Make a Pair of Comfy Shorts Out of an Old T-shirt




With a teenage brother in the house, there are always piles of outgrown t-shirts begging to be used for something, and after realizing I have no comfy shorts for the summer, I decided to put those unused shirts to good use.

Things you’ll need:
- Sewing machine (or thread and needle)
- One XL t-shirt (or other size depending on how big your shorts are going to be)
- Matching thread
- Pins and pin cushion
- Scissors
-  Ruler
- Sharpie for tracing
- Something to trace you patter onto
- A pair of shorts to create your pattern with
- Optional: Iron, something for the drawstring, accessories such as lace or paint to decorate the shorts with

Step 1: Create Your Pattern

Start by folding your shorts in half and putting them on your pattern paper. Trace around the shorts with your marker. Your lines don’t have to be perfectly straight, because you are going to add your hem allowance. Next, take your ruler and measure your desired hem allowance from the line. I made mine ½ an inch, but for the waist and legs of the shorts, I would suggest doing 1 inch to make it easy to hem. Draw the hem allowance all the way around your pattern and cut it out. Now you have your pattern!

Step 2: Making the Two Panels

Take your shirt and lay it on a flat surface. If there is a logo on the shirt, turn it inside out. (There was a logo on my shirt, but it was pretty thin, and it didn’t affect the comfort of the shorts.) Put the pattern on the shirt. Make sure that there is enough room on the shirt for two of your patterns, because you are going to need four panels in all. Also, if there is a pattern on your shirt (like for example, the tie-dye on mine,) try to put your pattern piece on a part of the design you like best. Pin on the pattern, and cut it out. Repeat once. Now, you should have four identical panels.
Next, pair the pieces together so that you have two doubled panels, right sides together, and pin along the straight side that is across from the curvy one (see picture.) Open. Now you have your two panels

Step 3: Constructing the Shorts

Before constructing your shorts, you might want to iron you seams open. It makes it easier to sew later, and it also helps the new seams look cleaner. Take your two panels and line them up, right sides together. I lined up the seams in the middle first, then pinned the sides. Sew. Next, lay your pants on a flat surface, and pull up the top layer with the middle seam (see picture). Smooth out, and you should now have something that actually looks like a pair of shorts! Pin and sew the crotch. Trim all of your seams.

Step 4: Finishing

Next, you need to hem your shorts. I would recommend trying on the shorts inside out, then folding and pinning the waist hem while they are on. That way, you can adjust the shorts some if they are a little too big.  Fold and hem the legs of the shorts (your iron is your friend in this step, it makes the hems cleaner.) Sew all of the hems.
If you want to make a drawstring waist, sew a seam on either side of the hem on the waist of the pants so that you have a tube. Cut two small slits in the tube on the front of your pants (make sure you only cut through one layer) and feed you drawstring through. If you attach a safety pin to one end of the drawstring and feed that through the tube, it makes it a lot easier. If you don’t want a drawstring waist, you can make it an elastic waist by sewing on a piece of elastic (make sure you stretch the elastic as you sew) or any other waist you want.

Step 5: You're Done!

You’re done! If you want too, you can now add lace to the bottom, or freezer paper stencil some cool design on them. I hope you enjoy them.



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    18 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I just joined and I've been looking at the shorts pattern and I don't understand a bit about pulling up the top layer from the middle seam? perhaps ive read it wrong can anybody help?

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Hi again to be honest i dont know which bit to pull up or why

    I would love to help clarify this! :) Do you not understand how to do the "pulling up" part or why it is done?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Shorts (or sweatpants/pjs if using regular fabric or a fleecy blanket) can still be done in two pieces while making a better fit for bodies with bums, but that usually requires actually ripping out the center seam (from center front waist to center back waist) and inseam from a pair of appropriately-sized pants or shorts to make your pattern. Trace the entire side half for the pattern, and cut two reversed (one right, one left) pieces with seam, waist, and hem allowances. Stitch the center seam (right sides together, center front to center back or vice versa), then the leg inseams (can be done in one continuous seam from one leg to the other), finish hems and waist with desired method and done! I used to make shorts and pants for my daughters that way when they were small and I needed play clothes that were comfortable, looked nice, were easy to get on and off, especially with diapers and potty training. Works great for custom teenage shorts too.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    A couple of years ago I made myself a few pairs of fleece boxer shorts for use during our frigid Canadian winters. I copied a pair of comfortable pants which resulted in two different parts to the pattern - one for the front and one for the back, both of which had to be turned over for left and right sides. Whether the difference in my male design versus your female design is because of the differences in male and female anatomy, I don't know, however most of us have bulging 'buns' and relatively flat fronts, so the rear panels should be more roomy. I notice in the photos of you modelling your shorts, they are a bit baggy at the front and tight up your crease at the back, so it would seem the pattern could be adjusted. In my boxers, the 4-piece join under the crotch is not in the middle, but towards the front, and the pattern for the rear panels is bigger.

    Nevertheless it's a good idea to use up fabric in no-longer-used T shirts.

    1 reply

    Yeah I actually had originally planned for the pants to be the other way around, but when I was finished, the pattern I had originally decided to have it the front looked weird so I turned them around. So in the future, I will definitely make sure I like the pattern before finishing the pants.



    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable, very easy to follow. Making four identical panels and then adjusting the crotch is a stroke of genius!

    Seems like you could make side-seam pockets out of the sleeves; might be a hassle, but I much prefer shorts with pockets even around the house. (So I don't have to track down my phone.)

    If you're happy without pockets, you could match the outside edges with the side seams of the shirt and leave that part intact. Then you only have the two crotch seams to sew.

    3 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I'm glad you like them.

    Great ideas! I will definitely have to make a revised version with pockets. It doesn't seem like it would be that much harder. And I agree that it would be helpful for keeping track of your phone. I always seem to loose mine

    While we're on side-seams.. why didn't you just use the shirts side-seems for the sides of your legs? The only good reasons I could think of is the pattern wouldn't look good, or the room isn't enough. But it looks like it should work.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Wonderful. I've made knickers from old t-shirts but never thought of shorts. I love upcycling stuff so definitely having some of these. Thanks.


    6 years ago on Step 5

    Cool! Great re-use for tees!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome! I'm working on an instructable about this right now too!


    6 years ago on Step 5

    This is fantastic! Love the idea to make shorts from a t-shirt. Must be good to sleep in. Instructions really easy to follow. Thanks!!