Zipper-Off Jean Jorts




Introduction: Zipper-Off Jean Jorts

About: "I'm not much but I'm all I think about." -my mom's friend

I owe the idea for this instructable to my friend Gabe who said he'd buy zipper-off bike pants from the sports store if they made zipper-off jeans.

I just learned how to sew about a month or two ago so this project is something a beginner could do in a few hours or less. It's also a great way to practice working with zippers.

The idea is to make cut-off jean shorts (a.k.a. jorts) but then add a zipper seam so that you can zipper the legs back on if you want regular length jeans. It also adds a nice design to the clothing in both short and jean form.

In this instructable you'll learn how to sew exposed zipper seams and how to shorten separating zippers to custom lengths (NOTE: Shortening separating zippers is different from shortening separating zippers so pay close attention to that step or else your trimmed zippers won't separate.)

This project is aimed at beginners in sewing and could be a good second (or even first) sewing machine project. Also, you could do all the sewing by hand of course if you're a goddamn genius and/ora Mennonite.

You will need:

  • A pair of jeans
  • sewing machine with a zipper footAtta
  • needle for sewing jeans
  • all-purpose thread
  • sharp scissors
  • chalk or marker
  • two detachable zippers that are at least as long as the circumference of one of the legs of your jeans(n.b. often sold as jacket or coat zippers)
  • needle-nose pliers or pliers
  • *optional* source of heat (i.e. soldering iron, lighter, match, heat gun)

The project has four steps:

  1. Mark the length of your shorts and cut jeans into jorts
  2. Shorten separating zippers to the appropriate length
  3. Attach zippers to shorts
  4. Attach zippers to pantlegs
  5. Wear as shorts or jeans

Step 1: Mark Length of Shorts and Cut Jeans Into Shorts

NOTE: The following will feel familiar if you've ever made cut-offs.

  1. Find a pair of jeans and mark your desired shorts length.
  2. I recommend using a cheap pair of shorts from a thrift store if you aren't yet confident in your sewing skills.
  3. I wanted to cut mine above the knee since I planned on using the shorts for biking to work and then putting on the legs at work if I got cold.
  4. I just stood in front of a mirror and used a chalk pen to mark the length while I was wearing the jeans.
  5. You could use a sharpie too because the fabric right at the cut is going to end up in the seam allowance. For the uninitiated the seam allowance is that flappy bit of inside-out fabric on the inside of a normal seam.
  6. Then you cut at the line.

TIP: If you are worried about how the short are going to fit/lay and in particular if you're worried becuase you're curvy a trick is to cut the line not quite perpindicular to the legs of the jean but at a little bit of a slant so that the fabric of the shorts is longer on the outside of the pant legs than on the inseam. This make sure the hem of your shorts doesn't get crooked when you where just the shorts. Alternatively if you want to make the shorts a bit sexier than do the opposite.

Step 2: Shorten Seperating Zippers

This is by far the hardest part of this project so don't be discouraged.

I learned about how to shorten separating zippers by watching this video called "Zipper Shortening & Stops" that was uploaded to Sailrite's youtube channel. I had read about it on other DIY sites but I found that the methods in this video seemed to leave the cleanest looking zippers.

I'll explain the exacts steps in the context of this project anyway:

  1. Find out the length of the seam you're going to create by measuring the whole lengths of the edges of the cuts.
  2. Determine which end of the zipper the has the special stops so that the zipper can detach from one side and not the other. (NOTE: You do not going do anything to this end).
  3. Mark how long you want the zipper to be with chalk or marker (or pencil). the segment of the zipper that you are going to delete is in between this point and the zipper stops that are not the special-looking zipper stops. Also, You have to shorten the zipper in increments of teeth so when in doubt add one zipper tooth.
  4. Before you cut anything pull out the zipper teeth with your pliers on both halves of the zipper between this point and the zipper stops that you are going to remove. Keep the zipper pull on the segment of zipper that you are keeping because they can be a pain to get back on (NOTE: It takes quite a bit of pulling to pull out a zipper out so pull hard.
  5. Cut the fabric about an inch from the last zipper tooth.
  6. With your heat source singe the edge of the zipper fabric so that it won't fray.
  7. Take four of your loose zipper teeth and jam one in between the last and second-to-last zipper teeth of each of your four new zipper halves. They the teeth should fit in like puzzle pieces. This creates a make-shift but clean looking stop at each the trimmed end of each zipper length. If you want you can use your heat source to melt the loose tooth to the last two teeth although this isn't necessary.Now you should have two separating zippers that are the same length as the cuts you made.

Step 3: Attach Zippers to Shorts

Sewing exposed zipper seams is really easy. I learned how to do it by watching this "Shiny Happy World" YouTube Channel video created by the lovely Wendi Gratz.

Again, I'll go over it as it relates to this project here:

I will use the term "right face" to refer to the side of the fabric that will be showing when the garment is finished and worn. I will use the term "wrong face" to refer to the side of the fabric that will not be shown/ will be inside when the garment is finished and worn.

  1. Choose which zipper is going to go on which leg and zip the zipper closed so that you know which side of the zipper is the right face. I made my pants with two different color zippers so I would always be able to quickly know which leg belonged on which side
  2. Turn your shorts inside out.
  3. Pin the zipper to the shorts' edge right faces of both the zipper and the shorts are facing each other and lined up edge to edge. You should probably pin the zipper such that the two ends meet on the outermost seam of the shorts/jeans so that they are comfortable to wear as pants. (NOTE: If this is your first time installing an exposed zipper, then this will feel and look weird. Read ahead a few steps before you start and you'll figure it out. The aim is to have the seam allowance be almost as wide as the width of the tape of each zipper half.)
  4. Install zipper foot on your machine.
  5. Install jean needle.
  6. Thread your bobbin and your needle and set your machine to a fairly close straight stitch.
  7. Sew the two pieces of fabric together leaving your stitch as close as possible to the zipper teeth that are inside the "fabric sandwich."
    1. Start with a back stitch.
    2. Stitch all the way around.
    3. At some point the zipper pull itself is going to get in the way of the zipper foot. At that point you should stop at a point when your needle is in the fabric and then lift up the presser foot (disengage it's clam/lever). Now there will be space to pull the zipper pull past the needle by unzipping the zipper. Then put the presser foot back down.
    4. Continue Sewing all around the edge.
    5. Back tack at the end
  8. Turn the shorts and zipper right-side out
  9. Now you're pretty much done attaching the zipper to the shorts but you're going to want to protect the sewing you just did and make the seam more comfortable for the wearer by sewing the seam allowance inside down to the short fabric so that the seam allowance stays flat. You sew the seam allowance down to the shorts at about 3/8" from your first pass. This should leave a nice outline of the edge of your shorts in whatever color thread you are using.
  10. Repeat steps 1-10 for the other leg of the shorts and zipper.Atta

Step 4: Attach Zipper to Pant Legs

  1. Follow the last project step but attach each remaining zipper side to the cut edge of each pant leg.
    • I found it easiest to keep the zippers zipped when pinning for this step in order to insure the zipper stops are lined up.
    • Also, make sure to sew the correct pant leg on to each short leg. On jeans it's easy to tell if you're doing it right because the inseam of the jeans is sewed differently from the outside.

Step 5: Wear As Shorts or Jeans

Wear your new creation as shorts or jeans and enjoy the best of both worlds!

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