Got an old pair of jeans that you don’t want to throw away? With this guide you’ll be able to cut and shred them into your own stylish frayed denim shorts.
In these thrifty times people are upcycling furniture, decorating their own houses, and finding interesting ways to save money everywhere. But the ladies are well ahead of the men when it comes to customising their own clothes.
Frayed shorts are very popular at the moment. But they do just look like someone’s come along and cut the bottom off your jeans. So why not try it out for yourself before splashing out? Fraying shorts is one of the simplest ways to edit your jeans and you don’t have to be particularly creative or artistic. It’s mainly a lot of cutting and slashing.
It may seem easier to just throw out your old clothes and buy some new ones, but think about how much money you’ll be saving by customising them. Jeans can be expensive and we all get attached to that old comfy pair.
Whether you have an old pair of jeans that you’d like to cut off or a worn out pair of shorts you’d like to fray, it’s simple. With our help, you’ll be cutting and fraying in no time. If you mess it up the first time, you were going to throw them away anyway.
Tools to Use to Fray Denim
Before you learn how to fray your denim shorts you need to find the right tools for the job. Whether you’re going to be cutting your jeans into shorts, fraying the shorts you already have, or distressing your denim you’ll need more than just a pair of scissors.
Here are a few of the tools, most of which can find around your house, to cut and fray your jeans:
- Scissors: These are the most obvious tool you need to cut and fray your shorts. A large pair of fabric scissors would be best, the sharper the better. But if you’re just looking for a rough fray any scissors will do.
- Pinking shears: If you only want a slight fray these are the best tools to cut your denim. The zigzag pattern means that the material won’t automatically fray and you can control how much it shreds. You’ll find these in your girlfriend’s (or mom’s) sewing kit. If not you can buy them from any craft store.
- Craft/Utility knife: A craft knife is more precise than using scissors and it works well if you want frayed slashes in your jeans. If you want perfectly straight lines you’ll also need a ruler. But be careful, you need the knife to be sharp to cut through the denim.
- Sandpaper: Once you’ve cut your shorts you’ll need something to rough to fray them. High-grade sandpaper is easier than using your fingers. Even if you only have a used off cut, it can also be effective if you want to distress your jeans to match the fray.
- Cheese grater: Ever wondered what the side of a cheese grater with the small holes is for? We don’t know either, but it works great to fray and distress the thick denim material of jeans.
- Razor: This works in a similar way to the cheese grater, but it can be used to fray in smaller areas. You don’t have to go out and buy new razors. They don’t have to be too sharp so you can just use an old blunt one.
- Seam Ripper: This is another option to make fraying your jeans easier. It’s a great tool if you want your fraying to be more precise or if you want to fray holes in your shorts. You can easily fray your jeans without this tool but it’s pretty cheap to pick up from your local craft shop.
- Chalk: To mark out your jeans for cutting and fraying, chalk is best. You can use a felt pen or Sharpie if you’d prefer. But the great thing about chalk is that it rubs off after you’ve finished transforming your shorts.
How to Fray Denim Shorts
The first thing you need to do to create your own frayed denim shorts is cut off the hem. This is what’s stopping the shorts from fraying in the first place. It’s also a good time to alter your shorts if you need to. But remember, fraying your shorts will shorten them too so keep them slightly longer than you want them to be in the end.
If you don’t have a pair of shorts to fray you can use an old pair of jeans and cut them into shorts. It doesn’t matter if the jeans are worn out as you’ll cut most of the bottom off them anyway. Here’s a quick three-step guide to create denim cut off shorts:
- While wearing your jeans mark out (in chalk) how short you want your shorts to be. Using a mirror would be easiest.
- Take the jeans off and fold them in half and lay them on a flat surface, making sure all the edges are matched up perfectly.
- Cut your jeans straight across, cutting both legs at the same time. When they’re folded back out they should look equal.
Now your new denim shorts are ready to fray. So read on to see how to fray cut off shorts.
Next, you need to decide how frayed you want your shorts to be. Look at the pictures below to give yourself some ideas. For a natural fray, like in the second picture, just cut the jean shorts in a straight line and leave them to fray naturally. A quick spin cycle in the washing machine will help to speed this up.
For a fuller fray you will need to use scissors or craft knife to shred all of the material around the bottom of your shorts. For a looser fray you’ll need something more precise like a seam ripper. If you want them to look more like DIY shorts cut them unevenly before fraying.
If you only want slightly frayed shorts (see first picture below) you can leave the hem intact and just fray them a little at the bottom. This way the hem will stop the fray from growing so you won’t need any kind of fray glue.
To do this you just need to carefully trim the bottom of the shorts, staying well away from the stitching. Once you’ve done that, fray the shorts carefully using your scissors or seam ripper. Be extra careful not to cut any of the stitching when fraying.
The hard part with fraying is matching both legs of your shorts. There’s no easy way to do this but here’s a little tip to help. Fray one leg at a time; then when you move on to the next leg keep holding up your shorts until they look even at the back and front.
How to Distress Shorts
Once you have frayed your shorts you may want to add a bit of wear and tear to them to finish off the look. This is the fun part where you can add some real customisation to create your own DIY denim shorts. There are so many ways to distress your jeans. You just need to do a little at a time until you get the look you want. Remember if you go too far you can’t just glue them back together. This is why we also suggest you try this with old shorts.
A good tip is to choose places where the shorts would naturally wear down, like on the knees and around the seams. Use a cheese grater and craft knife for rips and ladders. If you want a more subtle look try using sandpaper along the seams of your denim shorts to create a faded look. You can also cut off or fray pockets to finish off your denim cut off shorts.
Creating slashes on the knees is another simple way to give your denim shorts a more casual look. Put a piece of cardboard inside your shorts before you start so you don’t cut through both layers. Here’s where that razor will come in handy. Once you’ve cut your shorts (carefully!) run the razor across them to roughen them up, making it look more like natural wear and tear.
How to Take Care of Frayed Denim
Now you know how to cut jeans into shorts you need to look after them and make sure all your hard work doesn’t go to waste. The problem with fraying is that once something starts to fray it just keeps going. But there are a few of things you can do to stop this.
First of all make sure that the denim you are fraying is made out of 100% cotton sans-stretch fibres. If not your shorts are probably going to warp and stretch once you’ve cut, frayed and distressed them. A hot wash will shrink your jeans back to normal, but it can also wear them out faster.
If you do a quick search you will see that there are many kinds of fray glues and sprays to stop your shorts shredding into oblivion. But Hi-Tack Fray Stop and Hemline Fray Stoppa are the most high-rated online. If you want a cheaper option you can try a cheap fabric glue or even PVA glue, as long as it dries clear. You’ll have to reapply it a lot more often, but if you’re going for the messy frayed look it won’t matter.
If you’ve frayed and distressed your jeans in more than one place you’ll need something to spray all over them to hold the loose ends in place. You don’t want to be spreading glue all over your jeans, especially if you’ve only slightly distressed them. Another way to slow down fraying is by using fabric stiffeners.
There are plenty of cheap ones on the market but here are three easy, natural ways you can make your own. Just put them in a spray bottle and spritz them all over your denim shorts:
- Cornflour and water – Just make sure the water is warm so that the cornflour dissolves properly. This is a cheap way to create a fabric stiffener, and it dries clear.
- Flour and water – This doesn’t quite dry clear, but if you are looking for a more vintage look it would be perfect.
- Rice Water – Once you’ve boiled your rice (it has to be white rice) it leaves behind starchy water that is perfect for stiffening fabric.
Get The Look: Frayed Denim Shorts
First things first, don't consider wearing frayed denim outside anything but a casual setting... ever. Now, the simple look below is really finished with the pop of colour from the leather suede shoes, so consider keeping things simple on top, then adding something a little bolder on foot to showcase your sartorial flair!
Another simple look, this time for the monochromatic fanatics among us. Mixing a simple black polo shirt with some ripped / frayed denim and a pair of black trainers is a simple, timeless look that'll be easily recreated from any guys wardrobe. Throw on a casual watch or some other form of 'arm candy' to elevate the look - and you're good to go!
How To Fray Denim Shorts
- Use pinking shears instead of scissors to cut if you only want a slight fray.
- Use a craft knife and ruler if you want to create perfectly straight lines.
- You don’t need to go out and buy tools; razors, cheese graters and sandpaper make great fraying tools.
- Use chalk to mark where you’d like to cut as it rubs right off.
- If you fold your jeans in half before cutting them both legs will be equal.
- Keep trying your shorts on as you go along to see how they look.
- Fray and distress your denim in places they have already worn down for a more natural look.
- Once you’ve cut your jeans put them on a spin cycle to fray them easier.
- Use fray glue or fabric stiffener to stop the fray going too far.
On That Note…
Now DIY denim doesn’t seem so daunting there’s no need to throw out your old jeans; you can make them into something new. You’ll have a little extra cash in your pocket to treat yourself. So it’s time to go through your wardrobe to see what else you can make over.