slacks or just about any other type of pants can be made into their warm-weather equivalent. If your pants are too small at the waist, you might need to buy a new pair, but if the pants are just too short, making them into shorts is an quick way to save money while being environmentally friendly.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp scissors
  • Chalk or pencil
  • Iron
  • Clear nail polish or iron (optional)
  • Needle and thread or sewing machine (optional)

Put your pants on and stand in front of a mirror. Ask a friend to mark where you want your shorts to end on your legs with the chalk or pencil. Don't forget to check that the shorts will be long enough when you bend down. If in doubt, give yourself extra length. You can always shorten the shorts later, but you can't make the shorts longer once you cut.

Take the pants off and lay them on a smooth, hard surface for cutting. Make sure the seams are neatly aligned.

Cut the shorts with your scissors about a 1/2 inch below the hem line you drew in chalk or pencil if you would like a frayed hem. This style of hem is especially popular for jean shorts. If you prefer the clean look of a rolled hem, cut at least 2 full inches below the hem line.

Finish your shorts with a frayed edge by pulling at the loose strands of the denim. Run the shorts through a cycle in the washing machine to get a better, more natural-looking fray. If you're concerned about too much fraying, dab some clear nail polish on the inside of the shorts just above where the fabric starts to fray to stop any further strings..

Finish your shorts with a rolled edge by carefully folding the fabric below your hem line up 1/2 inch so that the inside of the fabric faces out. Iron the fold flat. Fold the fabric up another inch in the same direction to make the cuff. Iron both folds together to steam the cuffs into place.

Repeat the hem-rolling process on the second leg. Some heavy fabrics may need extra reinforcement for the rolled hem. If steaming the shorts does not keep the rolled hem up, you may have to sew the hem with needle and thread or a sewing machine.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be careful with sharp scissors. Cut slowly and carefully for the best results.

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