Sew Yourself a Pair of Shorts in Under an Hour!

How to sew shorts without needing a pattern

I have a really hard time buying shorts. I usually can’t find any in the store that I like, because, let’s face it – most women’s shorts are so short they’re actually just denim underwear in disguise. Even if I do find shorts I like, I can’t seem to bring myself to pay $25 for an article of clothing that requires so little fabric, and that I’m only going to wear for a few months out of the year. Fortunately, you can sew shorts on your own really easily. I made these without a pattern, got to pick out my own funky and fun fabric, and more importantly, I made them as long as I wanted them to be.     



This project is great even if you’re new to sewing, and can be completed in under an hour. It’s also a great project if you have kids growing out of their clothes quickly. You can sew shorts for just a few dollars a pair, which is great for kids that might only wear them for one hot season. If you learn anything this summer, it should totally be how to sew shorts!



  • Some comfortable fabric (at least 2/3rds of a yard)
  • Matching thread
  • A marking pencil 
  • Elastic
  • Cord or drawstring
  • Sewing machine and notions
  • An existing pair of shorts to gauge sizing

Here's what you need to sew shorts for yourself


How to make shorts without a pattern

The first step is to determine the size your shorts will need to be. Grab a pair of shorts that you like the fit of, and fold them in half. Lay your fabric out right-side down, and trace the outline of the shorts on the back of the fabric, using a marking pencil. You will want to leave 1/4-1/2 inch on all sides for the seams and hemlines. For the waistband, trace the outline 2 inches above. This allows enough fabric to fold over the waistband. If your original shorts have an elastic waist, stretch them to their full capacity to determine the actual dimensions of the fabric. 

Sew shorts in under an hour

After you’ve traced your shape, cut it out. This will be your template for the other three pieces (for a total of four pieces). You want two pieces facing left, and two pieces facing right. Trace the first piece onto the wrong-side of your fabric, and cut out the shapes.

Side note: I gave my shorts a boxier look when I cut my template piece, and elongated the leg a bit. 


How to sew shorts without needing a pattern

How to sew shorts without needing a pattern

Take a right-facing piece, and lay it right-side up. Lay a left-facing piece on top, right-side down. Pin along the curved portion, and sew along the pinned line. If you are using a knit or stretchy fabric, make sure to set your sewing machine to a zig-zag stitch. Otherwise, you can use a straight stitch. 

Repeat for the other left and right-facing pieces. You now have the front and back of your shorts!


How to sew shorts without needing a pattern, in under an hour!

Lay one piece right-side up, with the second piece right-side down on top. Pin along the inside legs, pinning the front to the back. Sew along the pinned line with a triangular line. Beginner's sewing project: How to sew shorts

Pin up both sides of the shorts. Sew along the pinned line. Your shorts should be beginning to take shape! 

Beginner's sewing project: How to sew shorts

Fold the bottom of both legs up 1/2 inch, pin in place, and hem. 


Beginner's sewing project: How to sew shorts

Now to the waistband. To determine the length of your elastic, hold the elastic around your waist where you would wear your shorts. Pull on the elastic a bit to determine what’s comfortable. You want the elastic to be taut, but not to be squeezing your hips in an uncomfortable way. 

Fold the fabric of the waistband down far enough to comfortably fit the elastic inside the fold. I’m using 1/2 inch elastic, so I folded my waistband down 3/4ths of an inch. Pin and hem as you did the pant legs, but leave a 2 inch opening in the hemline.

Beginner's sewing project: How to sew shorts

Feed the elastic through the opening in the hemline. It’s much easier to get the elastic through by attaching a large safety pin to one end, and using the pin as a shuttle to navigate through the waistband. Once both ends of the elastic meet again, sew them together. Complete the hemline along the waistband, thus closing the opening.  


How to add a drawstring to a pair of shorts

This part is optional, but adding a drawstring only takes a minute or so more, and it’s cute. Cut two small holes in the middle of the waistband, but only cut through the top piece of fabric (not the elastic or the back piece). Just as you did with the elastic, attach a safety pin to the drawstring, and feed it through one hole and out the other. Tie the ends of the string to keep them from fraying. Now you know how to sew shorts – how easy was that?

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Beginner's sewing project: How to sew shorts

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Initially, I picked this knit fabric because I liked the bold pattern on it, but once I made my shorts I realized how beach-y it looks! I like them anyway, and they’ll be perfect for all those trips to the ocean I take (just kidding – Minnesota is totally landlocked). Happy sewing, and happy summer!

You’ve learned how to sew shorts, now see how to alter t-shirts three different ways!

How to transform a t-shirt three ways