Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I co-host the Your Home Story podcast and believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!
Mom to Otto born April 2018 and Lucy born August 2020!

Sewing Circle: Creative shorts update

Hey, folks! Today on Sewing Circle we have a question from 15-year-old Tess that's perfect for updating your summer wardrobe. I sometimes feel so boring in shorts, but this would be a great and creative way to update a pair!

Q: I have been wanting to make some cut-off shorts for a while now, but I want them to be special. Unique to me, you know. I attached pictures of some shorts I really like, but can't quite figure out how to make. Can you or any of your followers help me?

A: Those shorts are totally cute, and what a great idea to use up some smaller, super cool pieces of fabric! I’m not sure exactly the best way to make them, but I can offer a few suggestions.

Basically, the fabric is sort of appliquéd on, but the edges are turned under, it seems, so you don’t have raw edges showing and will have to cut the pieces about ½” larger than the area you’ll be putting them on. The tricky part is that the shorts may not lay perfectly flat, and you’ll need the fabric (especially if it’s a woven instead of knit, as all three examples appear to be) to not be too tight so that it moves along with the shorts.

The basic idea is to cut pieces of fabric a little larger (seam allowance) than the area you’re covering but the exact same shape (plus the seam allowance), then turn the edges under and then I would topstitch all the way around. You can do this by hand or by machine, but by machine will be stronger—although go very slowly, since that’s a lot of layers of denim to sew through (use a denim needle or strong needle) and try to keep your stitches even in length. At the pocket, obviously, you don’t want to sew through all the layers or you won’t be able to use the pocket! So you may have to hand-stitch there.

To help in keeping the fabric still, you could put spray adhesive on the wrong side of the print/contrast fabric before you lay it on top of the shorts. Actually, you could do this before you cut the shape out, but then it will be hard to press under ½” and you’d have to do it as you go, sort of finger-pressing. Play around with it both ways, I guess, and see which feels more comfortable!

Hope that helps. I've actually seen a pair of something very similar on Pinterest, I think, but I don't remember where it was from originally. Maybe my readers have some ideas?

Readers, how would you make a pair of shorts like these??


  1. Rub off patterning would be a precise way to get the same exact shapes for the larger fabric appliques, though more time-consuming. I talk about it here:

  2. Yeah, I can't think of any better way to do it either. I would use spray adhesive and hand stitch.

  3. Definitely use some fusible webbing or something first. That might not hold it by itself after several washings, but it will at least help you to sew around the edges.

    Here's an example by my girl, Amy:

    I also don't know if fusible hem tape is any stronger, but there's another idea, just line the edges of your patch.

    1. That would be another way to get the patches to stay down before you sew them--and less messy than spray adhesive!

  4. I would recommend using heat bond. You could use the method you suggested, but add heat bond (the kind you can sew) and then top stitch over the ends with a combination of machine / hand stitching like you suggested. I've used this method on other pieces of clothing and it works well.

    The super hero one looks as if they undid the seams of the top and the outside, sewed on the fabric, and then re-stitched the seams. The inside looks as if it was top stitched on. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, that would make for a long lasting cool pair of jean shorts. It would be a lot of work, though.

    Another suggestion that would be easier, but not completely permanent would be to use the no-sew heat bond and bond it on to the pockets and panels. If you folded under the edges, you would need some sort of bonding agent or stitching to hold it down.

    If you don't mind a little raw edge you could use the no-fray liquid along the edges instead of folding under the edges of the fabric and heat press it onto the jeans with the no-sew heat bond and be done. You would have to wash it gently and air dry it, though. My experience with appliqué and heat bond is that it falls off if thrown in the dryer.

    1. Wow, thanks for the ideas! Think those could work really well, and less messy than spray adhesive!

  5. Could you maybe use a fray stop liquid on the edges instead of turning them under. This might make things a little easier.

  6. Anonymous7/31/2012

    So Zo recently posted the cutest cut-off jean shorts on her blog. Scalloped edges, very very cute

  7. I really like the first pair and this idea. You've gotten some great tips in these comments!! :) Might have to give it a try sometime. Of course I'd have to find a pair of shorts that I like first. ;)




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