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Five Steps To Turning Your Raw Denim into Shorts

Admittedly summer may be coming to a close, but having beaten your jeans up throughout the warmer months you may be starting to think about repurposing them. Thus, we’re presenting a basic guide for turning your raw denim into a pair of comfortable summer shorts.

This basic guide can help breath new life into those retired pairs you have laying around and allow you to maintain your denim aesthetic even on the warmest days. Though the most difficult process about this post was finding someone who was willing to cut down a pair of their beloved jeans, we were lucky to find Chantel Pae from Deep Pocket Jean Co. in Hermosa Beach, who was willing to add some excellent new shorts to her wardrobe.

DPJC Chantel

We must take note that Pae is cutting a pair of DPJC Norma jean rinse, which are made from sanforized 12 oz. Cone Mills plain selvedge denim. The weight and type of denim can ultimately vary the difficultly of the cutting and sewing process overall. Some of the factors that need to be considered before beginning this DIY project include the type of denim you are dealing with (i.e. sanforized or unsanforized denim), weight and fit.

When picking out denim to cut into shorts, however, we suggest using lightweight  to midweight denim. The simplest way to break down denim weight is into four categories:

  1. 9 Oz. -10 Oz. – lightweight
  2. 12 Oz. – 15 Oz. – midweight
  3. 16 Oz. – 18 Oz. – heavyweight
  4. 18+ Oz. – extra heavyweight

To illustrate the fourth category above, though the fit might be perfect, we would not recommend cutting down a pair of Iron Heart 666S as the weight would be challenging to work through. Iron Heart‘s 18 Oz. denim would be difficult to cut and would be counter productive if you are trying to relieve yourself from the heat with some shorts.

All things considered, here are our loose guidelines:

  • Use lightweight to mid-weight denim for better comfort;
  • Use skinny to slim-straight for a better more fitted look overall since shorts really draw attention to your legs;
  • and finally because its summer, I suggest going for a richer coloured indigo since you want to pick up some electric blue fades

Items Needed

Find yourself the following:

  • A measuring tape
  • Pair of durable Sharp Scissors
  • Chalk

items needed

Step 1 – Soak Your Denim

Always try to pre-shrink your pair before any cutting or measuring takes place. Remember that even pre-shrunken jeans tend to shrink 3-5% after the first wash so do you want to measure and cut your pair knowing that the finished product might shrink past your liking? Give those puppies a bath!

Step 2 – Determine Length

After being washed & dried you can decide what length you want your shorts to be. Your decision can vary by the weight and fit of your jeans, as well as the styles that appeal most to you. I suggest going shorter with a skinny fit and longer if it’s a bit roomier.

Also, when dealing with heavier weight denim you’ll want to find a length that you think will feel the most comfortable for you. Once you’ve figured out the length you want, measure it and chalk it down.

chantel mirror

Pae contemplates on the length

Chalking down

Marking down your length will always give the best results


Pae measures the exact length for precision

Step 3 – Snip, Snip

Grab yourself the chalk and mark the fill leg where you want to cut. When you’ve got a good idea of the length, simply begin to cut. I suggest cutting one leg entirely first on the basis that you might not like the length and want to go shorter.

chantel cutting

Step 4 – Double Check

Once one leg has been cut off always check a mirror to see if you are satisfied with the length. There is no turning back now so you might as well be precise.

the struggle is real

Heavier denim will clearly take more effort to cut

Step 5 – Finish Up

Once satisfied, cut the remaining leg and admire your work. It’s also important here to note that shorts will tend to fray once being cut so sewing down the cuff will prevent the shorts from any excessive fraying. You’ve now successfully turned your  raw denim into shorts.

chantel cuff

A simple cuff will prevent short from further fraying

before and after

Pae’s DPJC Norma jean (before & after)

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