Not Martha

to make: making a skirt out of a pair of jeans

ripping (not cutting) inside seams
opening the inside leg seams starting at the cuff

close view of open seams
view of opened seams – notice that I can use the parallel seam lines as stitching guides

laying flat with seams opened
laying flat with seams ripped open – see how the jeans want to form an A-line? these were taken before I ripped the seams up to the zipper in the front and the yoke in the back.

I don’t have any pictures for this but what I did next was pin the front halves of the inside seams together to form a front seam. I worked from the bottom up and let the flaps fall flat and overlap. I basted it down and tried it on, found it left a curious bump, took all the stitching out (see? I LOVE basting) and tried again, this time it looked as normal as it was gonna get.

laying flat no back panel
how the skirt lays flat with no back panel – this is the shape I will make the panel – I put brown paper between the layers of the skirt and traced the opening and where the bottom seam should be

the following are views and details of topstitching the overlapping front and back flaps (ignore the thread I hadn’t clipped yet). the overlap on the inside of the skirt is whipstitched down over the edge by hand



inside flap detail
the catchstich on the inside where the fabric flaps overlap

wearing skirt with no back panel
if I wanted to show off my legs (I don’t) I might consider just leaving it open, with the flaps overlapping and tacked down it falls low enough in the back (note the 3″ platform shoes)

wearing the finished skirt
I liked the way the finished hem looked but had to cut it off because I’m too short – so I left it to fray. I added a center front slit to allow for room when walking.

view of back panel in place
the finished panel, hemmed to the length of the skirt and left to fray as well

detail of the front slit stitching
stitch detail of the front slit – note I reenforced the spot where the seam separates

detail of the hem stitching
stitch detail of the hem – I made two rows where I want the fraying to stop

detail of back slits
detail of one of the back slits

[apologies for the eBay-like quality of most of these photos, I was working at night and the light is all wrong]

With the arrival of my new (used) sewing machine which declared it was sturdy enough to go through denim I wanted to test this (within my 90-day period), and I happened to have a pair of perfectly good but slightly too small jeans I knew were to small but I ordered them online and never bothered to return them. So I decided to make a skirt (because they are in this season, apparently). There are a few sites with how-to instructions (there are also apparently some long-lost get crafty threads on this which I couldn’t locate, I grabbed a few of these links from this thread)

I wanted a floor-length skirt so I needed for find a fabric to use for the insert, I went with some red corduroy I found in the remnants section, but I wish I had used wide-wale. And I’m embarrassed but of course I cut out the panel with the nap running up instead of down, you won’t tell anyone will you? As I was building it I decided I wanted to have the insert only in the back (I had images of a Victorian train as I walked around the apartment trying it on in different stages). It worked, but I had to add some slits at the seams to give myself room to walk, and it’s still a little tight but doable. I would add a triangle in front as well as back next time I do this to make a wide a-line skirt which I can roam around in with as much freedom of movement as jeans. I left the bottom raw to fray (watch out – you too could be shedding denim strings and little puffs of red all over you boyfriend’s mother’s carpet) but I stitched two rows in about 3/4″ above the seam line to stop the fraying at that height (denim will fray quite well in the wash), the same with the corduroy (though I wish I had finished that).

So the good news is that my machine works quite well with denim (I didn’t even change the needle to a sturdier one) and extra-strong thread.

Here is some stuff I found out the hard way:

  • Don’t cut any fabric when you are opening the inside leg seams – just rip out the stitching, you want to keep those nice stitched and dyed rows intact. Use teensy scissors or a seam ripper (preferred) to rip out the the stitches about an inch on either side of the leg hem around the inside seam – you can cut this if you know you are going to be chopping off the bottom of the skirt. Unfold this then rip out the stitches along the inside seam. This is a lot of work and will leave little thread pieces everywhere. When ripping I like to cut the thread on the inside of the seam (rather than the stitches you see on the top) little by little, pulling open the seam as I go. I ripped up to the bottom of the zipper in the front and the yoke in the back, although one of those pages I liked above gives an inches from the waist recommendation. I basted some stitches around where I stopped ripping to keep them together while I worked (which I never bothered taking out again because I was lazy and basted in white, should have used a bright see-able color).
  • When you are laying the skirt out to pin it, laying it flat works as well as any sort of rigging on the body you might try. But do make the initial stitches basting (in a see-able color if you intend to take them out) and try it on before doing anything permanent. The first few times I did the I ended up with, ahem, oddly shaped bumps where I rejoined the fabric.
  • Trying it on while it is pinned is a bad idea. So is trying to walk to a full length mirror at this point.
  • Baste in your triangles of fabric as well if you suspect the thing will drape strangely.
  • Don’t bother trying to make a straight down the center seam, it’s too much work. Overlap the little flaps created by the crotch (tee hee) area and stitch them down in front. I hand whipped over the edge on the inside of the skirt just to hold the flaps in place. You could cut out the flaps on the inside but why bother unless it shows an bugs you.
  • If you are planning on letting the bottom fray do a row or two of reenforcing stitches to stop the fraying at a point. You can to these well above the cut line if you’re hoping it will fray itself into an asymmetrical line. Also, wash and wear the skirt a few times before you do some thing like leave little strings of denim and tiny puffs of bright red fraying cord all over you boyfriend’s mother’s carpet during a family get together.
  • I didn’t use extra strong thread, but I did go over pressure points a few times (at the top of my slits, corners). I used white thread but I bet you can find that strong tan denim thead in the stores. I was considering doing red stitching but, well, I was too lazy.
  • I didn’t stitch anything precisely (I never liked coloring inside the lines either) but it doesn’t show unless the viewer is really intent on criticizing your clothing.
  • I found the most difficult part to be getting the front flaps to lay down flat – this was because I was going for stitching the front seams together, if you add a panel to the front and the back it will be easier. I found that the way the jeans want to open when put flat on a table is fine.

Next I’m going to try this with a pair of my boyfriend’s old army green cargo pants which have lots of pockets!


81 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rebecca // Aug 7, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    If you start it just right with the jeans inside out, you can just pull the thread and the inseam stitching will quickly and easily pull out. It’s one (or more) continuous thread(s) from one ankle to the other. Rip out a little at one ankle and then try pulling. It should just pull and unravel out. If it doesn’t unravel, try the other side. It’s much easier then ripping stitch by stitch. If you want, you can roll this thread on a bobbin to use for your top stitching. I’ve made bunches of these skirts. Some with the curve, some straight down (just tuck in the extra until the seam will go straight down and top stitch that way.) Also sometimes I cut off at knee and use the lower section of leg as the inset. Perfect match.

  • 2 Being a nostalgic hippie kid « Being the Blog of Rebecca Kuder // Oct 30, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    […] skirt from a pair of jeans that fit me not that well, but are cool looking jeans. I want to make something like this. I am not convinced it will be flattering, but I need to make […]

  • 3 Christine // Nov 3, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    wow..this is great, but i dont need anyother thing, besides the pants?? like i can just make it out of the pants itself..nothing added??

  • 4 Confounded By Quilting » Blog Archive » Turning a pair of jeans into a skirt. // Dec 5, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    […] zipper and snaps are already done for me, as is most of the hem. Heck, piece of cake. Following this tutorial, I found an appropriate pair of jeans: The […]

  • 5 Jackie // Jan 25, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Turned out gorgeous! Finally decided to doll up a bit and start wearing skirts, and these are lovely!

  • 6 Alicia // Jan 27, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Thanks for this tutorial. Its the best skirt from jeans one I found. I put a link to this in my blog with a pic of my finished skirt:

  • 7 Evvie // Feb 13, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I gained a lot of weight after giving birth, and all I can wear now are skirts. I didn’t want to throw away my elastic waist maternity jeans (those with elastic triangles on the sides and no zip) so I found your skirt and did it. I left a nice wide slit on the front starting just below the knees. The back panel came from another not fitting grey cargo pant, I’m also going to add the cargo’s pockets! Thanks a lot

  • 8 linda // Feb 24, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Cheap Ebay pictures? I hate when people tell you that a professional photographer is needed.That’s kind of the point of the web, we are just people, like everybody else, all with different careers. The pics were well lighted and made it easy to see everything you were talking about. Frankly, I looked up how to do this several times, and now just stumbled on this and wha-la! Understanding about that funky top part at the end of the upward cut. Thank you! Please, everybody don’t hold back because you think your pics are not good enough, we just want to see the stuff, not judge your photography.

  • 9 Sara Cart // Mar 6, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Thanks for the great tutorial. I’m looking forward to trying it.

  • 10 Maxine Ramey // Mar 16, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    What a help your tutorial is! Thank you for posting it. I’m making a skirt tomorrow but wasn’t sure how to begin.

  • 11 Weeza Wear » Blog Archive » Patchwork Skirt from Recycled Corduroy Pants // Mar 29, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    […] found this great tutorial on the not martha blog showing you how to make a skirt from jeans.  I made it my own by using […]

  • 12 jeans bags // Jul 3, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Great idea! Thank you! I always have a pair of old jeans to make something from it, so now I’ll make this skirt. I like the way you finished the back slit. It looks good.
    And thank you for all the tips. They are very useful.

  • 13 Jessica // Oct 19, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    How long did this take from start to finish? Have you made another one, since the first time making something always takes the longest? I teach sewing classes and would like to use this for a class. May I have your permission to use this idea and copy (possibly tweek) your instructions? I haven’t read all the way through the comments and wondered about how to fix the front, how it doesn’t lay flat, have you come up with a fix for that? I just love the added piece in the back! Please email me if you decide whether I can use your idea or not. I really appreciate it! And of course, I would give you full credit!! I’m not as creative as you!! Thank you!
    Stuff I Made by Jessica

  • 14 megan // Oct 20, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Hi Jessica – My instructions and images are copyrighted and you do not have permission to use them for a class. I have sent you an email with more details. Thanks so much for inquiring.

  • 15 Andrea // Nov 21, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    AWESOME!!! I’ve looked at a million other sites and yours had the best instructions and exactly the length I want.

  • 16 Dawn // Dec 25, 2010 at 12:03 am

    I really like this easy to read, candid description of what to do, what not to do. It was great, and I think it will help. I have a couple of pairs of jeans that my daughter bought that I am going to make into a jean skirt for her, and I was just not quite sure how to go about it, and there is no one that I know locally that can show me. Thank you for posting!

  • 17 TAKAKO // Jan 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    WoW, great.Thank you for sharing.

  • 18 Ginger // May 11, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Great tutorial,Love your blog give us more of what your making now.
    re-linking your site on mine,thank you for sharing.

  • 19 Niki // Jun 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I’m going to do this project…except that I’m going to make a “quilt top” out of different fabrics and use them for the inserts in the front and the back. I made a quilt skirt a few months ago and it turned out cute…I think adding the quilted look will add a special flair to my skirt! Thanks for the jeans part!

  • 20 Cowboy'sGal // Jun 20, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I read about Making a skirt from pants about a month ago. I had Some trouble But go it done. I will try to do it your way. Thanks so Much. God bless you

  • 21 Mesha // Jul 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I think I’m going to try this with some double knit slacks hanging in my closet. Any tips or suggestions?

  • 22 megan // Jul 29, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Mesha – I’m afraid I don’t, good luck!

  • 23 Shannon // Sep 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    I just sort of used these directions to make my daughter a skirt for her birthday from a pair of her uniform pants from last year that had very little wear. I put the panel in the front instead of the back though :) She now has a super cute ankle length khaki skirt to go with the pink and blue polos I bought her already :)

  • 24 Anna // Sep 14, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Great idea about putting in a different colored fabric. Is there anyway this can be done but instead of at the back, it’s on both sides?

  • 25 latavia lane // Feb 2, 2012 at 8:08 am

    wow i really needed this because im a 13 year old pentecoastal and i had trouble making one i hope this works

  • 26 linda cash // Mar 23, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I love it You Did a great job! Can i put the panel in front instead of the back??? Im using the rest of my levis? Hope to to here from u soon linda

  • 27 Brenda // Apr 28, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Love your instructions. I did this for my grand once. She wanted the bottom frayed. My husband was watching my efforts and suggested using a wire brush with bristles about 1/2 inch high to brush along the bottom. Worked like a charm. I held the material taut while he frayed away. I am glad I kept him 45 years . :)

  • 28 Janet // May 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    I really enjoyed your tutorial on making the jeans skirt.
    However I really don’t like the fact that most jean skirts have the crotch flap left on the skirt. To me that appears like either the reconstruction wasn’t thought out to well. Or the person didn’t care the skirt looks like a deconstructed pair of pants.

    I prefer a more finished look without the crotch flap. Can you show how to do that also?

    Thanks, Janet.

  • 29 megan // May 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Janet – I’m afraid the days of reconstructing jeans are well behind me so I won’t have a tutorial for what you’re seeking. I’m sure they are out there, good luck!

  • 30 dannies // Jul 14, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    I have found that the “flap” over in front and back looks odd. Can’t put my finger on it but it seems to be an unfinished look and more difficult than need be.

    Why not sew in triangles? My guess is that cutting is scary.

    Sewing in a triangle (instead of flapping over fabric) with room on the upper angle ( to secure with doubled stitching) and laying flat, seems smoother and more finished.

    The front triangle will be smaller than the back triangle.

    Do this in front and back. Also, allowing looseness in the panels can be more comfortable and feminine.

    Any help out there?

  • 31 bodynsoil // Feb 25, 2016 at 8:40 am

    I’m looking to make mine more knee length; I’m sure this is easily done however.

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