DIY Denim: How Do You Distress?

5 Apr


What story do your jeans tell? Whether they’ve been naturally worn in or distressed using a simple set of kitchen tools, it’s the details in vintage denim that makes it special. Inspired by the Vintage 7 Collection, here is the DIY approach to distressing denim. Of course, if an at home project isn’t for you, you can always pick up a pair from the Vintage 7 Collection and claim the work as your own!

Here’s how to create your own distressed masterpiece.



Safety Glasses

Nail File

Sand Paper

Pumice Stone

X-acto Knife


Binder Clips

Brick or Paperweight

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Step 1: Distressing

Begin by using the dremel on the top of the front pockets to get small holes and nicks. This would also work by using a knife to open up the fabric, followed by some light abrasion with sandpaper. Repeat this technique on the top of the back pockets and the back, bottom hem. These spots are where jeans would naturally wear over time.

TIP: For these small spots, you can also use a pumice stone or nail file to create authentic looking distress marks.

Note: You may also need to hold the denim in place with a brick or paperweight while using a dremel, which can sometimes cause the fabric to get tangles if not anchored down securely.

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Step 2: Kneehole

To get a knee hole that looks like it’s been gradually worn through, first measure exactly where the hole will be by running a tape measure down the inseam starting from the rise to 11 ½ inches down (this will be the center of the hole). Lightly mark the measure point with chalk. Anchor the pant legs down with bricks or something heavy, so the material is taught and won’t get caught in the dremel. Slowly eat away at the top layer of the denim (also called the “warp”) until the white yarns underneath (called the “weft”) start showing through. Try tea staining the weft threads so that they have that worn in vintage feel.

TIP: Washing and drying the jeans after this process will clean away the denim fuzz that sits on top and the hole will look cleaner and worm in.

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Step 3: Whiskering

The whiskering on the upper thigh area comes from years of standing and sitting, but to create them, simply make 3 little accordion-style pleats near the upper thigh, keep them in place by clipping them with binder clips. Then, lightly graze the top of each fold with a piece of chalk to mark where you will be distressing. Release the clips and start running sand paper over where the chalk marks are. Creases with will become white depending on how much you sand them.

TIP: Fold your sandpaper into a small square so it’s easier to control and more effectively distresses the denim.

“The key to distressing is to make everything look as authentic as possible and emulate the natural wear you would find with a pair of vintage jeans.”

-Jennifer Garcia, Women’s Denim Designer

Some of our favorite distressed denim inspiration comes from the Vintage 7 Collection. Pieces like the Josephina in Light Blue Destroyed and the Slimmy for guys in Ocean Mist are two perfect examples. Browse and shop the whole collection here.

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