Destroying Denim – Techniques

Learn tips and techniques for destroying denim at Dream a Little BiggerOn this jacket, the left side has been more heavily distressed than the right.

You’re either somebody who likes destroyed denim, or you’re not. If you’re wondering, why would anybody ruin a perfectly good jacket or pair of jeans, this post probably isn’t for you. As a teenager when Nirvana was cool, I will always have a warm place in my heart for plaid flannel and majorly destroyed jeans.

If you’re still hanging around, that means you’d like to know a bit more about the different techniques behind destroying denim. Despite the way it sounds, there is actually some skill involved in distressing denim so that it looks semi-realistic.

If this is your first go out, I’d really suggest practicing on a pair of jeans that are beyond saving. Maybe you already have a pair, or perhaps you can grab a cheapie pair from the thrift store. Once you get the technique down, you can confidently work on denim that you want to keep…

Learn tips and techniques for destroying denim at Dream a Little Bigger

First let’s take a look at the tools you can use:

  • razor blades or an x-acto knife
  • shaving razor
  • Nippers to cut little strings as needed
  • Hand-held cheese grater
  • Tape (to remove destroyed denim & see what you are working with)
  • Tweezers
  • Emery board or nail file

When tackling any project using knives or razor blades, nevermind the fact that the project features “destroy” prominently in the title, please practice extreme caution.

Learn tips and techniques for destroying denim at Dream a Little Bigger

One technique is to take a coarse bit of sandpaper and rub it on the denim. You will rough up fabric on the edges and eventually make holes where the denim is thinner.

Pros – Distressing is slow so you don’t have to worry about overdoing it.

Cons – Distressing is slow so it takes a good long while to get a decent effect.

Learn tips and techniques for destroying denim at Dream a Little Bigger

Shaving razors do really well on seams and edges. Take the razor and press far more firmly than you ever would on your legs or face. Scrape back and forth until you get the look you are going for.

Pros – Great variation in effect – see above – you have rough edges and a threaded hole from just a few passes.

Cons – If you are looking for something specific, go another route – with the razor you get what you get.

If you want a big hole with fuzzy edges, take a razor blade or x-acto knife and slice a horizontal slit. Take an emery board and file away at the edges until they are adequately raw.

Pros – Quick and easy.

Cons– Looks horrible when using for larger holes – it looks like a giant moth got after your denim.

Learn tips and techniques for destroying denim at Dream a Little Bigger

Want the big threaded holes? It’s easy enough… take your razor or knife and cut horizontal lines of random widths and placement. Use a pair of tweezers to pull the vertical threads free so that you have a nice cover of threads over the hole.

If you make cuts of varying widths, to keep from having a tell tale straight line on the side, pull the free threads at an angle and snap off. At first snap off as far away as possible, but as you run to the very edge, make it closer and closer so that you have an angled edge instead of one that is perfectly straight. Honestly the key to awesome results is variation in cuts, etc.

Use your emery board to rough up the top and bottom slits to finish up.

Pros – You get the best look in my opinion.

Cons – Takes some practice to do well. Can look very fake if your edges are too straight. Removing the threads with tweezers can be tedious.

Learn tips and techniques for destroying denim at Dream a Little Bigger

Take your razor blade and slice away at the rolled edges of seams. After slicing away, use the razor to rub over the cut to rough it up a bit. Do this only sporadically as it looks best in moderation.

Pros – Very easy.

Cons– Also very easy to overdo.

Learn tips and techniques for destroying denim at Dream a Little Bigger

The cheese grater method is awesome because it can be a lot of fun. However, it can also be a lot of work. You can either use the grater on the denim as is and it will create the holes as shown above. The other option is to cut slits with your knife or razor blade and use the grater to create a stringy look.

Pros– Totally unpredictable and unique results.

Cons– Can be hard to get started, especially when you don’t want to pre-slice the fabric up. Plus, you may not be going for unpredictable.

Here are a few tips when working with tools of mass denim destruction.

When destroying denim you can either go with a little damage or massively jack it up. It’s totally up to your preference and what you want out of the piece

Lining the holes you create can have a great impact. I especially like using sequin or glittery fabric . Just take the fabric and use fabric glue to attach on the inside.

When working with a jacket, don’t forget the sleeves. Nothing looks dumber than a distressed denim jacket with perfectly normal sleeves.

To eliminate distressing too heavily in just one area, skip around from front, to back, to sleeve, left side, to right, etc.

This type of project can take quite a bit of time. Don’t plan on making this an hour before you head out…

Running your denim through a wash and dry cycle will “destroy” the denim even more. If you don’t want any further damage, I’d highly suggest line drying rather than putting through the dryer.

Best of luck destroying that denim – see you again soon!

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