How to make a pair of capri pants from old pants

How to make a pair of capri pants from old pants

Clothes are expensive. So, when something goes out of style, or has a worn hem or cuffs, can it be recycled? Some things can. Pants can often be recycled into the retro-popular capri pants. Capris are great for warm weather, or when shorts are not desired. They’re easy enough to make from a pattern, and remaking a pair of comfortable trousers isn’t difficult, either.

The first thing to do is to choose the pants to be recycled. Jeans can be used, but be careful. The thick, doubled outside seam is nearly impossible to duplicate, so mistakes are hard to hide, and any tapering will have to be done from the inside only. Much more forgiving are plain poplin or twill pants, or knits. Warm-ups with a wide outside stripe may also be problematic, so again, the watchword is caution.

Pants with large patch pockets probably are not good candidates, either, since the bottom of the pocket may go into the tapering. Think carefully about what tapering and hemming will do to the pants.

The next thing to do is remember that once the fabric is cut, it cannot be lengthened, so the old carpenter’s adage, “Measure twice, cut once,” is especially apropos here. A sewer can always cut off another quarter-inch, so it may be advisable to cut less off for the pants than originally thought. A hem will have to be taken, so the length needs to consider this, as well. So, a hemming gauge and some pins are good to have handy.

Capri pants can hit a range of lengths, from mid-calf to just below the knee. Personal preference rules here. Most capris hit about six inches from the ankle bone, or at the fullest part of the calf. The pants should be cut at least two inches below this though, for enough hemming allowance. However, the sewer should try the pants on inside out and should have a friend roll the legs up to the desired length and pin them in place.

The sewer should also decide whether any tapering is needed or wanted and if so, how much. More material is taken from the bottom, tapering to less at the top, and more is taken from the inside than the outside. However, the same amount should be taken from both sides of each pant leg, outsides matching outsides and insides matching insides. Pin the tapering again. Take off the pants and think: are they tapered so tightly that I can’t get them off? If so, pull them back up and loosen the pins.

When the pants have been pinned, they will need to be cut off, tapered, and then hemmed. Cut off the pants, at least two inches below the desired length. This will leave an unfinished edge for hemming. Tapering can be done by hand, or with a machine since it is a straight stitch.

This may be a good time to baste the tapering in place, pin the hem to the inside, fold down the seam allowance and try the pants on right side out, to see if the pants look right. If not, pull the basting out and try again. A basting stitch, by the way, is a long stitch used for just these purposes, since it is easily pulled from the fabric, but holds it together well enough to be fitted.

If all looks well, the sewer can sew just inside the basting, inside and outside the leg. Pull the basting stitches out and try the pants on again. If they still look right, the seam allowance can then be slit, trimmed and pressed outward.

Hemming works the same way. When the pants are tapered, baste or pin the hem in place and try on the pants, right side out. Raise or lower the hem as necessary and trim the excess material, if needed, making sure the same amount is trimmed from each leg. Use the hemming gauge to make sure. A one-inch hem is usually sufficient and can be sewn quickly on a machine.

When the hem has been sewn, clip stray threads and try on the pants for the final time. Is the hem even on both sides? Are the legs the same width up and down on each leg? Yes? Congratulations! You just remade a pair of long pants into capris!

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