Make Up-cycled Patchwork Shorts from Outgrown Tee’s

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How to turn old t-shirts into shorts! Got old t-shirts? (Who doesn’t, lol?)  Learn how to upcycle all those old t-shirts into a pair of adorable patchwork shorts!

diy shorts from t-shirts

Have you ever wondered what to do with the old t-shirts your little ones have outgrown?  

Are the old t-shirts just sitting around in bags or boxes waiting to be given away or turned into rags?  Well, don’t throw them away!  How about turning the t-shirts into a fun pair of up-cycled patchwork shorts?

diy patchwork shorts

I’ve had this DIY patchwork shorts project in various stages of completion since I finished this Patchwork Tunic Top for my daughter.  I am really bad at starting a project and then getting distracted by another project, but I finally got the shorts done for him, and boy is he happy!

The shorts may look complicated, but they’re really a fun and simple project.  The best part is since you are using knits, you don’t have to finish the seams! (Although I did end up hemming the bottom with a twin needle.)

how to make patchwork shorts

Materials needed to Make Patchwork Shorts from Outgrown T-shirts

  • 5 or 6 old tees (you could use more or less depending on the size of the shirts and variation you want.)
  • Ruler
  • Rotary cutter/cutting mat
  • Your favorite shorts pattern (If you don’t have a short pattern, I’ve included instructions to make your own shorts pattern at the bottom of the post)
  • 1/2 inch elastic (feel free to use a wider elastic, just add whatever the amount is to the waistband height.)
  • Ballpoint needle (always use a ballpoint needle on knits!)
  • basic sewing supplies
  • optional Ball point/stretch double needle

Instructions to make the Patchwork “Fabric”

Step 1: Cutting your fabric squares and assembling the fabric panel.

Cut your t-shirts apart at the seams and use your ruler to cut out 4-inch squares.  Pay attention to the designs on the shirts, you may want to center your squares over certain areas to preserve a design or word.  (Depending on the t-shirt and where I placed the 1st cut, I was able to get 12 to 18 squares from each size 4/5 t-shirt. I cut fewer squares on the shirts where I tried to preserve a design or word.)

After cutting the squares, arrange them into a pattern you like.  Use your shorts pattern to determine how big the fabric panel needs to be.

Start sewing your t-shirt blocks together, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

*update* I pulled the shorts out of the dryer for this photo. (It is one year later and the have held up very well.)

Step 2:  Cutting the shorts pattern from the fabric.

Very Important!!!  When cutting shorts you need to make sure your fabric lays either right or wrong sides together when cutting the 2 front and 2 back pattern pieces.  (This ensures you get a left and a right leg!)

You can do this two ways.  

Either lay your fabric panels out wrong sides together and cut 2 at once (this is what happens when you fold your fabric in half) or lay your fabric out side by side and flip the pattern while cutting one at a time.  That is what I did in the photo below:

Cut out the 2 front pieces and 2 back pieces.


Step 3:  Assembling the shorts.


Step 4:  Creating the casing and hemming the shorts.

 To create the casing, fold the top edge of the shorts over 1/4 inch and press. Fold the edge over another 3/4 inch and press again.

Sew along the folded edge, leaving a 1 1/2 inch opening to slide the elastic through.

Cut a piece of 1/2 inch elastic. (Use the waist measurement plus 1 inch.)

Attach the elastic to the safety pin and run through the casing. (To ensure a good fit, I always recommend trying the shorts on before sewing the elastic together.)

Sew the elastic together using a zig zag stitch, taking care to ensure the elastic is not twisted.  Then stitch the opening closed.

To hem the bottom of the shorts, fold the bottom edge over 1/4 inch, press, fold over another 1/4 inch and press again. Sew right along the folded edge. (I used my new ball point twin needle for the bottom hem. I love this needle, the knit fabric did not stretch out at all when I sewed the hem!)


How fun are these shorts?  If you make anything with this tutorial, I would love to see your results!


How to make your own shorts pattern:

Fold the shorts you’re using for pattern tracing in half, with the back of the shorts facing out. Make sure to flatten out the back crotch seam as much as possible.

Trace around shorts on to the paper. Extend the top of the shorts up, in a straight line as shown above.

After you have traced the shorts, add a 1/4 inch seam allowance along the sides of the pattern.

Add 1 1/8 inches to the top of the shorts for the elastic casing and 1/2 inch at the bottom for the bottom hem.

Fold the shorts over so the front side is facing out, and repeat these steps for the shorts front pattern.

Cut out both patterns.

diy patchwork shorts

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  1. Molly Quist says:

    I saved shirts my daughters had from sports teams they were on, sewed them into blankets for them to take to college. Not sure how to attach a photo here, but its a good use for the shirts and good memories for them to have! Time consuming but pretty simple.

  2. collard nathalie says:


  3. Shazronnie says:

    I copied your idea!! (Because those shorts are fab.)

  4. Inspirational! A def favourite! I've always wondered what to do with all the T-shirts and clothes my boy has outgrown. No one wants them as hand me downs so they're just sitting in the drawer.

  5. These shorts are awesome!

  6. Erica Louise says:

    Oh I love your boys shorts, sew (!) creative!

  7. So in love with the little boy's quilted shorts trends lately! I can't wait to make or buy some for my little man!

  8. Those shorts are just brilliant! Great way to use up old t-shirts!

  9. Okay I'm a follower now!

  10. I really love this! So inventive! I want to do a pair for my daughter!

  11. very awesome! i am pleasantly surprised they look so amazing! i am going to try this too!

  12. My son would love these! He's 3 and will only wear "soft pants" and always wants me to make him something whenever I make something for his sisters. New follower

  13. You make it look so easy. Those are super cute. I'd love to try the same thing for my son. Thanks for sharing at my Sizzle into Summer party.