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Shorts Tutorial (from a shirt)

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

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.  (tutorial to come)

Thanks for visiting! 
If you decide to make a pair, I would love to see them!

** UPDATE: See more shorts HERE **


  1. what a great idea, I love the reuse of the pockets!

  2. Great idea with the pockets. Genius.

  3. Love! This is right up my alley. :)

  4. That is so cute! I love how you used the pockets! Thanks so much for sharing this, I'll be linking.

  5. These are fantastic!!! My 7 year old was just asking me to make him some pants without snaps and zippers. I think we may raid dad's closet this weekend!!

  6. Great tutorial! Thanks for the idea! I have 2 pre-school boys and a box of shirts my husband, um well, outgrew.

  7. I definitely want to try this. So cute, and really awesome. :)

  8. I love this!! I am going to have to try. Did you make the t-shirt? (the robot?) my son loves it

  9. Thanks Ginny! I purchased the robot T on Etsy.

  10. I have the perfect shirt in mind for this. Thanks so much for the tutorial!
    Also am completely in love with that T-Shirt!

  11. Fantastic tutorial, thanks for sharing!

  12. Linen fabric is great for hot weather. I would like to share the site from where I recently purchased a linen shirt from www.kaneesha.com and they also have a wide range of cotton shirts, Perfect for the summers.....

  13. Tiffany@ Curl WorldOctober 6, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    so cute.

  14. These are perfect!
    Can't wait to try it! The tutorial and photos make it look wonderfully easy to follow.

  15. I really love these! I featured them on my blog

  16. I just came across this, but glad I did. It's such a great idea! So clever! I love how you have the detail in the waist band in the updated pics. I re-posted this on my blog here.

    Mommy Chic

  17. I will more than likely try this and a t-shirt tie shirt (from your tutorial of course) for my little man... I will link it up to you if I get it done and posted on my blog :)

  18. Inspired by your tutorial (that I saved on Pinterest), I made some long pants for my 5 year old from a warm man's shirt. They turned out really well. You can see them here http://www.meggipeg.com/2011/07/boys-pants-from-mans-shirt-refashion.html. Thanks so much, Megan

  19. I JUST finished making a pair of these for my son. Too bad he is sleeping or else I would have pictures!! I can't tell you how much I love these types of tutorials. I am newer to sewing and tried to use the store bought patterns and had horrible results. No matter how many times I measured and coordinated with the pattern sizes, the garments came out waaaaay to big. Using this method for making your own pattern works out so perfect! Thank you and keep up the awesome work!

  20. Hi Andi,

    I am so happy the shorts turned out for you! There is nothing more irritating than putting time and effort into sewing something, and then it doesn't fit right. The shorts tutorial was inspired from just such an experience with a store bought pattern.

  21. Awesome idea and tutorial! I am a very novice seamstress and these only took me one hour! So rewarding to make something new out of an old shirt! Thanks so much for sharing!

  22. Love a good refashion!
    I loved this tutorial so much I have featured it on my blog.
    You can see it here….
    … if you like.
    Thanks for taking the time to put it together and for sharing it with blogland.
    Ally on harrysdesk

  23. This tutorial inspired me of making a pair for my children from my husband old garments. This idea teach us how to save money or maybe we can make money from this.

  24. I love refashioning clothes that are not in use specially colored clothes. We can save money from this. That's why this blog adds in my idea.

  25. This tutorial inspired me to make some shorts from a thrifted button-down. I'm so happy with how they came out! It's a great pair of shorts for 99 cents! I blogged about them here http://willyount.blogspot.com/2012/05/purple-plaid-refashion.html. Thanks!

  26. hank you, I used your instructions and pictures to make my little boy a pair of white shorts for his Xmas concert tomorrow.

    Men Cotton Shorts

  27. This is really an awesome and really a creative usage of men's t shirt.Good work.

  28. This is so clever and easy to make! I just made my wee man the coolest shorts out of a $5 shirt I bought off trademe... he was in tears this morning as I wouldn't let him wear them to kindy un-hemmed! Just hemmed them all ready for tomorrow Thankyou for a great tutorial Emily =)