Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Recycling Project: Ripped jeans become capris

While some people work hard to rip their jeans many wears ahead of schedule, my favorite pair got ripped at both knees the natural way. Forget the razors and pumice stones! Just get an active infant and start spending your days on the floor, constantly standing and crawling on your knees chasing his butt, and you’ll get a nice pair of tears in no time. The ripped look though, is much too young (and crappy) for me now, and so, in a desperate attempt to get a second life out of my best–fitting jeans, I decided to turn them into capris.

The experiment started with lots of guts and hope, and photographic recording of the process so I could post the little tutorial I failed to find online for those wishing to do the same. But mid–process the courage started going down, and I started feeling that I was going to end up with unwearable tacky stuff, and even abandoned the project for a couple of nights, and of course stopped taking photos because who in the world would want to replicate such awful Frankenstein monster. Except, at the very end I got inspired and came up with a totally unplanned way of finishing the project, and TA TA!… I LOVE the way my capris turned out.

So, although photographic material is not available for the trickiest steps of the process, let me try to share my experiment with those of you interested in attempting something like this.

The Problem

ripped jeans

The Process

Cut off the hem (it’s been dragging for years and now looks like rags) and rip the lateral seams all the way up to the ripped knees.

ripped seams

Cut the front pieces right above the holes (gulp), and mark them so you don’t forget which piece goes on the right, and which on the left.

Fold the cut fronts at a point where the fabric is relatively healthy (depending on the damage, this may be an inch or two below the ripped area). Put the jeans on, and position the fronts at a point where the future seam will look ok, and the underlying fabric is also healthy. You want this new seam to hold for a few years.

positioning the new seam

Initially I planned for the new seam to be perfectly horizontal (as the image above shows), but after playing a bit with it, I decided that I liked the cut better at a slight angle (starting higher in the inner side above the knee, and dropping a little bit towards the outer edge). This, although prettier, made me sacrifice more fabric, with the negative effect of making the capris much shorter than what I’m able to tolerate on cropped pants.

Pin one front to the jeans, take them off, and measure the position so you can remove the piece and attach both sides consistently (I made a little sketch for constant reference). Keep the front folded and mark exactly where the finished seam will be on it. Then use this piece to mark the opposite one.

Position the cut fronts according to your plan. Sew them in place, cut the fabric remaining at the back of the legs, and close the sides. If the length of the pants satisfies you, hem them and you’re done. Me? No. I wasn’t satisfied with capris this short. See, I’m ok with cropped pants when they end at the thinnest point of my legs (that’s just above the ankle). Higher than that and I probably won’t be wearing that pair publicly. This is where I abandoned the project and put my camera away. But then I had an idea for how to extend the length of the pants without bringing floral prints and country looks. Here’s one way to do it…

Extending the length with a fake cuff

Take the pieces of denim you cut from the back (in my case, the color of these remnants was very close to the bottom of the finished legs). Cut each piece in two halves, to make a strip with half the length and twice the width of the original remnant.

Sew each strip to the bottom of its corresponding leg, carefully making the lateral seams coincide. Iron the horizontal seams downwards. This makes the extensions look like pant cuffs.

If there is enough fabric in the extensions to hem them invisibly and you’ll be satisfied with the pants length, hem the extensions and be done. In my case, I needed the full length of the extensions to reach my desired pant length, so read on…

Pant cuffs don’t have any stitching on them, so in order to finish the legs, we must fold the extension inside so it ends at a higher point than where it was attached (see first photo below). My plan being, to run a hemming stitch very close to the extension seam, which would make it virtually invisible (see second photo below).

In order to do all this, and out of the original denim at this point, I needed a couple extra pieces of fabric. This could be any kind of solid or print since the cuff lining will not be visible in most cases. And I guess this could be really any kind of fabric, but for some reason I decided that it needed to have a similar weight to the denim (to make the cuff more believable), so I picked a lightweight contrasting print I liked and interfaced it with bull denim.

As previously suggested, you cut two strips to dimensions similar to those of the extensions, sew them to the bottom of the extensions, fold them inside the boot and iron them. Finally, you hem the cuff by running a stitch as close as possible to the extension seam, right above the cuff, and never going over it.

The Result

Yes. You can see the cut above the knees; I’m not fooling anybody. But I am very satisfied with how the alteration turned out, and the proof of fire is that I already took my pants out on a little family trip around town. And they felt great, and I love them, almost as much as I loved the original pair.

ripped jeans turned caprisripped jeans turned capris

Any brave souls wishing to take on this project, feel free to ask me anything that may not be clear in this tutorial. Just leave your question as a comment here, so others can benefit.


  1. On , Devra wrote:

    well, I think they look fabulous. I LOVE the ombre effect you now have going on. Can we get a close up of the lining?

  2. On , Maria wrote:

    Thank you Devra!
    But of course!… I’ll post a photo or two as soon as Joaquin goes down for his nap this afternoon.

    BTW, I had no knowledge of the ombre effect. I’m not even sure if it’s still fashionable (perhaps it isn’t?), but the fact that there is a stylish word describing the color “gradient” makes me feel even more of a pro with this alteration. He he.

  3. On , Maria wrote:

    All right! I’ve edited the original post to include more images of the fake pant cuffs. I think the photos explain the process way better than everything I wrote about how to make them. And Devra can take a better look at the lining.

  4. On , Jennifer wrote:

    very creative! And, nothing wrong with the knee-seam; lots of pants use stitching for effects like that.


  5. On , Maria wrote:

    You’re right… I think I’ve seen even more dramatic “decorative treatments”. Thank you!

  6. On , Alexca wrote:

    wow, el resultado es buenisimo, quedaron perfectos

  7. On , Amy Brouwer wrote:

    Thank you soooo much for posting this!!! I decided I wanted to turn me and my daughters too short jeans into capris and thought there HAD to be a ton of info on-line to ‘do-it-yourself’, but yours is the only one I found! I LOVE that you can see the stitching on the knee, so cute! I plan to do a few pair like yours plus a few with some cute fabric on the cuff. Thanks again!

  8. On , Maria wrote:

    Thank you for your note Amy!… I’m so glad that this will help you. Sounds like you have a plan (and a lot of pairs to alter!)… Best of luck with your project :)