DIY Distressed Denim

After a few weeks of being MIA, I'm back! I can't believe it's been almost a month since I last posted on the blog, especially since I was on such a regular schedule for a while, but between a cold, a weekend trip to Florida, and midterms, the month of February flew by with little time to spare. I finally made it to spring break and am enjoying having time to relax and be creative. I'll have to save my room rearrangement and furniture-painting for later, but right now I'd like to share my attempt at denim distressing.

I thought I had a few pairs of jeans in my closet at home that would be perfect to revive via DIY distressing, but apparently I had gotten rid of them during my  Christmas break cleanout. Since I had been so excited about this project, I instead visited a local resale store, Avalon Exchange, to buy a couple of pairs to work on. I ended up finding two different styles that I liked, for only $16 a piece.

The first was a stretchy skinny jean in a light wash, and the second was a straight cut in a darker wash.

The first pair was already kind of cropped on me, which I prefer, but I desperately wanted to try a step hem so they ended up even shorter. I simply used scissors to cut a slit right in front of each side seam and then chopped across the front half of the leg to connect them.

I was still eager to do more, and since I didn't want to cut holes in this pair, I decided to mess with the hem some more. (Tip: Stretchy jeans don't get those coveted white threads, as theirs tend to snap and leave gaping holes. For that look, use a thicker, stiffer material.) I have a pair of pants with a destructed hemline and figured the look would be easy to recreate. Sure enough, a few snips of the hem threads were enough to allow me to pull them right out! Then, I just put the pants in the dryer to achieve a little more fraying and ironed the edges so they would lie flat.

For my second pair, I wanted a more classic distressing with holes in the knees and all. This is where I had to get creative with my techniques!

Unlike the others, this pair was much too long on me, so I again used scissors to shorten them. I decided on a length that will allow me to wear them both straight and cuffed.

For the pockets, I used a variety of tools. Sand paper (the rougher the better) gave me those white scuff lines at the bottom. A cheese grater created textured tears as seen in the top corners. (Tip: Snip a few parallel slits before using the cheese grater to magnify its effect.) And a serated knife produced rough edges on pockets, seams, and hems.

For the knees, I again used the cheese grater to make smaller holes. The bigger holes and those lovely white threads were created by cutting parallel horizontal slits with scissors and then removing the vertical blue threads with tweezers, leaving behind the horizontal white threads.

A few last tips:
Try Them On: For the most authentic look, replicate natural wear by distressing on your pockets, hems, and knees. Try on your jeans, and use a Sharpie to mark these places.
Cuff and Iron: The only way to achieve the perfect-lengthed jeans is by trying them on. Cuff them at your preferred length and then iron in place, so you can cut along the crease.
Experiment: Don't be afraid to have fun with it! The beauty of distressed denim is that you really can't mess it up, so try whatever you want. (I plan to splatter my next pair with paint.)

Below, I've linked some platforms and tops like mine:

Be sure to tag me in any pictures of your DIY distressed denim so I can see how it turns out!


  1. I can't even get over how perfect these turned out!! And how much i desperately wish I lived closer so you could help me make a pair!

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