DIY Denim: How to Create Cute Cut-Offs in 9 Steps [or Less!]

by Sammy in Comment — Updated October 27, 2019

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Is it just me, or do the cutest itty-bitty shorts always cost more than say, the cutest floor-length dress on the sale rack? Maybe it’s because shorts aren’t actually a dime a dozen — and are made from quality materials and with a bit more elbow grease than the standard shirt or dress — but this quintessential summer staple seems to cost more than a month’s worth of utilities. And if you live in New York City, we all know Time Warner ain’t anything cheap …

So what does a girl do with a drawer full of jeans she no longer wears, and a summer full of shorts she needs to wear [but doesn’t have!] ahead?

Why, she makes her own cute denim cut-offs — and if so desired — adds some distressed dazzle to her new darlings, too. How do you do it? Read on [and look at the graphics above & below!] for 9 easy steps to making your very own cut-off denim. As seen in yesterday’s post on how to rock 4th of July fashion 8 different ways — these cut-offs are a #1 must when grilling away this Sunday!


Pull out a pair [or thrift ’em!] of soft denim from your drawer. The softer, the better — the easier they are for cutting and distressing. Put ’em on and stand in front of a mirror. Let your hands fall naturally at your side to see where your fingers hit against the jeans.


Taking a Sharpie, mark your jeans along your finger line. I chose my pinkies because I wanted my cut-offs to be on the shorter side. Mark a straight line on both legs.


Find a kitchen, coffee, work, desk, whatever! table and lay down your marked jeans so that they’re spread and flat.

STEP #4 – STEP #6: CUT ‘EM UP!

Then, taking a sharp pair of scissors, cut both legs along the lines you marked in step #2. Find that you picked a pair of jeans that are too thick for double cutting? No prob. Spread those jeans [eagle, that is] and cut each leg individually. Don’t worry about the length of each leg — you’ll be rolling these babies in step #9, so being a perfectionist isn’t [sigh of relief] necessary.


Didn’t play perfectionist? Good! Here’s where you can smooth out some rough edges. If your newly cut shorts aren’t even along both legs, take your scissors and snip away any extra fabric to bring both sides up to same-length speed. You can even fold them across so that the ends touch, and cut from there to create an even edge. Again, don’t worry about perfection — you’ll be cuffing the ends later anyway.


This is my favorite part — taking a new [i.e. not blunt] razor [like, the kind you use for your armpits!] and aiming those blades on your denim to create some seriously stylin’ distressed denim.

Aim for the softest, thinnest areas of the jeans for successful wreckage. My recs: front pocket edges, back pocket squares and the crotch. Use a fast, hard back and forth motion with the razor — as if you are scratching a really deep itch. It takes about 10 minutes of razor wreckage to create some solid action on one spot.

Success confirmed: You’ll begin to notice loose threads exposed from within the jean material. Once you give your jeans a wash & dry, the razor points will stretch and expose further for distressed perfection. You may even end up cutting away some loose threads after a good wash & dry.


Some DIYers recommend rolling up your shorts and using fabric glue to keep ’em fastened. Take it from me: fabric glue will fall by the wayside in any serious washing machine. Your best bet? Take some common safety pins and pin your darlings to your liking.

How you do it: Do a roughly one-half inch fold up on each leg. If you need to fold one side longer than the other to keep ’em in line, go for it — this is why you didn’t need to be a perfectionist earlier, because you can always correct length with your cuff folds.

After you fold up each leg roughly one-half inch each, safety pin the the cuff securely. Stab the pin into the jean material immediately *above* the cuff, and fasten in the fold. Follow suit around the front and back of each leg.

Finally, once everything is tight and secure, fold your jeans up one more time. This time, the cuff should hit the one-inch mark because the safety pin positioning [if you followed my advice] literally forces the one-inch cuff mark to exist. You should see the bottom edge of the safety pin, about one-quarter inch of exposure. Use silver safety pins for the best incognito effect.

The added benefit to using safety pins? You can experiment with different pin positioning to create the ideal cuff style. Thick, thick, double-triple-quadruple rolled — whatever! When it comes to DIY … it’s all about doing it yourself, for yourstyle

… and STEP #10: ROCK OUT IN YOUR DENIM CUT-OFFS!!!! [after washing and drying them for added distressed look, of course!]

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Have you ever made cut-off denim? Have a tip you want to share? Leave a comment below! I’ll update the post with your DIY advice. xx

Thrift Store Shopping Like a Pro

Part 1: Thrift Store Shopping – Research
Part 2: Thrift Store Shopping – Preparation
Part 3: Thrift Store Shopping – Strategy
Part 4: Thrift Store Shopping – Inspection
Part 5: Thrift Store Shopping – Sharing

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