Making jean shorts at home should be easy, right? Well, after successfully crafting a pair of cut-offs from an old pair, I can confidently say that for the most part, yes, making denim shorts at home is easy — but, like using dry shampoo or (correctly) applying lipstick, making jeans into shorts requires a bit more attention than might be expected, at least on the first go-around.
As simple as making denim cut-offs truly is, chances of disaster prove just as likely as success. Considering it's a DIY project, it's important to remember that most mistakes aren't deadly. Taking some extra steps to secure that the final project works out well, however, is definitely more than worth it.
With a bit of consideration as to what jeans would fit best as shorts, any sort of fit issue will be resolved. With a bit of measuring and careful cutting, any lop-sided or too-short disasters will be easily averted. Certainly, a first attempt at homemade denim shorts may not produce the most perfect pair you've ever owned. But, that doesn't mean that a first try can't result in something great, especially since all it takes is just following a few simple steps.
Step 1: Deciding Which Jeans To Cut
Of course, the first step to making jean shorts is deciding which pair of old jeans to cut. This took me a while because I'm both incredibly indecisive and also kind of a denim hoarder — I've still got pairs of bell-bottom jeans from 2003 sitting in my closet somewhere. But, as with any situation when I can't really figure out the best way to move forward, I turned to the Internet.
Thankfully, the Internet gods blessed me with some pretty great solutions, further proving that homemade denim cut-offs can be something easy, so long as one puts even just the slightest amount of effort into researching them. While grabbing an oversized (preferably men's) vintage pair was highly recommended, I was set on spending a grand total of zero dollars. The purpose of buying an oversized vintage pair really just being a relaxed fit and extra roominess, I decided to go with the next best option in my closet: a worn-out pair of "boyfriend" jeans. (Bonus: choosing jeans in a color other than some shade of blue makes the soon-to-be shorts all the more unique.)
Step 2: Measure, Measure, And Measure Again
Once the pair of jeans is chosen, it's time to measure. Regardless of how easy (and appealing) cutting a pair of even-length shorts without making an effort to measure may seem, it probably, almost certainly won't work. So, before making the first cut, take the time to properly measure out a desired length on both legs, which will most likely be a three or four-inch inseam.
Now, the best way to do this would be with a tape measure and a piece of chalk. But, since I'm relatively new to the whole DIY scene, I realized pretty quickly I stood short on necessary supplies. Knowing that the Internet couldn't magically make such materials physically appear before me, I went hunting around my apartment to find the next best thing. In doing so, I picked up and old electronics charger, a highlighter, and a piece of 8x11" paper. Clearly not the most ideal materials, but they did the job.
Extra important to this step (and particularly in my case, considering I used highlighter) is to turn your jeans inside out. This ensures that whatever measurement lines are made won't mess up the denim and that a cut isn't made higher than the pockets — unless, of course, that's the goal.
Step 3: Practice Makes Perfect
Maybe it's the indecisiveness coming into play again, but I made a few practice cuts before chopping into my measured line. Of all the steps, this is probably the least necessary, but I think it's particularly important for any first-timers like me.
Taking a few cuts below the measured line allows for a better feel of the fabric and gets rid of some of the excess fabric (kind of like when a hairstylist cuts of a ponytail of long hair before getting into the knitty-gritty of a style), two things that make the important cuts a bit easier. Plus, it definitely helps get rid of the first-cut jitters.
Step 4: Chop It Off
Here it is — the big moment. When it comes time to cutting the measured line, there really shouldn't be anything to get nervous about so long as you've taken the proper steps. It's alway daunting to make the first snip, because afterwards there truly is no going back — at the end of the cut, there sits either a killer pair of cut-offs or simply a ruined pair of jeans.
But again, with the correct measurements and a bit of practice, there's nothing to worry about. If nerves still prevail, however, I recommend perhaps cutting a quarter-inch or so below the measured line, that way there's still a little wiggle room — jeans can always be cut shorter but never cut longer.
Step 5: Finagle And Fix It
In an ideal world, step five wouldn't prove necessary. Yet, because humans (particularly those who aren't DIY-inclined) make mistakes, it's important to remember that there is certainly a cut-offs learning curve. My first attempt at this particular pair of jeans turned jean shorts resulted in a length somewhere in between capri and bermuda — not a good look. Thankfully too long is an easily fixable error, solved either by a little cuffing or some extra cutting, so I went back to work.
In the end, I can't say that these jean shorts are perfect. Next time, I would probably choose a pair of old jeans with a little less stretch, as the stretch seemed to get tighter when the calves were cut off. Moreover, I would definitely make it a point to go out a buy a tape measure, not just because it would make the cutting lines more exact, but it would certainly help to make further DIY-ing a bit easier as well. But in the end, I'm proud of the result. The first time may not have been the charm, but thanks to a few easy steps, it also wasn't the worst.
Images: Melissa L. Haney