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Distress Denim Seams

Threads magazine - 156 – Aug./Sept. 2011

Q: I sew many denim jeans and jackets. Is there is a way to age the garment seams to make them look worn and soft?

Dorothy, via email

A: Jeans designer and frequent Threads author Jennifer Stern-Hasemann responds:

There are a few methods that add years to the seams on handcrafted denim garments. One way is to soften and break down the fabric’s fibers. Use a rubber mallet to achieve this vintage look. Position the seam or hem on a hard surface, wrong side up. Gently pound the seam with the mallet. As you launder your jeans, the pounded seams wear and fade much quicker than the rest of the garment.

For faster results, try applying an equal parts bleach and water solution to the seam. The bleach lightens and weakens the denim’s fibers. Test the solution on a fabric sample before you use it on a finished garment.

Use a paintbrush or cotton swab to apply the solution to the hem or seam allowance. Then wash the garment. The areas you painted will fade. If your test sample fades too drastically, try again with a more water-diluted bleach solution.

Finally, you can use a rotary tool such as a Dremel (Dremel.com) with a sanding bit to distress edges and hems. Fit the tool with a fine-grit bit. Gently rough the denim along the seams, hem, pocket edges and folds. Keep the effect subtle by lightly grazing the surface or rub a little more vigorously to create frayed edges. Alternatively, just hand-sand the seams with fine-grit sandpaper.

denim garment illustration
Apply a bleach and water solution to denim to fade and soften areas that normally show wear over time. Illustration: Carol Ruzicka

fading denim
Apply a bleach and water solution to denim to fade and soften areas that normally show wear over time. Illustration: Carol Ruzicka

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