Refashioning for kids: turn old pants into shorts

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Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

Kids grow so quickly. Sometimes it feels like I’ve just sewn or otherwise procured a garment for my kids and it is already small for them. Or stained. Or ripped.

That’s why I love quick refashioning sewing hacks to make clothes for children as quickly as possible. Oh yeah, I also love saving money that way.

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And one of the most well-known and easy refashions is to turn old pants into shorts. This is truly one of the most simple sewing transformations possible.

What a time-saver! Make pants for kids from sleeves! Refashion tutorial by www.cucicucicoo.com

And even better than a single refashion, is a DOUBLE refashion! Because the shorts that I’m showing in this tutorial were originally sweatshirts! (Check out my super convenient tutorial on how to make pants from sleeves here!)

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

And in addition to their being a double refashion, the holes in the knees were also patched up. Afterwards, of course, the other knees also tore. (Find out how to make homemade patches with machine appliqué here.)

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

How quick it is to turn old pants into shorts! And so easy that it’s a perfect project for beginners! And everyone loves getting a little more wear out of clothing that would otherwise end up in the trash, right? Even if the ones I show here are not the most gorgeous shorts in the world (the pants having been used a LOT), they are great for my little boy to play outside and get sweaty and dirty in!

Ready to prepare a bunch of summer clothes for your kids from their outgrown pants? Let’s get started!

Materials:

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

For the tutorial I am assuming that you know how to sew a hem. If you don’t, I highly suggest you read my how to sew a perfect hem sewing lesson before starting. I also suggest you read this lesson on how to use the free arm on your sewing machine if you’re not familiar with it.

How to transform old pants into new shorts:

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

1. Flatten the pants out and fold them in half so that the inside leg seams line up to one side, the hems/cuffs at the bottom, and the waistbands and the top.

2. Cut across the top leg at the knee (left). Then cut across the bottom leg using the first cut as a guide. Unfold the pants and make sure that you have removed any torn parts (right).

*Note* The pants I used had holes at the knees, so I just cut right above those. If your pants don’t have holes, try them on before starting and mark where you want them hem to fall with a safety pin. Cut 2 cm (or however much extra fabric you need to hem) below the safety pin.

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

3. Turn the pants inside out and slip one leg onto the collapsible sleeve ironing board*. Use the ruler or sewing gauge* to fold the cut edge at the inside leg seam over 1 cm, or the amount you plan to hem them. Press and pin in place.

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

4. Repeat step #3 on the outer leg seam (or outer leg fold if there isn’t a seam). Then fold and pin the parts between the two seams.

5. If you are sewing a classic hem with two folds, fold, press and pin a second time to hide the raw fabric edges. I was using non-fraying sweatshirt fabric here, so I only folded once.

Repeat steps #3-5 with the second leg.

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

6. Slip the shorts leg, wrong side out, around the sewing machine’s free arm. (If you don’t know what a free arm is or how to use it, read this lesson on the free arm.)

7. Starting from the inside seam, sew all around the leg.

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

8. Sew around the second leg, and you’re done!

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

Give the new hems a good steam press to get rid of any wavy seams, and admire your new shorts!

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

Comfortable and perfect for kids to play in!

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Adding a pocket to the shorts:

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

Most kids like having pockets to put their stuff in. I decided to reuse the bit of fabric below the knee of these Minion pants (see how I made them here) in order to save the Minion face. (I cannot believe how well well these freezer paper stencils stood up to a LOT of heavy duty machine washings!)

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

This way my little boy has a little pocket that’s perfect for storing stuff in! The Minion isn’t looking directly at the banana anymore, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

Follow the instructions given above to making the cut-off shorts. Then cut out a rectangle of fabric from the part you’ve cut off. Fold the two sides and the bottom 1 cm to the back, then at the end fold the top edge 1 cm to the back. Press the folds well and pin in place. Sew across the top edge only. This will be the pocket opening. (If you’re using fraying fabric, you might want to fold each edge twice to keep it from fraying inside the pocket.)

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

Pin the pocket in place. Then slip the pant leg around the free arm. Twist the pant leg around as best you can so as to position the top right corner of the pocket under the needle without catching the bottom layer underneath it. Then sew around the right side, bottom and left side of the pocket.

This can be a little tricky to maneuver, especially if you are working in a central part of the leg. But with a little tugging of the fabric, you should be able to do it!

(I used this same method for sewing my leaf and vine jeans years ago. In that case it was pretty complicated to maneuver the fabric around the knee, but I managed it with a bit of patience!)

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

Steam press the pocket, and there you are!

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

Perfect for carrying lollipops as well as dinosaurs!

So, what do you think? Could it possibly be any easier to sew simple shorts for the summer? These are so useful and comfortable and my little boy has already been using all four pairs I sewed like this nearly every day!

Turn pants into a skirt in just 15 minutes with this easy refashion tutorial by www.cucicucicoo.com!

Got a little girl with outgrown pants? Then make sure you check out this tutorial for turning pants into a skirt in 15 minutes!

Learn to Machine Sew with Cucicucicoo: a free sewing course for beginners

This lesson on how to turn old pants into shorts is part of the syllabus of Cucicucicoo’s Learn to Machine Sew beginner’s sewing course! Don’t forget to share pictures of your work on Facebook or the Cucicucicoo Creations Flickr Group!

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And if you loved this tutorial, don’t forget to Pin It!

Kids grow out of their trousers and rip holes in the knees quickly. But don't throw those ruined clothes away! It's quick and easy to turn old pants into shorts with the help of the sewing machine free arm!

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5 Responses

  1. Love the photo of the dinosaur peeking out of the pocket. A great way to extend the life of clothes, Lisa. Featured today.

  2. Lo faccio sempre anche io con i pantaloni lunghi!

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