Hello, summer! If you’re anything like me, summer means ice cream, late nights hanging out with friends, and of course, Remake’s #NoNewClothes challenge — and what better way to keep from buying new clothes than repurposing your old ones? Grab your old denim, because it’s time to learn how to DIY jean cutoff shorts.

This is my third year participating in the challenge, attempting to not purchase anything new for 90 days, from June 1st through September 1st. It’s a wonderful way to break the habits of consumerism and the bonds of fast fashion and really take stock of what’s already in your closet. And, it gives you a chance to re-evaluate your wardrobe and get creative — which brings us to today’s DIY!


Jean shorts. Jorts, if you will. A classic summer staple, although sometimes it can be hard to find the perfect pair. They’re too long or too short, too tight or too loose, too distressed or not distressed enough…but there’s good news! Jean shorts are one of the easiest upcycling projects and can be made with minimal supplies, time, and experience!

Really, there’s nothing to be scared about. Let me walk you through it.


Find a pair of jeans you like. The pair you choose should fit you around the waist and hips, the leg shape doesn’t matter too much. The best jorts are made from jeans that are 100% cotton and aren’t skin-tight, but feel free to try to make them out of whatever you have. If you don’t already have a pair of jeans, go to a thrift store or ask your friends if they have a pair they’re no longer using. Keep in mind that because you’re cutting off the legs, any weirdly tapered or flared legs don’t matter, try and find a pair you like based on how it fits your butt and upper thighs, I’ve even heard of women having great success using men’s jeans to make cutoffs. Maybe look online at some jean shorts you like to help you determine what fit you’re looking for.

The pair I’m using I had received in a bundle of clothes from a neighbor. I put them aside a few months ago because the hip of the jeans fit me well, though the knee rip and DIY cropped length weren’t my favorite. They’re 98% cotton and 2% elastane, but I figured I’d try to make a pair of jean shorts with them since I didn’t want to purchase anything more, being as true as I can be to the #NoNewClothes challenge.

Trim excess fabric, so you have knee-length shorts. It will be much easier to imagine your shorts when you’re not seeing all the extra fabric below your knee. This is a trim to help inform your design process, not meant to be a final cut by any means. Wondering what to do with the legs you cut off? Why not make denim “yarn” and upcycle it!

DIY Jean Cutoff Shorts

Try them on. Fold up one side of the shorts to determine what length you want them to be. The inseam (inner thigh/crotch area) should be longer than the outer sides, this will be most flattering. Once you find a shape you like, mark it with something washable: chalk, a marking pencil, a marker that will wash out, etc.).

Prepare to cut! Think about the style of jean shorts you’re going for. Are you planning to cuff them? Then you should cut them longer with the cuff(s) taken into account to make them the length you want. Generally, you’re going to want to cut slightly lower than the line you drew during the last step no matter what, as the shorts will fray a bit at the bottom. When you’re comfortable, go ahead and make the cut on the side you marked.

DIY Jean Cutoff Shorts

Fold shorts in half. Cut the other leg using the first one as a guide to match length and shape.

Finish your jorts as you please. Here’s where you really make your shorts your own. Cuff the hem, distress the shorts, or do both! If you like them as they are after making that final cut, skip to the last step.

PRO TIP: Jorts a little too tight around your thighs? You can always snip a small slit on the outside seam to help give you a bit more room.

To cuff the hem: fold an even amount of fabric up around each leg opening and press with an iron. If you would like, you can fold up twice instead of once. At this point, you can tack the cuff with a small hand-sewn stitch on the inside and outside seams to keep it in place, if you so choose.

To distress the shorts (create that white thread look): cut two horizontal lines parallel from each other, the length and distance determine how large the distressed hole is. I suggest starting smaller, as you can always make the area larger. Take a pair of tweezers and remove the blue threads (they run vertically) from the area you cut. If you want the bottom of your shorts to be even more frayed, you can also manually remove the threads the same way from the hem (if uncuffed).

DIY Jean Cutoff Shorts

Wash them! Washing the jean shorts will encourage fraying and help you achieve that worn-in look.

DIY Jean Cutoff Shorts

That’s it, you did it! Wasn’t that easy?

Share this project with your friends and Join this year’s #noNewClothes Campaign and take the pledge to live more sustainably!


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