How to Make DIY Jeans… When You Don’t Sew

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The other day when Hubby came home I greeted him excitedly at the door with the words: “Guess what? I made myself a new pair of pants!” He looked incredulous. And well, he should. Me, sew? Me… who hates sewing. Me… who, after a few years of his waiting and waiting and my procrastinating and procrastinating, refused to ever hem another pair of his pants again.
But before I go on with my story, folks, I need to go back.

I’ve always loved clothes, and I clearly remember, as a kid, making clothes for my dolls. I’d wield scissors and a needle and thread on bits of leftover cloth that Mum had used to make something or other. I always knew exactly how I wanted the scrap of cloth to look on my Barbie. How the purple dress should drape, or how the neckline on a pink cotton, sleeveless blouse should stand up in the front with a pearl button in the back. I remember how I sewed the pieces right on the dolls so they would fit perfectly. Then took them off to clean up the messy bits and sew on the buttons. Then Santa brought me a tiny, doll-size sewing machine for Christmas and I thought that my sewing days had just begun.
Ha. Not so much. No matter how carefully I followed instructions, and tried to thread that sucker I couldn’t make it do anything except whir and whir and then break the thread, or create a giant ball of knotted thread under the presser-foot. Sigh. I finally gave up in frustration. I simply couldn’t make my sewing machine do what I wanted it to do fast enough. Or perfectly enough. I’d been better off with my scissors and needle.
Then in grade eight all the girls and boys in my junior high class were bused to another school once a week for Home Economics or Shop classes. To tell you the truth I would rather have been in Shop class. That was more up my alley. But in 1969, although we had adopted mini-skirts and loved the Beatles and the Monkees, the idea of Women’s Rights had yet to rear its head in my small town in New Brunswick. So Home Economics it was. Cooking, and Sewing, and something called “Family Living.” The idea of cooking class bored me. But sewing I thought might be useful. So each week we were bundled onto the bus with our newly purchased sewing baskets, our length of cotton broadcloth, and our Butterwick patterns. I had chosen to make a classic dirdl skirt. In fact it looked much like the one in this vintage pattern I found. I guess I should say… was supposed to look. In theory.
In actual fact. I made my skirt so short and the cloth was so stiff that it looked more like a tutu than a skirt. And with my long, spindly legs poking out underneath, I looked ridiculous. I took one look at the finished product in the full-length mirror, and never wore it again. End of sewing career. Again.
I’ve had a couple more forays into the world of crafting something out of cloth. I made an A-line, wrap skirt in university. It was pretty easy. But the machine sometimes wouldn’t go at all, and when I pressed harder against the lever, it went ninety miles an hour, and my seam zig-zagged all over the place. And I cursed, and fumed. And bitched about the pattern, or the material, or Mum’s machine, until I think poor Mum was as happy as I was that it was finished. I even wore it a couple of times. At night, I should add. But I never tried to sew anything again. Well, except for the bed skirt that I made a few years ago for our antique iron bed. I made it on my mother-in-law’s old Singer portable. I needed miles of cloth. But it was flat sewing. How hard could it be? Sigh. Of course, as I tried to sew the seam, it would pucker and fold the wrong way. Or I’d sew two parts together that shouldn’t have been because I had so much cloth bunched everywhere that I couldn’t see what I was doing. I had to rip it all out a couple of times. At one point I heard Hubby come in the back door when the entire dining room was swaddled in cloth. I yelled, “Do NOT come in here.” He retreated to the garden.
Ha. No wonder he looked a bit nervous the other day when I said I had made a new pair of pants. “You made them?” he inquired. Okay. So maybe I didn’t exactly make them. “I made them new,” I clarified. “I mean I took an old pair of pants that I was going to send to the thrift store, and made them into something that I want to wear. So… new. See?”
And here they are. My years old Hudson flared, white jeans. That I haven’t worn in ages. But which I kept because they still fit. And which I had already put in the pile for the thrift store a couple of weeks ago when I did my closet inventory. And then I remembered a post that Alyson Walsh wrote last year on her blog That’s Not My Age. About chopping off a pair of her old flares because she wasn’t entirely ready to commit to the trend of lopped off jeans. And I thought… what did I have to lose? So I wielded my scissors and ended up with these.
Eileen Fisher grey and white striped tunic, black Stuart Weitzman loafers, DIY kick flare jeans.
I’m pretty pleased with the result. And once I wash my “new” DIY jeans, I know they’ll get a bit more fringe-y. I’m wearing them with my black Stuart Weitzman loafers, and my new Eileen Fisher grey and white striped, linen knit tunic with a boat neck and slouchy pockets.
In her post, Alyson calls her newly lopped off jeans, “kick flares.” I tried very hard to get the legs of my new “kick flares” the same length, but I think that one is a smidgen shorter. Each time I tried to figure out exactly which leg is longer, they suddenly seemed to measure the same length. And I was afraid that I might just keep cutting until they were both too short. Kind of like what used to happen when we first learned to tweeze our eyebrows, and a couple of my friends became carried away “even-ing them up,” until they ended up without any. Or hardly any.
Eileen Fisher grey and white striped tunic, black Stuart Weitzman loafers, DIY kick flare jeans.
My new “kick flare” jeans.

Then I tried my new “kick flares” with my navy Veronica Beard jacket from last year. I like the  grey hoodie with the white jeans. If you remember from previous posts, this jacket is super stretchy, and the partial hoodie zips in and out. Making this such an easy outfit…. jacket and jeans and sneakers. Simple.

     Navy Veronica Beard scuba jacket with grey hoodie, Stan Smith Adidas, All Saints tote, DIY kick flare jeans
So that’s me sorted. Two new easy, peasy outfits and I didn’t spend a cent. Well, except for the Eileen Fisher tunic. Which I actually bought to go with a pair of black cropped pants. I’m off shopping tomorrow. I think I’ll wear this outfit. My Veronica Beard jacket is comfortable. And it always looks smart. And after a long day of shopping, when my hair is sticking up, and my mascara has run, and I look as if I’ve been put through the wringer (as my grandmother used to say) at least my jacket will still look good.
Navy Veronica Beard scuba jacket with grey hoodie, Stan Smith Adidas, All Saints tote, DIY kick flare jeans

You know, I’m quite pleased with myself and my new DIY “kick flare” jeans. I haven’t worn cut-offs, so to speak, since we used to take our old jeans and make them into shorts in the seventies. Back when cutoffs meant just that. Ha.

I had intended to look for a pair of cropped jeans with an unfinished hem this spring. I’m a bit late to jump on that bandwagon, I know. And only a few of the styles appeal to me. I don’t like the ones that are too, too chopped up. Or the ones with the super long fringes. So maybe I’ll just look for jeans. Period. I need new jeans.

And if I can’t find a pair with an unfinished hem that suits me. Well… there’s always that old pair of Gap jeans in my closet. The ones that still fit but which I haven’t worn in ages. Hmmm. Now where are my scissors?

How about you folks have you tried any DIY with anything in your closet lately?

P.S. I bought my Eileen Fisher tunic from Liz at Nordstrom, but here’s the on-line link. Mine is a size small, so the fit must be pretty roomy. In other brands, I usually take a medium or a large.

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36 thoughts on “How to Make DIY Jeans… When You Don’t Sew”

  1. Two great looks, and if you switch the loafers for some
    Sandals you'll get a summery third look.
    I'm a little uncomfortable with anything I wore "first time round" and as I frayed bell-bottoms back in the mid-60s, I'm holding back on the unfinished hem right now!

    1. Thanks, Mary. I like some of the unfinished hem looks. But I think that at my age I have to be careful of trends that look too "contrived." And before someone picks me up on that comment…. I'm not saying that women of a certain age can't wear certain things. Just that I've always been careful to NOT look too much like the kids I'd still be teaching if I were still teaching. If you can follow that:)

    1. We should thank Alyson Walsh for the idea. But you've got me thinking that I may even buy a cheap pair of jeans at the thrift store and chop them off. I balk at paying a couple of hundred dollars for "unfinished" jeans.

    1. Thanks, Andrea. Knitting I've always loved. Sewing is too frustrating for me. I guess if I had some training it wouldn't be. But I can just imagine the venting that would occur if I ever took a sewing course!

    1. Thanks, Georgia. That's kind of what I did do. Put them on and measured where I wanted them to hit my leg. Then took them off and did one leg and used the cut off part as a guide for the second leg. Now I'm thinking I'll never notice because who even stands exactly straight with legs together, anyway?

    1. Oh, I love knitting. Just that for the past few years I don't have the staying power and it takes me ages to finish a project. When I suggested that I take on a new knitting project my husband suggested that I start something that I'd wear "in the home." ha.

  2. That's it, now you have the sewing bug! See what you can create with a little imagination. Actually you would probably have much better luck nowadays with sewing machines. They are so incredibly easy to use compared to the old ones we used to use. They have speed controls for a start!

    1. Speed control was a big problem on all the machines I've ever used. Granted most of the are pretty old. I imagine the new ones are much better. But I'll never find out!

  3. My sewing history is very like yours . Anything I made at school took me months & ended up dirty , crumpled & bloodstained (pricked fingers) . I later ran up simple shift dresses with a little more success but it was out of desperation – local shops didn't stock them & I had no money anyway . They didn't give me much of a feelgood feeling . I'm sure it's completely different for people who can sew properly & have the patience needed . I really like both your outfits & that EF top is a lovely fit , not her usual droopy look .
    Wendy in York

    1. It's funny but I can knit away and not get impatient. Good thing because it takes me forever to finish something. But just thinking about setting up a sewing machine, buying pattern and material, and then having it look like a disaster makes me sweat. Much better to shop!

  4. Those "new" jeans look great — and ready just in time for white jeans weather, if you're much luckier than we are, that is. . . We had a gorgeously sunny day today, but the forecast promises another full week of the rain that's grafted my umbrella handle permanently to my right hand. . . .

    1. Oh dear.. I hope you get sun soon. The weather here is not white pants weather either. I ended up NOT wearing mine shopping because it was pouring rain and freezing yesterday!

  5. Hmm… I'm going to have to take a look at a couple of pairs of jeans that I don't wear anymore. I prefer the look of yours with your white sneakers, but as The Pouting Pensioner says, sandals would also work well.

    I so identify with your Home Ec experience. My mom taught me to cook and sew long before I reached junior high. I really wanted to take Shop, especially drafting, but as a girl that wasn't allowed. Instead, I made the same apron and short sleeve button-up blouse as every other girl in the school. I don't think any of us ever wore them!

    1. I guess if we'd taken shop class we'd have made the same little book case or nick-nack shelf that everyone else did. Just that it would have been more fun… at least I think it would:)

  6. Oh, these turned out really well! I have been considering giving this a try and now I want to go through my closet and find a pair to chop off. Thanks for linking up, Susan.

  7. This is genius. I am definitely going to try it on a pair of jeans I was about to take to Good Will. Like you, I balk at spending a fortune on frayed hems having 'been there, done that' once before in my fashion life. 😉

    When I was younger, I went through a period of sewing a lot of my clothes, especially maternity when I couldn't find what I liked. But I also made dresses with covered buttons and complex collars, etc. Can't imagine doing that now…I would never have the patience.
    –Laurel

    1. It's funny but I have so much patience for so many other things…. but sewing… not so much:) Hope your pants turn out as good as mine did. But then again if you know how to sew… they probably will!

  8. Cutting off a pair of pants is brilliantly simple. What happens when they hit the wash sometimes isn't. You may get snarls of frayed threads. If that happens, you can take the jeans to the seamstress to have a color-matched line of zigzag run along the edges. Alternatively, you can buy some kind of fray-ease to apply to the edges. Both solutions are cheap and easy.

    1. Ah yes…Alyson did mention that in a follow-up post. This "fray-ease" …does one buy it at sewing stores? I've never heard of it. But I will look to see if I can find it. Thanks, Sara.

  9. I love this!!! I have a pair of flared white jeans and now I think I may do this. I took down the hem in a pair of Target jeans last fall and love the look, but with you in not spending a lot of money. I just found a pair of jeans with this hem for under $40 and really like them. I somehow, did not get home ec, like my younger brothers and husband so my sewing is super limited despite having a professional seamstress as a mother!! She did not have the patience to teach me and I always preferred reading. Look forward to seeing these "new" jeans this summer.

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