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Updated: Dec 6, 2020

Denim shorts never go out of style. Thank goodness! I've been wearing #denim #shorts since I was a kid and we called them "shag shorts". They got their name because of the raw, frayed edges and the hanging threads that tickled our legs.

At the first sign of spring we'd go in search of

a pair of jeans that were too short, had a twisted seam, or were otherwise no longer presentable as jeans. Sometimes we would even sacrifice a good pair of jeans, after we ran it by Mom, because the resulting shorts were a lot more useful in the summertime than a pair of jeans.

We'd usually just "eyeball" the length to cut the shorts and this would result in one leg being just a scoonch shorter than the other. It looked funny and it felt funny. We couldn't have one leg shorter than the other so we had to trim the longer leg to match the shorter one. This "trimming" led to some "gouging" which led to more trimming. It was inevitable that the longer leg would end up being shorter than the short leg and the process would start all over again!

Before we knew it, we'd turned our "shag shorts" into "hot pants"! I ended up with a few pair of dangerously short shorts over the years!

Some of us were a little more industrious than others and customized the new shorts with bleach, #patches, paint and embroidered flowers. My sister was one of the over-achievers. She'd spend hours bleaching and sewing to customize a pair of shorts or a denim shirt.

I guess I was about six or seven years old when my favorite sister, Missy, customized a little pair of denim shorts for me. She's a few years older than me, seven to be exact, so she was way ahead of me in the #sewing department. She could turn out homemaking projects and halter tops like nobody's business. I was the recipient of most of the halter tops because she only needed enough fabric to make two tiny triangles and some straps.

This particular pair of shag shorts were the coolest ones ever. I remember, or I think I remember, her making them for me. She took a little pair of my bell bottomed jeans and cut them off pretty short. After that she put them in the laundry room sink and dripped bleach onto them, to give them a splotchy look. Washed and dried them, to get that worn look. And then embroidered a pink flower on one of the pockets and some other stuff all around. I still have this pair of shorts. I can't put my hands on them right now, I've looked through a lot of drawers and a few boxes, but I just can't remember where I put them. I'll update this post when I find them and add a picture. They're my favorite pair of shorts and I've kept them all these years. My sister didn't have a clue that she was creating a fun memory and a treasured pair of shorts for her little sister.

Missy did most of her sewing projects on Mom's cranky Singer sewing machine. It would just freeze up and make a grinding noise for no reason at all. During one of my sister's sewing frenzies she was hunched over that Singer sewing ninety to nothing and sewed her finger. She yelled for Mom and made it to the bathroom to stick it under the faucet just before she fainted. When she fell out, she hit the wall and just kind of slid down it. My Mother heard her hollering, and then a big "thunk", so she immediately yelled at me! Like I had something to do with it! I must have been a real stinker back then to get in trouble when I wasn't even anywhere around! I came running and got to the bathroom about the same time as Mom and there's my sister, propped up against the wall holding her bloody finger.


If you have an old Singer, like my Mothers, and you want to patch a pair of jeans or shorts, then good luck.

If you don't sew, you can still make distressed denim shorts. All you need is an old pair of jeans, scissors and some tweezers. (See below for details on making holes in your jeans.)


Distressed Denim Shorts With Fabric Patches


  • a pair of #jeans (with holes)

  • fabric scraps that you love

  • a measuring tape

  • scissors

  • rotary cutting tool (optional, but makes life easier)

  • pins

  • colored pencil or chalk

  • tweezers (if you want to add some cuts to your shorts)

  • sewing machine

Here's a link to Amazon if you need some stuff for your sewing project. I'll receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase through my site.


  • Lay the jeans on a firm, flat surface and smooth out any wrinkles. Be sure to even up the hems of the legs, not the waist line. I say this because a lot of jeans have a lower front waist than back waist, so if you measure and cut by lining up the waist, then the legs of your shorts will be longer in the front than in the back. So line up the hems of the pant legs.

  • Run the measuring tape from the hem of the leg up to the point where you plan to cut. Do this along the inside seam, down the middle of the leg and along the outside seam. Use a straight edge to draw a line and join all of your marks. This will be your cut line. Repeat with the other leg. For this pair of shorts I chose a length that worked with the existing holes. There was a convenient cut line at 6 inches. (I used a different pair of jeans for the pictures.)


Some jeans have a lower front waist than back waist, depending on the cut, so if you measure and cut by lining up the waist, then the legs of your shorts will be longer in the front than in the back. So it's best to line up the hems of the pant legs.

Measure along the inside seam and mark where you plan to cut.


Measure up the middle of the pant leg and mark where you plan to cut.


Rit dye can be used to add some fun colors to your shorts. I didn't do it on this pair, but use your imagination and make some tie died shag shorts or brush on Rit dye for more control over the colors.

Measure along the outside seam and mark where you plan to cut.


Mark where you want to cut with a chalk line or pins as you measure.

I marked this pair at the 6" line all the way across.

Just "eyeballing it" can be risky, so I like to measure.

Cut off the legs along the pin or mark line.

You can use a good, sharp pair of scissors to make the cut or a rotary cutting tool. I love my Olfa Rotary Cutter. It's so much easier to cut a straight line with a rotary cutter.


Choose your favorite fabric and cut a square or rectangle about an inch bigger, all the way around, than the hole you're patching. Pin the fabric in place from the top side, careful to pin only the front of the jeans and the fabric patch. Be sure to smooth out the jeans and the fabric on a hard, flat surface to avoid puckers as you're pinning. You can slide a piece of cardboard into the leg to keep from pinning the back of the leg. (I used a different pair of jeans to show measuring, this is actually the pair that I patched.)


Single stitch a square or rectangle line around the hole to attach the patch fabric to the jeans.


Then, follow the outline of the frayed hole edge using a zig zag stitch. Remove the pins as you sew.


Here's the finished product! Distressed denim shorts made out of jeans that were on their way out because there were more holes than actual jeans. I made this pair for Leah, one of my Chickees.

I hope you'll try this simple sewing project to refashion a pair of old jeans. You never know; you might create a fun memory or a treasured pair of shorts for yourself, or someone else!


This is a short tutorial on how to cut and fray holes in your denim jeans to give them a distressed look.

  • Use scissors to make a cut. Go ahead and make it as long as you want the finished hole.

  • Use tweezers to pull the white threads out of the weave. When it gets hard to pull a thread you can trim some of the fringed blue threads and then start pulling white threads again.

  • Repeat this process until you have the hole as big as you want it.

This is a small hole that I made in a back pocket.

Wash and dry your denim to give the new holes that worn, distressed look.

That's it!

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