How to make shorts from a pants pattern

Today I’m going to show you how to turn the Parsley Pants into shorts! I’m using Parsley because that’s my current favorite, but of course you could do this with ANY ol’ two-piece pant pattern (including the Big Butt Baby Pants).

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Here are two pairs of Parsley Shorts that I made for my kiddos (both the pouch pockets and the flat-front waistband are included in the Parsley Pants pattern):

moon shorts

Moon shorts for Elliot (with pouch pockets and flat-front waistband)

frog shorts

Frog shorts for Clementine (with flat-front waistband)

The great thing about making shorts from a pants pattern is that it IS rather simple, but one or two little issues can pop up if you just hack them off across the middle of the leg (most common: front and back inseams not matching up), so let me just walk you through the process. It is very easy!

Step 1: Draw in the seam lines on the pattern piece along the inseams, 1/2″ away from the edge.

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You want to draw in your seam lines on both the front and back inseams of the pant leg. The inseams are the seams that go down the leg from the crotch to the cuff or hem. For Parsley the seam allowance is 1/2,” so draw them 1/2″ away from the edge (but adjust this distance for different seam allowances). Sometimes I use a clear ruler so I can easily measure 1/2″ away from the edge of the pattern piece, but sometimes I just estimate what 1/2″ looks like and draw it in freehand. Start at the crotch and work your way down the pant leg.

Step 2: Decide how long you want your shorts to be from the crotch to the bottom, and add extra for the hem (“hem allowance”).

In this case, I wanted Clementine’s shorts to be shorty-shorts, and some of her other pairs are about 2.75″ long from crotch to the hem. The hem allowance of the Parsley Pant Pattern is 2″, so:

Length of shorts (2.75″) + hem allowance (2″) = Total length of pattern below inseam (4.75″)

For boys’ shorts, I like the inseam a little longer. Elliot’s moon shorts are 6″ long below the inseam, so that would be: 6″ + 2″ = 8″ long total.

Step 3: Measure that distance (from Step 2) down the seam lines on the pattern piece.

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Start at the crotch and measure down the pant leg along the seam lines you drew in, then make a mark at that point (for me that was 4″ below the crotch). Do this for the front inseam AND the back inseam.

{Some of you may be thinking, why not just measure down the edge of the pattern piece instead of going through the trouble of drawing in the seam lines and measuring along those? In this (Parsley Pants) case, the back crotch point has its point cut off to reduce bulk (do you see how the back is less pointy than the front at the crotch point?) so some of that inseam edge is missing. If you measured along this edge, therefore, the front would come out about 1/2″ longer than the back.}

Step 4: Connect the dots.

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Using a ruler, draw a straight line across the pattern piece from the front mark to the back mark. This will be the bottom of your new (SHORTS!) pattern piece.

Step 5: Trace the new pattern piece.

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I personally do not enjoy printing out copious numbers of pattern pages and taping them together over and over. Not only is it tedious; it makes me feel like a bad human being. So I tend to just trace the size or outline I need and then fold up the original pattern page and file it away (see my post on organizing patterns over here!). The advantage of this is that you can use it again and again!

Don’t forget to label the size and add any pattern markings you need!

OK, so now you have a new shorts pattern piece! Now you can cut your fabric and sew the shorts together; instructions for this can be found in any basic pant or shorts pattern (including my Parsley Pants pattern). Plus, I’ll be back again soon with another post on basic shorts/pants construction and how to sew strong seams that will last. So stay tuned! UPDATED: Click here for the “Super Seams” post!

PS. You can get a copy of the Parsley Pants pattern right here!

Want to see what everyone else is making with the Parsley Pants pattern? Check out the Parsley Pants pool for more great Parsley pants and shorts:

shamrock parsley pantsshamrock pantsparsley shorts hands in pocketsyellow piped parsley shortsparsely shorts and bow tieroundingXander Parsley Pantsparseleyfamilyparsley shortsSailor Suit by Brienneparsley pants

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21 thoughts on “How to make shorts from a pants pattern

  1. Thank you, Rae for these tips on modifying and matching seams. I appreciate the knowledge you share with us. From the beginner to the advance sewer, I feel you help us all. Thank you!

    • Aw thanks!! I sometimes feel like these posts can be a little “technical” so it’s really nice to hear that they are appreciated!

      :)

  2. This is literally two hours too late! :) I just finished a pair of Parsley shorts for the nephew, and I just hacked off the pants (as I had no idea how to do all this technical stuff!) to make short pants. Haha! If I only I would have known, I could have waited until nap time tomorrow to sew ‘em up. Ah well, they are cute regardless! (Side note: first time sewing up the Parsley pattern and LOVED IT! Seriously, amazing. I have made four Geraniums and now one Parsley. Next up: some skinny tees. Thanks so much for all your lovely patterns!)

  3. Haha I totally started a pair of parsley shorts and “did it wrong” by shortening just the pattern pieces themselves with no angle, so then i had to chop more off to even them out after sewing together, and now I think they’re too short for my little guy. Might need to add a cuff now. Will use these tips in future. THX RAE.

  4. I would have never thought of that but after reading this it totally makes sense! I love those frog shorts, my Eleanor would get a kick out of those smiling frogs. Too cute.

  5. Hi Rae, I am a semi-beginner sewer. I love your parsley pants and want to try them for my son. My question is what type of fabric are the above shorts in? Does it have stretch? Is it quilting weight cotton or? Thanks for any info! Jen

    • Hi Jen!

      I used quilting weight cotton for the moon shorts; I like the weight for summer shorts, and you don’t have to worry about the knees wearing through because they’re shorts (with pants I always put kneepads on pants I make from quilting cotton).

      The frog shorts are a kokka canvas. This is a little heavier but still very soft. I love the lightweight canvases for shorts too.

      Hope that helps!!!

      :)

  6. I shall have to give this a go!

    Do you have to make any allowance for the seam across the top (crotch to waistband)?

    • Hi Jodie! I think you are asking about the same thing as Kim below, right? You can see my reply there! Thanks for the comment!!

  7. This is super helpful- I’ve made my sons a few pairs of Parsley pants already (love the simple pattern!) and shorts, but have always been confused why it never matched up when I just hacked the shorts straight across. Thanks for the tips!!

  8. This is great! Thank you! I bought your pattern and made my 2 year olds some pants. But now it really is shorts weather. Maybe I can figure out how to make my 8 year old some shorts.

  9. This is great help for beginners who want to make the most out of their pattern investments! One question: wouldn’t it be most accurate to mark the 1/2″ seam allowance along the crotch seam and then start measuring your inseam length from there?

    • Hi Kim,

      So technically yes, if the back crotch curve approaches the inseam at a different angle than the front crotch curve, there is a *slight* difference in the vertical seam allowance distance…I did measure it both ways and decided that it was too small to be important; generally if a distance measures less than 1/8,” it’s insignificant for all practical purposes (considering that fabric has a small amount of stretch and cutting error, etc). :)

  10. Tracing! Brilliant! I was just about to make some shorts from your awesome parsley pants pattern! Thanks for the tips.

  11. I appreciate the technical posts, I like to see things done the correct way and not just ‘hacked’
    How much fabric did you use for the shorts? I have some 1/2yd cuts that would be cute shorts

  12. Oh, Rae, thanks for this. I tried this, but using the improper method of tracing along the edge, not drawing in seam allowance and I ran into just that problem. My spacial sense is…um…lacking, so I don’t know if I ever would have figured that one out!

  13. So if you had a shorts pattern and wanted to make pants can you just add the length you need at the same width as the bottom of the shorts? Or should the pants get wider?

  14. Last year when I tried to shorten a Capri pants pattern I had this problem. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why the length was off. I measured over and over. It definitely messed with my confidence. Thank You for this post. Maybe you should repost this now that the weather is getting warmer.

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