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Recycling ideas: Shorts Tutorial (from a shirt)

Green crafts, Recycle, Sewing  |  September 3rd 2011  |  0 Comment


073frankies 4thbday1
064wardrobe refashi1 This time last year I started making birthday gifts for my oldest son, but his heart was set on a robot t-shirt, and I was not confident enough in my freezer paper printing skills at that time to attempt one.  So, I searched Etsy until I found this one.
I did, however, feel confident in my ability to make him some shorts to go along with the t.  Using a mans button-up shirt (XL),  and a pattern made from a pair of shorts that fit him well, I set to work.

Well, summer is just around the corner again (and his birthday too), so I thought I would share a tutorial for making these super easy shorts.


  • button-up shirt (I used a mens size XL to make 4T shorts)
  • elastic (1″ -1 1/4″width) measured 1″ longer than the waist measurement of your child
  • a pair of shorts that fit your child
  • paper for the pattern
Deconstruction collage
The first step is to do a little deconstructing. Cut the shirt up the side seams, around the sleeves, and across the shoulders.  What you should end up with is two front pieces, two sleeves, and one back piece.
Pattern collage
To make a pattern: trace around a pair of shorts that fit well, adding a 1/4″ seam allowance down the side seams (making sure to stretch the waist band out when doing so).  Then  mark the top of the waistband (I used dashes) and add a 1.5″  (1/4″ wider than my elastic) above that line for the casing.
For the bottom hem, I added 2 inches while cutting the fabric (notice the “add hem” note at the bottom of the pattern) because the paper I was using to make the pattern was just a little too short – oops!
I added a back pocket placement line 2″ below the waistband line (dashes) and then a center mark.  This will make the next step a lot easier.
Pattern placement collage
This part is very important… make sure you take your time when lining up the pockets (front of the t-shirt) with the marks you just made.  I folded along the horizontal line, making it easier to find the center.
Cutting collage
Pin (or use weights) to keep the pattern in place while you cut.  I started with the bottom hem, adding 2″ with my ruler.  Continue cutting all the way around the pattern.  Repeat for the second back pattern piece, but be sure to FLIP the pattern over – so you end up with a right AND a left!
Pattern placement front
Cut the front pattern pieces from the back of the shirt.  Again, be sure to FLIP the pattern before cutting the second front piece.
Pin together collage
Once all of the pieces are cut out (4 total – 2fronts & 2 backs), then stack the them up with the right sides together - pictured above.
Sewing 1
Now for the sewing.  Start by sewing the center front and center back of the shorts or as I like to call them, the “J’s.”
Serger collage
To finish the seam, use a serger if  you have one – OR – a medium width zig-zag stitch close to the edge.

Sewing 6a
Next, insert a side tag if you have one, and then sew along the outside leg seams.  Finish the edges with a serger – OR – a zig-zag stitch. Iron the seams as you go.
Seaming collage
outside leg seam                                                 inside leg seam
Finally, match the center front and the center back seams (crotch), and sew from the bottom inside edge of one leg to the bottom inside edge of the other leg.
Sewing 9
Using your serger OR zig-zag stitch, finish the top of the waistband and the bottom hem on the legs.
Waistband collage
Fold over the waistband about 1/4″ more that the width of the elastic.  I used 1 1/4″ elastic (just what I had in my stash) so I folded the hem over 1 1/2″ and ironed.  Then, mark the opening for the elastic and your tag  with two pins so you know where to start and stop – if you don’t have tags, a loop of ribbon will work just fine.  Pin the rest of the way around the waistband.
Elastic collage
Sew all the way around, stopping at the double set of pins.  Using a safety pin or bodkin, pull the elastic through – making sure it does not get twisted.  Then overlap the ends of the elastic 1″ and zig-zag stitch closed.
Pull the elastic into the casing and insert  the tag (or ribbon loop ends) and sew closed – pulling a little as you go to avoid bunching.
An optional step: stitch along the top edge of the waistband to give it a little more detail and help keep the elastic from twisting inside the casing.
Sewing 17
For the bottom hem, I have my boys try the shorts on to be sure I get the right length.  Then fold, iron, and stitch.   DONE!
Super easy, right?
Finished collage

Some notes about the brown shorts:
You might notice that the brown shirt only had one pocket – totally fine. There are so many possibilities, just have fun with it!
I also used one of the shirt sleeves to make a side pocket, placing the bottom of the pocket about 2″ above the bottom hem.
Source: @ saltwater-kids.com