Thursday, 2 April 2015

Never need to buy shorts again ...

My Emi is a terror with his trousers. They're always worn out before they're outgrown. And the real disaster zone is the knees. The other bits are mostly fine, but the knees, especially the left knee areas, are always shredded. It's the same with his grey school trousers and the eye-wateringly expensive high-tech tracksuit bottoms that he wears for games.

Now if there's one thing I hate it's having to throw something out before I've had my money's worth, and this business with the trousers has been leaving me feeling very short-changed for quite a while. Even the charity shops didn't want his trousers after he'd done with them. They were much too polite to say so, but I'm sure the trousers with the shredded knees all ended up in the big van that comes round every week for the stuff that can't be sold.

Happily I've hit upon a way of making them last another season.

We go from this:

To this: 

Happy days! In fact I've just been to work on a batch of 6 pairs of last year's jeans, all suffering from serious trauma to the knee area, and I think I've sorted him out with as many pairs of shorts for summer as he's likely to need. The ex-trousers were all a bit on the short side, but, once they're transformed into a pair of shorts, that length issue becomes much less critical. And, as old Skinny Malinky is a total bean pole, they're all fine and dandy around the waist. 

When I'm messing around with denim the first critical thing that I'm conscious of getting right is the colour of the thread that I use for the turn-ups: it has to be a heavy-weight thread that matches the thread colour on the top side seams of the rest of the garment. If I'm short of thread I can usually get away with a different colour in the bobbin for the underside stitches, provided that my sewing tension is just right and my stitches are knotting invisibly as they're supposed to do in the middle of the cloth sandwich that will be the turn-up. 

And the next thing I need is a heavy duty needle for my sewing machine.  Have you ever noticed how the inner leg and outer leg seams on denim jeans are always different? The outer seam is always an open seam ironed back flat, whereas the inner leg seam is closed with the two edges overlocked, and it provides a cloth-sandwich on the turn up that's just about the thickest thing most domestic sewing machines will ever have to sew across. 

I use a US size 16/ European size 100 needle, which is just about as heavy a needle as my little domestic machine is comfortable with. 

Having collected together all the tools and thread, I turn the  jeans inside out, and mark the length for cutting off the lower part of the leg. With Emi's jeans I have a wonderful consistency in that his left knee is alway torn exactly 43cm down from the waistband giving his shorts an inside leg cut-off at 23 cm, so I simply cut to that, which works fine length-wise with a 4cm rolled seam around the bottom.

I measure down on the inside leg, and marked where the cut-off should be using a tailor's pen with wash-away ink.

Making sure that my line is straight across the leg, I cut away the damaged lower legs of the jeans. 

The next thing to do is to turn the cut edge over on itself to form a rolled seam and pin it in position, making sure that it's even all the way round. 

Now I add a row of tacking stitches in an easy-to-spot-coloured thread to hold everything in place whilst I sew.

As I mentioned I'd saved up a big batch of worn-out jeans, which I was able to process as a job lot. I cut them, pinned them and tacked them all together before I got my machine out.

I used the cut-offs to make sure that I'd got all my tensions right before I started sewing on the hems of the shorts. Then using the hem-lines of the bed of my machine as guides to keep me straight I sew the rolled hem in place. I've also got a magnetic hem guide that I can secure to the bed of my machine to physically guide the material through correctly, but I'm usually too impatient to use it. 

When they're all sewn up I press the seams out nice and flat with a hot iron. 

And Ta Dah! Here they are, Emi's spring/ summer 2015 shorts collection:

I could pretty them up with some little patches, but as I'm a bit short of time I've left that for another day. I'm tempted to have a go at some machine-embroidery using the cut-offs to make decorative patches. I'll keep you posted if I make anything worth talking about. 

And, whilst I can't pretend that any of this is going to win me a place in the Great British Sewing Bee, I can't hide the fact that I feel pretty good about taking something that was destined for landfill and turning it something really useful. 

All the best for now,

Bonny x

As shared on A Focused Journey


  1. Such a useful post! I know when my boys were growing up I struggled with trying to turn their hole - in- the- knee jeans into shorts. Mine never looked as good as these. Thank you for sharing this and for joining my linky party.

  2. Sorry I used to patch my Jeans especally as I like Levi 501's, my biggest problem was wearing the crotch out, the knees were OK