A Guide to Distressing Your Jeans Yourself

The distressed denim trend has been ruling the stores, streets and style blogs for some time now, and we all want to find the perfect pair (or pairs) of ripped jeans that will make anyone over the age of 60 ask us if “we got a discount on those pants because of all the holes.” Obviously, we didn’t get a discount because style comes at a price, but is it really necessary to spend all our hard earned money on pants that have been all but ripped to shreds? Of course not! Because we can rip things ourselves. Our DIY guide to getting your trendy distressed jeans on a budget is here to save the day, and your bank account.

Be a Bargain Hunter

Obviously, to make your ripped jeans you first have to have a pair of jeans to rip. Don’t worry, this will be the only money you’ll have to spend, and it won’t even make you cringe as you swipe your credit card. Go to your nearest thrift shop or any other super cheap store you probably wouldn’t normally shop at, and dig around for an inexpensive pair of jeans you won’t feel bad digging into with a knife. Even better, dig out a pair of your old jeans you never wear anymore and remake them into trendiest thing in your closet.

Gather the Right Tools

You’re going to need a few tools for your project, most of which are common household items. If you don’t own them, you won’t have any trouble finding a friend to borrow from. Grab some sandpaper or something else with a rough surface, like steel wool or a paint removing block. This is what you’ll use to distress your jeans before you get scissor-happy. Next up, of course, are the scissors. Make sure they’re sharp. Finally, track down a box cutter or an X-Acto knife and some tweezers, and viola, you’re ready to rip.

Choose Your Style

Before you start the whole distressing, cutting, ripping and shredding process, you need to get a picture in your head of what you want your final product to look like. Do you want  to keep it modest with a few small distressed patches or show some skin and go for a couple giant holes around the knees? You can go with one extreme or the other, or do literally anything in between, but it’s important to know what you’re going for before you get started so you’re not just blindly snipping away until your once-jeans are a pile of blue and white thread.

Make Your Mark

Once your creative vision has been fully mentally developed, it’s time to put it on paper… or denim. Slide into those soon-to-be ripped jeans and make light marks where you want your distressed areas to be with a pencil, marker or piece of chalk. It might not be as easy to do this while wearing them, but it will definitely give you a better idea of how your jeans will look on you when you’re finished. In other words, it’s worth the awkward bending you’ll have to do to get the marks — and holes — right where you want them.

Distress First, Rip Second

Now, for the moment you’ve been waiting for: the actual cutting. Just kidding, there’s still one more step before we get to that. Patience is a virtue. Before you start making holes, take that sandpaper and rub your jeans down to make them thinner and easier to cut. It’ll also give them a nice, worn look. Okay, now we can cut, but make sure you have something inside your jeans — like a piece of cardboard or a magazine — that will keep your holes from showing up on the back. Take the scissors or box cutter and cut small, horizontal lines where you want your hole to be. For a more natural look, make the lines in a diamond shape (shorter at the bottom and top, and longer in the middle) and close together. After you make the cuts, pick out the threads of denim from the middle strands between the cuts with a tweezer, leaving only the white threads. Leave the white threads intact, or if you want a bigger hole, cut or break some of them down the middle. Follow this guide if you get confused.

Bonus: Don’t Forget the Bottom

For an all around distressed look, you can include the bottoms of your jeans in the mix. Take your scissors and cut them to the cropped length or your choice and either fray them by picking out the white threads with tweezers (the opposite of what you did to create your rips) or pull a few threads down and let them fray naturally after a few washes.

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