How to: Chic, do-it-yourself denim

by DGO Web Administrator

This fall’s current embellished-denim trends lend a fabulous opportunity to expand your jeans style in a creative, personal way. Get inspired and stay on-trend on-the-cheap by modifying denim items already in your closet with scissors, patches, fabric ephemera and markers.

HemlinesThe “mullet” hemCut the front to a cropped length that’s shorter than the back, either curved or at a right-angle. Leave the edge raw to fray out, or use a pinking shear with zig-zag blades to slow fraying.

The cropped flareA great transitional season piece with a fresh silhouette. Looks great with flat sandals, an ankle boot or heels. Take your old bell-bottoms or flares and cut anywhere from just-above-ankle length to a few inches below the knee. Not flared enough? Cut slits up the side seams for another few inches.

Frayed-fringe hemsFor self-fringe, cut deep, thin strips into the denim, straight up the leg from the ankle for about six inches. After washing and drying, the cuts will fray out into a textural, deconstructed fringe. Looks cool on skinnies or flares, or try this technique on the cropped flare.

If you’d like a neater look, attach pre-made rayon or leather fringe around the hem of your cropped jeans or the hem of a cropped denim vest or jacket.

Patches, pleaseAdd patchesDenim designers from Gucci to Levis are making patched and embroidered jeans, and they are pricey! Do it yourself for cheap and collect funky and figurative new and vintage embroidered patches and iron or sew onto jeans or a denim jacket. Long, thin patches looks great on the back of a jacket sleeve and tiny ones fit well on a collar. Have fun with the pre-existing design, panels and seams to create a pleasing and proportionate patch configuration. Recycled scraps like ribbon, screen-prints, squares of fabric or interesting details cut from worn-out garments or other textiles can be upcycled as patches and appliqués, too.

Large-scaleSquare and rectangle-patched jeans create a simpler, tonal graphic look. Use a large suede or leather piece to appliqué a rectangle from mid-thigh to below the knee. Use different shades of denim blue or wilder contrasting fabrics like lace and plaid in large pieces alone or cubist-layered. Any stitching used to attach the patch that is visible or contrasting is OK; it adds to the crafted feel.

Patch but preservePatches look awesome when placed among or underneath frays, holes and other distressed areas. I like the contrast of a fresh and different fabric with the denim’s authentic worn-by-time character. Preserve the look of these distressed bits by patching under the holey area, letting the patch peek through the frays, creating a collage of textures.

Graffiti-4-EvaSharpie makes markers that are just for fabrics, and they are so fun. Geek-out with a repetitive pattern of dots, dashes, chevrons or stars. Make your jeans or jacket ’80s-outspoken with words, phrases and band names. One could, if detail-oriented and stoned enough, draw a print of their choosing over the entirety of the garment and it would look amazing. Draw on a meta, trompe l’oeil faux-patch complete with fake stitching or your lover’s initials in a heart.

Other types of fabric paint pens and markers are available for shiny, dimensional, metallic or glitter effects, too.

DeconstructThe hem-cutting and frayed hem ideas can be used on a skirt, dress or jacket, as well. Cut-fringe hem a frumpy denim dress into a cuter mini, chop the arms off a jacket to make a vest, then crop the length to wear with dresses. Or try an oddball short-sleeved jacket, just to be weird. Remove the back pockets from jeans to reveal the dark shadows for an interesting effect.

How the hell?Some of these ideas use patches that are iron-on. Cotton denim can withstand a high heat, so melt those suckers on anywhere. Check the fabric content of the garment and adjust the iron’s heat accordingly.

Parts of sleeves and legs can’t be accessed by a sewing machine, so you may need to hand-sew or use iron-on fusing material.

Visible hand-stitching is charming and simple, use obvious colors and play with using yarn, thread or embroidery floss to attach.

Professional seamstresses have embroidery machines. Get your garment custom-embroidered or hire them to attach the patches in your design’s layout.

Have a DIY denim-update get-together with friends to share ideas, skills, tools and materials.

Pinterest is a great online resource for ideas and inspiration.

For more DIY clothing tips and tricks, visit Heather’s clothing store Sideshow at 208 County Road 250 in Durango, Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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