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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

From old jeans to new capris

by Lili Mounce

From this 

to this

in a little over 4 hours.         

I tapered the inseam, added a split at the side seam hem, and added buttons. If all you wanted to do is turn jeans into capris, no tapering, no splits, no buttons, you could do that in about 1-2 hours. Skip steps 3, 4 and 6 for simple capris. I went to the work to do all the above, so that I could troubleshoot difficulties you might have (and I wanted this look, too).
1. sizing

1. Try your jeans on. Pin up to desired length, running a couple of pins right along the desired hem length.
2. cutting

2. Turn inside out. With a ruler and pencil, mark both the hem line (where you left some pins) and the cut line on both pant legs (the cut line should be 3 inches below the hem-to line). 

Cut along cut line.
3. Tapering the leg

3. If you want to taper the lower leg, you'll have the best appearance by tapering on the inseam. Unpick stitching on inseam, about 10 inches from the cut edge. (Lacking a seam ripper, I used scissors to unpick the inseam.)

Choose the width you'd like to taper to, but do not reduce the inseam by more than 2 inches total. Pin this ripped seam back together. 

3a. If your jeans have a simple seam for an inseam, you're in luck. With pants inside out, mark the lower edge of the pant leg no more than one inch in from the seam. Use your ruler to draw a line between this new marking at the bottom edge and tapering up to original seam line, 10 inches up. Machine stitch along this new seam line.

3b. If your inseam has a lapped seam, common to jeans (where you have double stitching), a little more difficult, but not impossible. My jeans had a lapped inseam seam. 

This is what I did. I pinned the ripped seam back together and marked the bottom edge of the leg 1 inch in from the old seam line (as I would for 3a, with a simple seam). 

I drew a line between this new marking and the original seam 10 inches up. But I left a pin at the 8 1/2 inch mark. 

I machine stitched from the bottom of the pants, along this new line, to this 8 1/2 inch pin-mark from the lower edge, leaving about 1 1/2 inches unstitched, near the knee area of the seam. 

I then turned the pants right side out, and using my fingers, smoothed and worked the edge of the old seam to blend with the new seam. 

Making sure the seam was pushed to the same side as the top-stitching (don't want any difficult to stitch over bends in the fabric), I did a double row of topstitching to line up with the original double topstitching.  This is where that 1 1/2 inch gap was stitched closed, with the topstitching. 

At this point, your inseam should be tapered and sewn.

more 3, both versions. turn jeans back inside out, and trim the extra fabric from the tapering.

4. split sides

4. If you want to slit the outside seam, unpick the stitching 6 to 7 inches from the bottom edge. 

Along unfinished edge, do a zigzag stitch to prevent fraying. Turn this seam edge under about 1/4 inch, and top stitch 1/8 inch from edge. Do this on both sides of the split. 

Bar tack, perpendicular to slit, and above the slit about 1/4 to 1/2 inch, to prevent  the split from tearing with wear. Both legs should have a finished slit.

5. hemming your capris. 

With jeans inside out, turn under the hem 1 1/4 inches. Pin in place. Do a zigzag stitch to secure this turned under portion, about 1/4 inch from cut edge. This stitching will be on the inside of the pant and won't show. 

Turn this edge under once more, this time about 1 1/2 inches, making sure split sides line up, if necessary. Pin. 

Turn jeans right side out and top stitch through all layers, close to the folded  under portion of the hem just done. Top stitch once again, this time about 1/4 inch from this last stitching, for a double stitched hem. 

Check length on second pant leg, just before stitching in place.

6. button closure
6.  If you are adding a button closure, you'll need a loop. I used more jeans' fabric. I cut a 1 inch wide strip about 10 inches long. I folded this strip lengthwise into thirds, flattened with my fingers and zigzagged the center of this tri-fold strip. I then straight-stitched to secure it further. 

I cut this strip in half and made two loop closures and machine stitched them to the slit about 2/3 the way up, and hand sewed a button on the other side of each slit.                                

I may still overdye them, for a dark denim capri.

I spent just over 4 hours transforming old jeans into new capris. Part of that time was used in figuring how I was going to do this, another part in taking photos constantly, so I would have reference for when I went to type this up.

Simple capris could easily be done in an hour to hour and a half. Find someone who will hang out with you, to help with finding the right length. My two daughters were very helpful in this regard.

The hardest part was just cutting them off. I had to keep reminding myself that these were slated for the giveaway pile, anyway, and I might as well find a way to get more wear from them. And as I didn't have a pair of capris, this was a win!

So, I spent 4 hours, and saved about $20-25 (what I might pay, but don't want to, in a store for new capris). And now I have some new duds for summer. Total cost? Jeans, free. Buttons from my mother's button box, free. One spool of navy thread -- $1.79.

How about you? Any old jeans in your closet waiting for a transformation?

This copyrighted article was originally published on .If found published elsewhere, this material has been illegally scraped and should be reported to


  1. Hi Shara,
    Thanks! Have you ever noticed when you lay jeans flat or hold them up, they look enormous? I was just noticing that myself in these photos. Oh well. At least I didn't give a back side view!
    Thanks for dropping in!

  2. That is just wonderful!! What a great way to save some money!! :) Love the turn out, i'll have to try this sometime!

    1. Hi Carla,
      Thanks! They were pretty easy (and I don't even do all that much sewing). I'm especially glad to be able to get more use out of them, and have a pair of summer capris! Now I'm eyeing a pair of lightweight cotton knit pants (I think they call the fabric French terry) hanging in my closet. They would make great walking/jogging capris!
      Thanks for commenting!


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