How to cut jeans

How to cut jeans

Sometimes even your most beloved pair of jeans just need a change. To update your favorite old pair for fall, learn how to cut the bottom of your jeans for DIY perfection. Of course, fraying the edges is optional, but a perfectly on point fashion choice this season. Trust.

I promise DIY hemming jeans isn’t as intimidating as it might sound. With the right set of tools and a little focus, your jeans will feel practically brand new in no time. And heck, once you’ve mastered hemming jeans, don’t be afraid to go even further with your tailoring skills. Feel free to DIY distress your jeans, too! Whatever you do, always let your personal style shine through.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • old jeans
  • chalk
  • straight-edge ruler
  • scissors
  • sandpaper (optional)

1. Mark The Height

Put on your jeans and figure out where you want the new hemline to be. Measure the height with a ruler and mark it with chalk on both pant legs.

2. Draw The Line

This is the hardest part, but you’ve got it! Lay the ruler flat and draw a straight line from the original chalk mark around each pant leg. Don’t rush this part or else your pant legs will be uneven! If in doubt, it’s always better to go longer than you think you want and go higher as necessary.

3. Cut Those Babies

Alright, time to grab your scissors and cut along your chalk line. Careful!

4. Tug The Hems

For that iconic frayed look, tug at the hem of your jeans until frayed to your liking. For even more of a frayed vibe, pop your jeans in the washer and dryer to cause additional unraveling.

5. Be Fabulous

Jeans go with everything already, and fraying the hem gives a perfect edgy touch to any outfit.

How to cut jeans

How to cut jeans

How to cut jeans

How to cut jeans

How to cut jeans

How to cut jeans

How to cut jeans

I’ve had a ton of questions about how to cut your jeans for a DIY raw hem, so I finally got around to making a video about it. It’s a rudimentary video at best, but it should do the job.

Jeans with a raw hem is very on trend these days, so there’s really no need to take your jeans to a tailor if they’re too long.

I mean, you certainly can if you want a traditional hem; but if you like the raw hem look, you can easily cut off your jeans right at home. All you need is a pair of sharp scissors.

How to cut jeans

I have a pair of dressmaker’s shears from my quilting days, but a regular pair of all-purpose scissors will work just fine as long as they’re good and sharp. (The newer, the better.)

Before you start snipping, you’ll need to figure out the length you want. There are two ways to do this.

How to Determine the Right Length for Your Jeans

There is no one right length for everyone. You’ll have to figure out what is going to work best for you and the jeans you are cutting. It depends on your body type, personal preference, and the shoes you will wear with them.

There are two ways to determine the right length for your jeans:

#1. Use an existing pair that you like as a guide.

This is the easiest way, and how I did it in the video. You just lay them both out, with the pair that’s the guide on top, and cut.

How to cut jeans

#2. Try them on and cuff to find the length you like.

The other option is to try on the jeans with the shoes you will most likely wear with them, and tuck the hem of the jeans under to see how they look.

Trying them on with shoes is key here. The jeans I’m cutting look fine with sandals and ballet flats, but when I wear them with sneakers, they fall into the top of the shoe and it looks sloppy.

Style Tip: You will look slimmer if you allow some ankle to show. Here’s my before-and-after, for example.

How to cut jeans

Adjust until you like them, and then mark the spot with an ink pen or by snipping a tiny slit right where you will want to cut them.

You only need to do this on one leg, because you will fold the jeans and line up the hems before you start cutting.

How To Cut Your Jeans

Once you know the length you want, you will want to button your jeans and fold them neatly in half.

How to cut jeans

Lay them on a flat surface and smooth them out so the hems on both legs are lined up straight.

If you are cutting based on your own marking, make sure the marked leg is on top.

How to cut jeans

If you are using another pair as a guide, fold that pair the same way and lay them on top of the pair you are going to cut, lining them up from the bottom of the inseam. (Watch the video to see what I mean.)

Fold the bottom leg under and out of the way. (You will cut the one on top first.)

How to cut jeans

If you are cutting based on your own marking, use that mark as your guide, and start cutting, trying to keep a straight line.

If you are using the other pair as a guide, cut along the edge of that pair.

How to cut jeans

How to cut jeans

Then you unfold the bottom leg, smooth them out to make sure they’re even, and cut the bottom leg, using the top leg as a guide.

Go slowly, and stay as close to the cut hem from the top leg as possible. And that’s it!

Try them on again to be sure you like them. You can always cut more off, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Once you put them through the washing machine, they will start to fray naturally and look great. This is how they look after washing…

If you want to speed the process along, you can use your scissors to snip small cuts along the edges and use your fingers to start the fraying, but that really isn’t necessary unless you want to wear them right away.

Okay, here’s the video I made. It is kind of slow… I didn’t get fancy, so it’s just a straight shoot, but it’s less than 10 minutes, if you want to see the process in action.

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Ripped denim isn’t exactly a new trend—supermodels have been rocking rips in their loose-fitting jeans since the early eighties. But it is a look that’s going nowhere, and with warmer weather on the horizon, the amount of shredded denim you see on street stylers and A-listers is only set to rise. While shopping for pre-ripped jeans is, of course, a strong option—especially with so many incredible denim brands currently upping their jeans game—it does mean you have slightly less control over the look and placement of your rips. The same goes for distressed details.

Also, if you’ve finally found your denim soulmate and plan to buy multiple pairs to see you through the foreseeable future, it can be bummer when they don’t come in the ripped styles you also want to add to your jean-drobe. The answer is to get your DIY on. But while slashing the knee on a pair of jeans may sound easy, there’s actually a knack to making it look good. Luckily for you, we’ve tapped denim guru Donna Ida Thornton—who also offers an in-store alteration service, by the way, if you’d rather leave it the experts—for the ultimate guide to ripping your jeans like a fashion pro.

Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about how to rip jeans, plus how to DIY the latest denim trends.

How to cut jeans

1. Before You Start, Do The Prep Work

Before you pick up the scissors and start slashing, Donna stresses that some prep work is essential. Along with considering the best placement for rips that’ll flatter your body type, she also advises you run through the checklist below:

i) Practice, practice, practice

If it is your first time customising jeans, practice on an old pair, just in case the end result isn’t quite what you hoped for. It’s a good idea to start off with something simple, like a knee slit or a frayed hem, and build your confidence slowly.

ii) Get the right kit

When ripping or distressing your jeans, make sure that you have the right equipment—you’ll need a good pair of scissors or craft knife, a pair of tweezers, as well as some sandpaper to get the best finish. Also, when using your sandpaper or scissors, remember to always put something between the front and back of the jeans you’re distressing—you don’t want to cut right through to the other side!

iii) Find the right denim

It’s best to rip jeans that are not too stretchy or have elastane in them, as the fibres tend to be more delicate and can fall apart, leaving you with a big hole. Ideally, look for a pair of blue jeans that are a good mixture of blue and white on the inside—if they’re mainly white, then your rips may look stringy rather than frayed.

How to cut jeans

How to cut jeans

About once in a blue moon, someone will give me just a giant amount of blue jeans, like an entire Rubbermaid bin’s worth.

Now, I craft with old denim pretty often, but I can’t store a giant Rubbermaid bin full of blue jeans until the next quilt inspiration hits!

The thing is, though, that there are a lot of uses for old blue jeans, but rarely for every single part of the jean. If you know what you like to make (quilts for me, purses and skirts for you, perhaps?), then you’ll find that you can make your old blue jean storage much more neat and efficient, as well as space saving, by cutting the jeans up very carefully, just so, and storing them in their parts.

Here’s how to get the most out of your jeans stash, AND get that giant bin out of your craft room!

Back pockets. EVERYONE wants those beautiful back pockets! If it’s just the back pockets that you want, go ahead and cut them off the jeans and store them separately. Either get out your gridded cutting mat and clear plastic ruler and neatly cut them out with a border that you’ll find useful, or, if it’s literally just the pockets that you need, grab and seam ripper and simply take them off.

That’s actually how this particular stash of blue jeans that I just finished breaking down came to me–with all the back pockets taken off with a seam ripper. I often craft with the back pockets, as well, but as I plan to overdye and then piece a couch cover using this particular stash of denim, having the extra fabric without the bulky appliqued pockets attached is really helpful.

Zipper. Choose the right pair of jeans, and you’ll also get for yourself an incredibly sturdy zipper of any length between two-ish and six-ish inches. Use the seam ripper again to get at the zipper; you’ll find that it’s sewn down really well, but it’s just stitches, and stitches can come out:

How to cut jeans

Store the zippers with the rest of your sewing notions.

Fabric. The best fabric swathes in blue jeans comes in the pants legs, and may or may not include the knee. The most efficient way to cut out each pants leg into a fabric section is this:

  1. Cut up the entire inseam, from the bottom hem of one pants leg, up to the crotch, and down again to the bottom hem of the other pants leg.
  2. Do this again on the other side of the inseam to cut out that bulky seam entirely.
  3. Cut up the center front seam and center back seam and through the waistband to separate the pants legs.
  4. Cut the bottom hem off of each pants leg.
  5. For each pants leg, start cutting just inside one center seam, cut up to the lowest torso seam, cut across to the outer seam, cut down until you’re lower than the spot where the front pocket is sewn into that seam, and cut up and over to the center seam on the other side. I don’t have a use for front pockets or belt loops or waistbands; do you?
  6. If the outer seam is too bulky to sew through later, cut it out as well. I decide this on a case-by-case basis.
  7. Examine the fabric that you have left. Cut away any worn spots, stains, or rips:

How to cut jeans

Fold the remaining denim fabric neatly and store it, noting any particularly special pieces, such as those with interesting embroidery or patch pockets.

That sums up all the parts of the jeans that I can use! I no longer look like a hoarder with a giant Rubbermaid bin full of ripped, old-fashioned blue jeans on my study floor. Instead, I have a small stack of pockets, a bunch of zippers in my notions bin, and a couple of large (but still smaller than a bin!) stacks of folded denim waiting to be overdyed black.

Did I leave out any parts of the jeans that YOU sew with? If so, how do you store them?