Ask A Connecticut Expert: How To Distress Your Jeans

April 8, 2014 9:00 AM

(Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

Sometimes you just want your pair of jeans to fit like the first time you tried them on. But you also want your pants to look like they are your old favorite ‘boyfriend jeans.’ It is nice when they feel and look comfortably broken in. You can customize them with a bit of distressing for a look of a lot of texture and wear.

30 Arbor St. #404
Hartford, CT 06106

30 Bartholomew Ave.
Hartford, CT 06106
(860) 880-0495

Marshall Deming, Dave Marcoux and Luke Davis are young entrepreneurs, small manufacturers, co-founders and owners producing raw denim jeans. They are three friends who grew up in West Hartford and met in high school. Luke learned to sew in middle school and Marshall is the gear head in charge of the machinery. The material these three use for HARDENCO is raw denim woven in North Carolina and Japan.

If you are looking to create the look of ‘boyfriend jeans’ in a short amount of time, here are some DIY tips. Some materials and tools you will need are an X-Acto knife, chalk, bleach, paint brush, cheese grater or medium and fine grit sandpaper, small sharp scissors and tweezers.

Tip 1: Plan

Put on your jeans and place chalk marks on the knees and thighs where you want them distressed. Mark the bottoms/hems, pockets and other areas where you want the denim to fray. Remove the jeans and lie them flat. Using the medium grit sandpaper first, rough up the areas you want distressed. You decide when to stop. Fine grit sandpaper can be used in areas where there is to be less distressing.

Tip 2: Ripped

The hems and pocket edges will benefit from sanding. When more is warranted, the X-Acto knife works well in these situations. Use it to make little slices in the hems and pocket edges that will create a worn ripped look. The tweezers will help you pull individual broken threads out.

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Tip 3: Shredding

On the thigh or knee area, you can cut slits as long or short as preferred for a shredded look. If you prefer a hole, use scissors to cut the fabric and then rub the edges with sandpaper, fraying the edge. Another option is to use medium sandpaper in these areas as follows. Denim fabric is woven with blue and white threads. The blue fibers are lengthwise and are called warp threads. The white fibers run horizontal and are weft threads. Leave the white threads intact and with the tweezers, remove the blue threads. Either remove the worn blue thread entirely or cut it in the middle leaving a spaghetti nest around the edge.

Tip 4: Fading

Bleach will help you fade an area to look worn without it being actively distressed. Household bleach and a paint brush are all you need. Paint on the bleach carefully. Any spills or splatters that are not intended will be permanent. Go under the assumption that less is more.

Tip 5: Finish

You can always go back and add more distress to the fabric. Every washing will add to the wear. Hang up your denim when you are not wearing it. This will help to keep the jeans looking the way you designed them and prevent further damaging of the fabric.

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Paula Moliver is a noted designer with a specialty in all things related to fiber. She spins and dyes her own yarn and is skilled in weaving and needle arts. She has been widely published in noted magazines including Arts & Crafts, Better Homes & Gardens and the Decorative Painter. Paula is a regular educator at New Pond Farm. She resides in Connecticut. Her work can be found at

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