How to Turn Sweatpants Into Joggers & Make Sweatpants Longer

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I’m the world’s worst hoarder of clothes and other textiles because I love to repurpose everything. However, I don’t always know what to do with each of the clothing items at the time I decide to eliminate them from my wardrobe. So, they all go in a big Sterilite storage bin. I have four of these bins now. Yes, I know.

Every once in a while, I get the inspiration to sort through the bin and dream about repurposing options. Because 2020 has been the year of leggings and sweatpants, I thought this was a perfect time to turn some ugly, baggy sweatpants into joggers that are much more attractive.

I sewed several pairs of joggers from sweatpants, and I’ll show you two different ways for how to turn sweatpants into joggers. The first method involves adding a rib-knit cuff, and the second involves adding elastic in a casing. I used the first method on sweatpants that had a bit of stretch to them already, and the second method worked best on my sweats that had minimal stretch. If you also have short sweatpants that you want to make longer, adding a cuff is the perfect way to do that!

how to sew cuffs on old sweatpants

First Step: How to Reduce Wide Sweatpants Legs to Jogger Width

The first part of this repurposing project is to narrow the wide-legged sweats to make them fit closer to your leg. If you have a pair of jogger sweats you already love, you can use this is as a guide.

However, if you want to start from scratch as I did, here’s what you’ll do.

First, turn the sweats inside out and try them on.

Then, pin them along one leg where you think you’ll be most comfortable. (Once you perfect one leg, it’ll be easier to copy it to the second leg so everything stays symmetric!) Remember that the ankle opening needs to be big enough to get your feet through if your pants don’t have a lot of stretch. (And for the record, I recommend pinning in the opposite direction I did in this picture! It will make it easier to take the pants off after without poking yourself!)

pin the side of the sweatpants to make narrower legs

Carefully take off the sweats, and use a fabric marker or chalk to mark the line denoted by the pins.

Then, use a basting stitch (long stitch length) on your sewing machine to sew the seam. I’m switching to the gray pants for this part of the tutorial so you can see the stitches better!

mark the pinned line with chalk

Turn your pants back right side out and try them on. Make any adjustments you need to by pinning and basting again. Here’s the difference between the two legs!

one side joggers, one side sweatpants

Once you’ve got the perfect fit, go ahead and serge the seam or sew it with your sewing machine. I prefer my serger because it makes a stronger, more durable stitch for activewear that sees a lot of wear and tear. If you need to, try the sweatpants on one more time to make sure the fit is still good if you serged or sewed not along the basting line.

how to make one leg match the other

Now, it’s time to make a copy of the altered leg onto the other leg. Again, use your chalk or fabric marker to transfer the seam line. I marked at the edge of my serged edge and reminded myself to line this mark up with the knife on my serger rather than trying to mark the actual inside of the seam to line up with the needles.

mark with a chalk line on the pants

Baste, try on, adjust, and sew once again.

Don’t worry about hemming right now; the method you choose for the bottoms later will determine the length you’ll want.

Option 1: How to Turn Sweatpants Into Joggers with Cuffs

How to Turn SweatpAnts Into Joggers

This is also the best option if you’re wanting to learn how to make sweatpants longer!

Supplies

  • Old sweatpants
  • Knit ribbing (more on this later)
  • Sewing machine (I also used my serger, but it’s not necessary as long as your sewing machine has a stretch stitch)
  • Ballpoint needle for sewing
  • Pins, measuring tape, marking tools, scissors, and other sewing accessories

A Note About Cuff Material Options

The best cuff material for joggers is going to be a very stretchy knit fabric with good recovery. Rib-knit, or ribbed knit fabric, is what’s typically used for stretchy cuffs. It’s also popular in neckbands and waistbands. (Think bomber jacket cuffs and waistband.) Rib-knit fabric usually comes in a loop with a small width. I buy my ribbed knit from Joann (limited color selection but very affordable when on sale) and Fabric.com (more colors but less affordable.)

When you stretch rib knit, you’ll see very pronounced parallel ribs. If you can’t find rib knit or don’t like the color options, you can use an interlock knit or other stretchy knit fabric if you prefer. Just make sure there’s enough stretch to get the cuff over your feet!

Adding the Cuff to the Sweatpants

Now, take your newly narrowed sweatpants and get ready to work!

You’ll first need to make the cuff. To do this, measure around your ankle with a measuring tape, and add 1 inch to that measurement to account for a 1/2″ seam allowance. If you want a looser or tighter jogger cuff size, add or subtract from this measurement. I’m weird about my joggers being tight, so this was my personal choice of circumference! The final value for width for me was 8.5″ roughly.

Then, determine how tall you want the cuff to be. I decided I liked mine around 3.5 inches tall. Add 1/2″ to this measurement for the seam allowance. This made my height roughly 4″.

Now, cut a rectangle of 2x the height and 1x the width. This means, my cuff was 8″x8.5″. If you prefer, you can fold the fabric and just cut the final height and width measurements without doubling.

how to measure cuff for sweatpants

Now, time to sew the cuff. If you are using a fabric with a definite right and wrong side, fold the fabric in half with the wrong sides together to make the rectangle the length by the width as seen above. Then, fold the right sides together in the other direction to make the width 1/2 of the original width. Sew or serge with 1/2″ seam allowance the edges of the knit. (Alternatively, if you want the seam hidden inside the jogger cuff, sew the two sides together first and then fold. I like having the seam more obvious, though, so it’s easier to match up with the seam inside the leg later.)

making the cuff out of ribbing

Now, decide where on the sweatpants you’ll want to sew the cuff remembering that you’ll need to account for a 1/2″ seam allowance. I marked this spot with a water-soluble fabric marker.

mark the length on the sweatpants

Now, line up the edge of the cuff with the mark on the sweatpants as shown below, and baste. The right side of the cuff will be facing the right side of the sweatpants. You’ll want the open end of the cuff facing the ankle and the folded edge of the cuff the farthest from the ankle.

attaching the cuff to the sweatpants

If you’re happy with your cuff, go ahead and cut the excess sweatpants off and sew the real seam using a stretch stitch. I used my serger again for this.

cutting off the excess leg length

serging to finish the edges

Then, turn your cuff back right side out and admire your handiwork! Repeat on the other leg to turn that leg of the sweatpants into cuffed joggers.  (I love when my seams line up!)

Option 2: How to Add Elastic to Sweatpants to Make Joggers

how to sew joggers from wide sweatpants

Now, if you have some length to spare and have sweats with minimal stretch, this is a good option for turning sweatpants into joggers using elastic. This is also an easier method, in my opinion, if you’re new to sewing.

Supplies

  • Old sweatpants
  • Sewing machine with a stretch stitch and ballpoint needle
  • Bodkin
  • Pins, measuring tape, marking tools, scissors, and other sewing accessories
  • Elastic (see my types of elastic post if you’re not sure what type you prefer.) I used 1/2″ braided elastic.

To make joggers from sweatpants with this method, you’ll need to first decide the final length you want your joggers to be. I kind of like my joggers with elastic hems to stop right around my ankles. It turned out nicely that the length I wanted only meant I had to lose the length that was the existing hem.

If you can’t simply turn your existing hem to make your elastic casing, then mark on the sweatpants where you want the final length to be. Then, add 3/4″ to your marked length, and cut the fabric off. (If you’re not sure of the length, don’t cut yet and instead baste different hem lengths until you find one you like.) I’m assuming a 3/4″ casing, but if you want a different length or want to double fold your hem, adjust accordingly here.

Turn the 3/4″ of hem up with the wrong sides together. Stitch at the edge of the ankle making sure to leave an inch or two open to insert the elastic. For best results, use a stretch stitch on your sewing machine. I used a basting stitch here so I would have some flexibility if I wanted to take off more length and needed to undo this stitch later.

add elastic to the casing

To determine a good length of elastic, wrap the elastic comfortably around your leg and add 1″ to account for a 1/2″ seam allowance. I wanted to test out elastic lengths before cutting and committing to one, so I marked the length I thought would work best with a fabric marker and kept a longer strand.  I didn’t want to accidentally cut my elastic too short and end up wasting it!

Use a bodkin or safety pin to pull the elastic through the hole in the casing.

mark your elastic for inserting into the casing

To test out different lengths of elastic, use a safety pin to hold the ends together as you test things.

add elastic to the casing

Once you’ve decided on a length (and also reaffirmed you like the length of your DIY joggers), sew the elastic ends together with your sewing machine or serger.

Then, stitch the rest of the casing closed and make sure you’re replacing your basting stitch with a line of more permanent stitches.

Do the same thing for the other leg, and that’s it!

All Done!

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning how to turn sweatpants into joggers using elastic and how to add a cuff to make sweatpants longer. This is a great way to repurpose unstylish sweats into much more trendy joggers for pennies! Happy stitching!

how to turn sweats into joggers

One Comment

  1. Julie Berg says:

    Thank you for being so detailed. My daughter wants me to add elastic to her sweat pants legs to suck then in a little bit. I’m happy that you posted the type of elastic that you used, because I wasn’t sure what type to use. Years ago I used elastic in a waist band on some shorts I made, but after every wash it was always twisted in the casing.

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