{denim distress - a diy pictorial}

Medium Wash High-Waist Jean Cuff Short | American Apparel

Medium Wash High-Waist Jean Cuff Short | American Apparel

After exhausting all my thrift store options on my long and tedious hunt for the perfect shorts to distress, I found myself walking into my very last resort for this DIY project: American Apparel. I have a very strong love/hate relationship with that place. I generally love the fit of every single item... I hate the price on every single tag. But after a search that was far too drawn out, I convinced myself to spend the extra $$ on a pair of shorts to use for this DIY. The "Medium Wash High-Waist Jean Cuff Short" to be exact. 

I wanted to create a pair that were simple and completely versatile, no studs, spikes, or bleach involved.
Let me get to showing you how I like to achieve that "perfectly" distressed look (keeping the white threads) using only 3 tools: scissors, a seam ripper, and tweezers. (Oh, and patience... lots of patience.

Incoming: super long pictorial...

These are the shorts in their natural form. Cute, but meh. Grab a pair of sharp fabric scissors, a seam ripper, and your everyday trusty tweezers. 

These are the shorts in their natural form. Cute, but meh. Grab a pair of sharp fabric scissors, a seam ripper, and your everyday trusty tweezers. 

Since these shorts were cuffed along the bottom hem, I had one extra step to take care of before starting on the distressing. Using the seam ripper, begin removing all the seams along the folded cuff. 

Since these shorts were cuffed along the bottom hem, I had one extra step to take care of before starting on the distressing. Using the seam ripper, begin removing all the seams along the folded cuff. 

Who knew that much fabric was hiding in there?!

Who knew that much fabric was hiding in there?!

Take your scissors and cut off all that extra fabric. Here is when you want to try the shorts or jeans on to really decide on the length that you want them. Make sure you cut about 1/4" LONGER than what you want them to be. This alllows some room for fraying. 

Take your scissors and cut off all that extra fabric. Here is when you want to try the shorts or jeans on to really decide on the length that you want them. Make sure you cut about 1/4" LONGER than what you want them to be. This alllows some room for fraying. 

Bye bye bulk!

Bye bye bulk!

Now find an area of your shorts where you want to place a distressed hole. Fold the fabric in half and make tiny little snips in the shorts about 1/4" apart.  

Now find an area of your shorts where you want to place a distressed hole. Fold the fabric in half and make tiny little snips in the shorts about 1/4" apart.  

You should have something that looks like this. 

You should have something that looks like this. 

Turn the shorts inside out. Now here's where you need to really focus on reading the threads of the fabric. Denim is made out of two sets of thread that are weaved together (usually a set of white threads, and a set of blue threads). You want to cut a straight line horizontally along one of the white threads. Be careful not to actually cut any of the white threads.  

Turn the shorts inside out. Now here's where you need to really focus on reading the threads of the fabric. Denim is made out of two sets of thread that are weaved together (usually a set of white threads, and a set of blue threads). You want to cut a straight line horizontally along one of the white threads. Be careful not to actually cut any of the white threads.  

At this point you should have something that looks like this. Don't worry too much about making the lines the exact same length. This will just add to the overall distressed look later on. 

At this point you should have something that looks like this. Don't worry too much about making the lines the exact same length. This will just add to the overall distressed look later on. 

Here comes the most tedious part. Grab your tweezers, look for the vertical blue threads  and start pulling them out one by one. The first one is the hardest to grab, but after that they simply slide right out. 

Here comes the most tedious part. Grab your tweezers, look for the vertical blue threads  and start pulling them out one by one. The first one is the hardest to grab, but after that they simply slide right out. 

Here's a closer view of the white and blue threads. The point is to remove all of the blue threads so that you are left with the horizontal white threads, creating that distressed hole you often see in worn out denim. 

Here's a closer view of the white and blue threads. The point is to remove all of the blue threads so that you are left with the horizontal white threads, creating that distressed hole you often see in worn out denim. 

Continue with this process. I recommend doing this while watching a movie or listening to music. It is time consuming to say the least. 

Continue with this process. I recommend doing this while watching a movie or listening to music. It is time consuming to say the least. 

Here's one entire row finished. Repeat the process to each row between the slits in the fabric. 

Here's one entire row finished. Repeat the process to each row between the slits in the fabric. 

Closer view of the thread removal process. This photo also shows you that some of the edges can look square. This will eventually fix itself. 

Closer view of the thread removal process. This photo also shows you that some of the edges can look square. This will eventually fix itself. 

This is how your finished distressed hole should look. 

This is how your finished distressed hole should look. 

Now sit back and admire the lovely mountain of thread you've created. Try to do this over a towel or somewhere thats easy to clean up. 

Now sit back and admire the lovely mountain of thread you've created. Try to do this over a towel or somewhere thats easy to clean up. 

I added a few more patches on the front...

I added a few more patches on the front...

... and a couple on the back as well. 

... and a couple on the back as well. 

Now technically, you can stop at this point and just finish them off by machine washing and drying them. This will fray the edges and fluff up the bits and pieces that still look a bit too square or harsh. 

But, If you want to take it a step further, there is a product called Denimolition (sold at Joann Fabrics) that will also give you that distressed effect. You can simply use this product as a short cut to distressing (and skip the tedious tweezing) but it can be more prone to disasters as you don't have as much control over the outcome of the holes sizes and sometimes it can be a little tricky. In this case, I decided to use Denimolition on small areas and along the seams of my shorts for an extra distressed look. 

To use this product, you also need an iron and a piece of unwanted fabric (I'm using a mens button down shirt thrifted from Goodwill)

To use this product, you also need an iron and a piece of unwanted fabric (I'm using a mens button down shirt thrifted from Goodwill)

Bought mine at Joann Fabrics. 

Bought mine at Joann Fabrics. 

Start off by making thin horizontal lines. Use the tip of the applicator to rub/scrape the fabric over where you've applied the product. 

Start off by making thin horizontal lines. Use the tip of the applicator to rub/scrape the fabric over where you've applied the product. 

I like the effect it gives when you use it along the seams. 

I like the effect it gives when you use it along the seams. 

... aaand just a few more!

... aaand just a few more!

After you've applied it to the areas, set it aside until fully dry. (Make sure you only apply it in thin horizontal lines or small spots. This stuff is pretty potent so a little goes a long way.)

After you've applied it to the areas, set it aside until fully dry. (Make sure you only apply it in thin horizontal lines or small spots. This stuff is pretty potent so a little goes a long way.)

Once it has all fully dried, place your piece of unwanted fabric over the denim and apply heat from your iron for about 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure you add heat to every single spot, so remember where you've applied the product as it will dry clear. 

Once it has all fully dried, place your piece of unwanted fabric over the denim and apply heat from your iron for about 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure you add heat to every single spot, so remember where you've applied the product as it will dry clear. 

Now pop your shorts in the washer & dryer and watch the magic happen!

Here's my finished project!

Share your version of this DIY project on instagram & tag #weekendgypsyDIY 

Xx Laura