DIY · Style · Tiny Tweaks

(Not So) Tiny Tweaks: Distressed Denim

DIY distressed denim

Um, so where did November go? It seems like it was just Halloween and then, BAM, Happy December!

There have only been a couple of projects happening around here lately, one of them being today’s post. This was supposed to be a quick project for my Tiny Tweaks series, but it ended up being a doozy.

So, distressed denim. I have strong opinions. I like it, but I like it a VERY specific way. I don’t like it destroyed. I don’t like it with holes that let cold air in. (Yes, I live in California. NO, it’s NOT always sunny and 75 here! I spent yesterday afternoon at the park, and my toes were numb when I got home.)

I’ve thrifted a couple of pairs of jeans that came with the perfect amount of wear and tear, but they are really hard to come by. And most new distressed denim I find in stores just isn’t what I want. So I decided my best bet was to DIY it.


I started with this pair of jeans I got at Target. I own two pairs of these (in completely different sizes, although they fit exactly the same – more on that in another post), and I like this particular fit, which is surprising as I’ve never had luck with Target jeans in the past – or any jeans at this price point, really. (It’s no secret – I am SUPER cheap. I buy 95% of my clothes at thrift stores. But honestly, spending more on denim is usually worth it. The construction and fit are heads and tails above what you get at a discount store. And it IS possible to find really good denim at thrift stores. But it takes work. You have to shop often and not count on scoring a pair very often. It’s a treasure hunt, which is part of the fun for me.)


I used this old favorite pair of jeans as a pattern. (They were worn so much they finally fell apart.) I used straight pins to mark the outlines of the areas I wanted to distress. To minimize open holes, you need to leave the threads that run left to right in tact and only remove the threads that run up and down. (These are waft and warp, but I often get them mixed up.)


Oh! I just remembered – here’s a diagram from this post that shows more detail. Horizontal = weft, vertical = warp. Leave the weft, cut the warp for this project.


I used my handy dandy seam ripper to pull out a few starter threads.


You will need to cut the warp in two places so that you can pull the thread out. I used a tapestry needle to pick the threads out from the waft.

distressed denim

The white threads remain in tact, the blue threads are removed.

DIY distressed denim

I moved on to a larger area – the knees.

DIY distressed denim

This time, I used my seam ripper to make a large cut from left to right.

DIY distressed denim

Then, going above and below the cut, I picked out the blue threads and removed them.

DIY distressed denim

I continued to remove each thread, one at a time.

DIY distressed denim

One leg finished! To reinforce the hole, I added a patch from an old pair of jeans behind it.

DIY distressed denim

I did the same for the other knee. Hey, I might love fall and winter, but I really don’t like being cold.

Okay, these photos don’t do it justice. This was a LONG, tedious process. It took at least an hour to do each knee. I was very particular as I didn’t want any of the white threads to be cut, so that added to the time. If you didn’t care about that, you could just cut it, pick a few threads, and toss it into the wash to fray at will.

DIY distressed denim

What I love about distressed denim is that it complements vintage well. Scruffy jeans are a good juxtaposition to a pretty detailed blouse (like this “new” navy one with 3/4 sleeves I just scored).  And sequins. Roughed up denim paired with sequins are my fave.

DIY distressed denim

I like the way these turned out, but I’m not sure I’d do it again. When I was searching for a patch for these, I uncovered a stack of denim I thrifted last fall that all need a little bit of “tweaking”. But I’m not sure I have it in me. Maybe after Christmas.

DIY distressed denim

So, would you do it? Would you spend time shredding a pair of jeans or would you rather just buy them off the rack? Or do you just hate distressed denim all together? I’d love to hear your take on it.


2 thoughts on “(Not So) Tiny Tweaks: Distressed Denim


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