How tall girls can DIY themselves a perfect pair of frayed hem jeans

This post might be a little polarizing, I'm just gonna put it out there. So before we get to the heart of the subject, let me first say that if you are someone who hates to see long jeans get chopped short, this is not going to be the blog article for you!! I know that some women are tele-transported back in time to when they couldn’t find pants long enough, and they hate it. And it’s with all the love in my heart that I say, I do get it and I respect it. But for me, I personally love to be able to dabble in today’s trends that resonate with me. That is therapy for me. So today we are going to chat about how to DIY fray some jeans!!

After seeing so many cute distressed hem styles of jeans last spring, I got a crazy hankering and was determined to make myself a pair. Why make them and not just buy a pair, you ask? Because while I know that they are intended to be a cropped (AKA shortened) version of jeans, they aren’t really intended to be like halfway up my calf. And that’s exactly what it would happen if I just bought a pair from the general market. Now THAT is a situation that triggers me.

So I did some light reading on the subject and then if I’m being really, really honest ….. I first went to the clearance rack at Target and bought a random cheap pair to practice with. It didn’t matter if they fit (which they didn’t), I just wanted to see how hard this was going to be. And if I was going to end up just mutilating pants. Here’s the good news: I learned IT’S NOT THAT HARD!!! And listen, I’m about as far from being a Martha Stewart as you can be, so take solace in the fact that if I can do it, you can too.

Determining The Cut Line

To get started, I recommend first determining where you ideally want the hemline to hit on your leg once the project is all done. Some retailers do make these quite short to intentionally have the jeans land half-way up the calf, but I far prefer the versions that land just about 2ish” above the ankle bone. But decide what you're vibe is. Once you know that, you can put on your pair of jeans, and then I use a piece of my daughter’s sidewalk chalk to draw a line where I want it to end up. It’s okay to error on the conservative side because it’s easier to go back and shorten a bit more than accidentally have them shorter than you hoped for. I am always conservative with where I draw my line for that reason.

Sorry for the blurry photo - but the point is just to mark with chalk where you want the jeans to end up.

I only draw a line on one pant leg, and then I take them off to execute the line on the second leg. First, make sure the line you drew on the first leg is a complete line from seam to seam. From there, I use a fabric tape measure to see how many inches I am taking off and then use that information to draw the line on the other leg. That way you know they are even. Here’s the scariest part, are you ready?! Then CUT THOSE BABIES UP!!! Don’t worry about using a perfect pair of fabric scissors….the last time I did it I just used the scissors from my kitchen junk drawer. After you get both legs cut, I highly recommend slipping them back on to see if they ended up being the length you like or if you need to adjust them at all.

The Actual Fraying...

Now it’s the final step!! You’re probably going to be uber impressed with me, but I use a long screw as my weapon of choice for the actual fraying job, LOL. But it has a super small point at the end and it works perfectly, so I keep it in my jewelry box to be able to use again and again!! Also because the shaft of the screw is a little thicker, it also can withstand the pressure as you pluck at the fibers. But really anything with a small point can do the job.

This is where I start plucking; just a tiny bit below the hemline. That way you avoid accidentally tearing a hole in the fabric.

Flip back the bottom hem of the jeans and study the fibers for a second. You’ll notice the weave of the fibers and that’s exactly what you’re going to rip apart to cause the distressed fraying. I take the point of my screw and just pluck at the fibers to start the process. You don’t have to go much above the hemline itself to start plucking – that would probably just start making holes in the fabric. Just a millimeter or two above the hemline, insert your point and use an upward stroke to rip. You’ll start to see the threads fall apart and that’s exactly what achieves your frayed look. Sometimes you have to do it a few times in the same spot to break up the fibers to get them to fray. Also, this can be a bit time consuming.

As you work at it, this is what it starts to look like.

If you don’t love the longer threads that fall, you could always trim them up a little once you’re done, too. I’ve done that a few times, at least in spots. The other thing that is fun is that you can do different types of hemlines instead of just a straight cut. I’ve done a tulip cut before and also think it would be fun to do a high low hem. Now that you know it’s pretty easy to do the fraying, really anything is possible!!


Also, we put up a video version of this blog post on our IGTV channel! To watch that video, just click here.

Happy DIYing!!


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