Monday, May 6, 2013

The Cute Cut-off Quest

     You may remember that not long ago in a Favorite Things post, I mentioned that I had bought a pair of shorts. And that was all well and good, but I still wasn't totally satisfied. You see, those shorts are great, but I also wanted a pair of cut-offs. Something about a pair of old, fraying denim shorts that look like you whacked them off on impulse is so classic Americana to me. But I could never find a pair I liked because most stores insist on making them ludicrously short, which doesn't work for me. Because of my own particular body shape, I also found that if a pair of shorts fit at the waist and hips, they were generally too tight on the thighs. So at last I gave up, resigned to the fact that no store would have my ideal cut-offs. 

     But of course when I say I gave up, I just mean on shopping. I never give up! Unless the task is really super duper un-fun. So over the weekend, I ventured to the attic in search of a pair of old jeans that were big enough to be loose in the end, with the intent to make my own Holy Grail of Cut-offs. I came back with a pair of my dad's old jeans from before he lost a bunch of weight, knowing he won't need them back and thus, I was free to bend them to my will. Muahahaha. Here's what they looked like when I started out...

Can you believe I lost this much weight eating at Subway?! Yeah me neither.

     And here's what they ended up looking like!

     Let's talk details and process. They may look like plain old shorts from this angle, but they're actually high-waisted! Which is exciting for me. High-waisted shorts were always one of those things that I thought were cute and vintage-looking on other people, but probably not for me. Turns out that they actually do work for me! Surprise! The great thing about tailoring these myself is that I got to make them fit my somewhat unusual hip to waist ratio perfectly, so they're not weirdly tight or too big anywhere and they emphasize my smallish waist. Plus, by virtue of simply eyeball trickery, anything with a high waist makes your legs look longer. 

     They also may look like they're folded over funny on the sides, but that's actually just where I took out all the extra fabric to make them fit. I ended up taking a lot of width out of the waist-band and tapering it out to make the legs loose and comfortable. That's why they look vaguely triangular in that picture: I'm actually a triangle (are you seeing now why it's so hard for me to buy shorts?). That's also where I lost a chunk of the small pocket, but I don't mind.

     You may notice that after all that talk of wanting cut-offs, these have a roll instead of a plain cut-off edge. That's because I'm still deciding how I want the edge to end up. I may leave them rolled (although if I go that route, I'll definitely even out the roll so it's the same width all around), or I may run them through the washer and let them unravel and fray a bit. I can't decide!

     As for the process, it breaks down into three steps, with an optional step depending on the size of the jeans you choose:

1. Try the jeans on inside-out and mark out a general indication of how much you need to take out. Don't worry about being precise; this project is mostly a series of adjustments that will eventually yield your ideal result. 

2. (Optional) If the jeans you're working with aren't ridiculously big on you, take the outside leg seams out of both legs. This way, if you end up keeping any part of the jeans the same size, the seam won't fold and pooch weird where the old seam ends and your new one begins. If they're super big, don't worry about it, you're just going to cut off the old seams anyway. 

3. Turn the jeans inside out and sew new leg seams in the general region of where you marked them. I recommend erring on the side of too-big (easier to adjust later) and doing this with a long basting stitch so if you don't like the result, you can easily take it out and try again. I also recommend doing this very slowly and carefully, because you can break a needle very easily on this type of project. I personally burned through two: one when I got too speed-happy and ran into a rivet, and another when I hit a particularly thick seam. Old denim and men's denim are tricky like that: because they're thicker and not stretchy, the seams are super thick. Once you've got your new seam, turn them right side out and try them on. If you like the result (keep in mind, they'll be a little snug with the extra fabric tucked in there -- I know it's a pain, but it really is better to check before you whack it all off), go ahead and sew the seam in a shorter, more permanent and sturdy stitch length, and cut off the extra fabric. Then try them on again and adjust to your liking. If they're still too big anywhere, just keep moving your stitch lines in on each side wherever the jeans need shrinking.

4. Cut off the legs at the length of your preference. Remember that you probably don't want to cut the shorts straight across unless you're a skinny minnie whose thighs have never thought of touching one another.  For most people, it's best to cut them at a slight angle, with the inseam a touch longer than the outside seam. That way if they ride up a smidge when you walk, you won't get that weird hungry-crotch effect where it looks like your crotch is eating your shorts (awkward).

     And because you know how I do, let's end this thing with a before and after shot! Let's also be appreciative that I'm putting a picture of myself in shorts on the internet, where things live eternal, all for the sake of this blog. The things I do for love!

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