Upcycle Some T-Shirts to Kid's Shorts!

by Koetiquemade
8 Materials
2 Hours

My youngest child recently came to me wanting a pair of black knit shorts. We tried to find some but couldn’t find any in his size. He’s right at that age where he’s in between sizes; too big for kids but too small for mens. At the same time this was happening, my oldest just happened to be cleaning out his closet and donated a bunch of t-shirts to my “refashion” stash. In that t-shirt pile were two identical black, knit shirts. Perfect! I was going to use those to make some black shorts perfect for my little guy.

The Shirts/Fabric

One of the things I love about using old clothes to make something else is you don’t have to worry too much about fabric shrinkage. I don’t purchase things that are “Dry Clean Only.” So all the things I use have usually been worn and washed multiple times. When you use fabric from the store you have to pre-wash and dry it and even then it sometimes still shrinks. I don’t usually have that problem with upcycled clothes.

The two shirts were just simple, black, 100% cotton t-shirts. They weren't made with the typical soft, stretchy t-shirt fabric. It was more of a stable knit and felt a little rough. Also, the fabric had no vertical stretch and the horizontal stretch was maybe 20%. Because of that I knew I could get away with using a shorts pattern suitable for both woven and stretch fabrics.

The Pattern

I knew of a simple “board short” pdf pattern that was suitable for both woven and knit fabrics. It's called the Kayak Board Shorts. It was also suitable for boys and girls, which was a big bonus for me since he has so many girl cousins that I sew for. I printed it out in his size and immediately got to work.

Cutting Out the Shorts

I was able to get most of the pattern pieces to fit on one t-shirt. I used the second t-shirt for the back pattern pieces. Something I try to always do is utilize the existing hem. It saves so much time when you don't have to hem a garment. I just figured out how long my son wanted his shorts and then lined the pattern up accordingly. Sometimes he wants shorter shorts, but for these ones he wanted them a bit longer than the pattern. With the scraps I had left over from both t-shirts, I used as trims for dog hoodies and other t-shirts I’ve made since. It’s amazing what you can do with scraps left over from a refashion.

I didn’t have enough fabric to cut the waistband on the fold. So I simply added seam allowance to the end of the fabric. This made the waist band have two seams instead of one. I had those line up with the side seams of the shorts when I attached it.

Attaching the Waistband

I really liked the construction method of the waistband for the Kayak Board shorts. I have really bad wrists so inserting elastic into the waistband can be hard for me becasue it strains my wrists. Here is how I did it on these shorts.

I used a serger but you can use a zig zag stitch. First I sewed the bottom of the waistband to the shorts and pressed the seam allowance up, toward the waist band. I measured and cut some elastic to fit my son's waist, then I sewed the ends together to form a circle. Next, I marked the quarter points of the elastic and waistband and slid the elastic on the wrong side of the waistband.

I serged the elastic to the top side of the waist band. Then using the elastic as a guide, I folded the waistband over to the inside of the shorts encasing the elastic and the seams I pressed up earlier.

We opted to not do the optional tabs and drawstring closure. It makes it so much faster to not do those. And my little guy doesn't care for them anyway. I sewed the waistband in place using a narrow zig zag stitch across the top and bottom. Wah Lah! Super easy and it didn’t hurt my wrists!

The Faux Fly

Sometimes a faux fly can be tricky. This is something I do to help me get it right.

I measure and mark a line where the edge of the fabric would be if there was no fly at all. From that line I measure the seam allowance line. That way I know exactly where the faux fly fold should be. I do a couple stitches at the top to secure it in place and then sew from the bottom of the fly to the end of the crotch curve.

Then I fold it over and stitch it in place. The faux fly looks really nice and I think makes it look more like a typical garment you would purchase at a store.

Here you can see the how the faux fly and original hem look once it's finished.

The Pockets

I wanted to show you my favorite pocket construction method. These are inseam pockets but the top of the pocket lines up with the top of the waistband. I love this because it keeps the pockets in place. I'm sure you've seen or experienced for yourself when your pockets come out of your shorts. Either during swimming or running around. This method keeps them in place so my little guy can use these shorts for just about any kind of activity.

New Shorts = A Happy Kid

He's pretty happy with his new shorts and has already found more of his big brother shirts that would be suitable for a second pair. I have no problem making them because this took a little over an hour. It's and easy afternoon project.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully you have some old t-shirts in your closet waiting to be turned into some fun summer shorts for you kiddos too!

Below is some more details if you are insterested in the pattern I used in this post.

Kayak Board Short Details

I am an affilaiate for Love Notions Patterns. I recieve a small comission when my links are used to purchase patterns. It doesn't cost extra to use my affiliate links.

Designed for board shorts fabric, the Kayak Boardshorts are perfect for all activities, including water sports! Or make a casual pair of shorts using French terry, cotton Lycra, light weight linen or poplin. Two views are included in the pattern, a solid view or a color blocked view. Side seam pockets give your adventurer a place to store their treasures! The Kayak Boardshorts are designed to hit at the knee with a relaxed amount of ease though the hip and thigh for comfort and mobility. The knit encased elastic waistband features an optional tab and drawstring closure, keeping the boardshorts in place all day long.

Kayak Boardshorts Features:

  • Meant for woven or knit fabrics
  • Solid or colorblock options
  • Side seam pockets
  • Optional waistband tabs and drawstring
  • Elastic Waist

Sizes: 2T-14 (See Size Charts  here)

Skill Level: Confident Beginner

Suggested materials:
  • 2 matching t-shirts   (thrift store or your closet)
  • Clear Ruler
  • Scissors
See all materials

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