denim skirt makeover TUTORIAL and denim distressing tips

How to Distress Denim

how to distress denim
You probably recognize this flirty denim skirt! :) This was my project for Week 1 at SYTYC. Thanks to Carrie for reminding me I had not posted my tutorial yet. oops! Got a little side tracked there. Anyways, here ya go!
This is the not-so-fab Before pic. Very blah skirt, huh.
I am going to apologize right now for a few poor pictures. I made this skirt over several days in different lighting, so it’s going to change colors from step to step.
First I removed the 2 side pockets.
 Then I cut right above the pockets, keep all fabric that you cut off including the pockets. You’ll used them later.
Then from the bottom section that you cut off, cut a 4 inch strip and sew the strip to the bottom of the skirt. I used heavy duty thread.
Be sure to finish your seam with a serger or a zig zag seam. And don’t forget to iron! Ironing is very important to make the skirt look finished.
Next, cut off the old hem line from the skirt so that you have a 4.5 inch strip. You will use this to be the hem of your updated skirt. {yay! no hemming!!}I also cut off the tops of my pockets {they’re hemmed exactly the same as the bottom} and sewed them together and then onto this bottom strip so that I had extra length for the bottom ruffle.
Sew a basting stitch across the top and gather.  Definitely use a heavy duty thread here or you’ll just break your thread trying to gather the denim.
Then sew the gathered hem line to the bottom of your skirt.
Next, you’ll cut 2″ by 36″ strip of denim from your remaining fabric. ( I reused almost the entire skirt. Very little was wasted.) Sew wrong sides together to create a tube using a basting stitch. (you’re going to gather this strip as well in a minute)
Iron flat the now 1″ tube.
Now gather the 1″ tube.
Next, you’ll pin the gathered tube onto your skirt starting with the outer circle. Use plenty of pins!
You’ll want to sew one circle (or layer) of the flower at a time. After you sew one layer, then pin the next, and sew that layer, etc. Overlap the layers to cover the seam of the previous layer. Just to warn you, the center will be very thick. Go slow when you get to it. Your machine may not like you very much :)
Should look something like this.
(I later removed the white thread you see in the center)
Now for the fun part!
Distressing your Denim
I read several articles on how to distress denim. I combined several ideas, tweaked a few, and basically, just did my own thing. Here’s what I did.
I put the skirt on and then grabbed course grit sand paper (all the articles say to use a fine grit, I’m too impatient.) and then started sanding away.
  • I sat and sanded the folds to create the “cat’s whiskers” look.
  • I then stood up and standing down the top of my thighs to create the “thigh lines”.
  • To create a hole, all you need to do is sand down so the denim is thin and you see a few strings.
  • Be careful not to get carried away. You’re going to wash the skirt in a second and it’s going to amplify all the sanding/hole making that you did. a 1/4″ hole right now, will equate to a 1″ hole after washing and drying.
  • Then I roughed up the hem, the edges of the flower.
  • I decided I wanted an overall lighter skirt as well. So I lightly sanded over the entire skirt. (warning, this takes a long time even for a small item like my skirt)
 This was my floor after I was done sanding. Gross! If the weather had been warmer, I would have done this outside. But it does vacuum very well. Oh and just a little fyi, your boogers are going to be blue for the next 2 days!! ;)
This is what my skirt looked like after all the sanding. Take careful note how much it changes in a second.
  After sanding and distressing,
  • I then soaked the skirt in fabric softener. Seriously, coat the thing.
  • Lots of articles say to wash the denim with a pair of tennis shoes. I just washed my skirt with some towels. Hey, come on. I needed some clean towels. ;)
  • Dry on high heat.
  • None of the articles tell you this, but washing your skirt soaked in fabric softener, makes it smell VERY strongly like fabric softener. As in, you walk into a room and burn everyone’s noses with the smell!  Seriously.
  • So I washed my skirt again to get out some of the fabric softener smell (sans softener this time around). This helped, but it still smells pretty flowery.
Ok, now for the reveal that I’m sure you’ve never seen before… oh wait…..
The more you wear and wash your skirt, the more natural distressing you’ll get.
**And if you’re like me and have to hem like all your jeans (gosh how I love being short…) sanding/distressing the new hem of your jeans will help blend with the rest of your jeans so they don’t look like they just got cut off (like they were).**
Hi! I'm Linda, the craft addict behind Craftaholics Anonymous®, a craft blog. Crafting is cheaper than therapy, right? When I'm not DIYing something, I can be found taxiing around our 4 crazy kids or working out. Or shoe shopping... because you can never have too many shoes! Happy crafting! ♥

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  1. 1
    Crafty in Paradise

    I have to tell you I literally gasped when I saw this so so cute skirt! I can't wait to try it… I'm a little giddy!

    1. 1.1

      I have a tried & true method for gathering on denim or other fabrics. Instead of running a basting stitch on the machine & trying not to break it, do this: Find some leftover crochet thread, size 10 or 20 works best–don’t try to use ordinary yarn because it stretches & breaks. Set your machine to the widest zig zig stitch and a medium length stitch. Lay the crochet thread on the wrong side of the ruffle piece & zig zag over the top of it. Don’t catch any of the crochet thread with your zig zag machine stitches. Pull on the crochet thread & the fabric will gather so fast, even & neat you won’t believe it. When you’re ruffle is then sewn in place you can pull the crochet thread out if it bothers you but you don’t have to. My Bernina has a foot with a hole in it that you thread the crochet thread thru, that keeps it right in the middle of your foot & you don’t have to worry about it catching in your zig zag stitch. When I was making angels to sell I sewed MILES of fabric into ruffles in this way. When you’re working with something other then denim it goes even faster. Love the skirt, in about a month we have lots of church rummage sages around here & I can always pick up a ton of denim for next to nothing. I let someone else buy the cute stuff & I buy the big ugly skirts & dresses to use in these kind of projects.

      1. thank you for the awesome tip, Annette! i’ll have to give it a try for sure. i’m so glad you stopped by!
        happy crafting,

      2. MelissaJo

        Thank you, thank you, Annette. I do a lot of sewing projects that include gathering and this technique will definitely be easier and much, much less stressful.
        Linda, thank you for sharing your project. I love this skirt and am always looking for new ideas for revamping old clothes…I have a daughter and granddaughter that love my creations. I know they will love this one, too! Keep up the great work :)

      3. Penny

        This is such a great idea, love it, so simple, thank you

  2. 2
    The Comfort Girl

    I gasped, too! Oh my, what a transformation! I'm going to be on the hunt for a blah denim skirt now.

  3. 3
    Peanut-Butter Kitty

    I had a blah denim skirt, but gave it to the Goodwill yesterday. Darn! Great idea, love the flower on the bottom.

  4. 4

    you are just so creative!! this is too cute!

  5. 5
    the thrifty ba

    im headed to the thrift store…

  6. 6

    Love it!!! I seriously want to do this to one of my old skirts!

  7. 7

    How do you do it? You are so creative!

  8. 8

    yipee!!! i never thought of looking for directions on distressing denim! i hope you're not mad, i was so excited to redo my skirt, i wanted to make sure i didn't miss the tutorial! thank you!

  9. 9
    Amanda K

    What a darling skirt! I have seen your links around blog land and decided to come visit! I am glad I did, your blog is super cute!

  10. 10
    Amanda @ Serenity Now

    Adorable, Linda!! I sooo used to have one of those skirts (the "Before") too. ;) Great tutorial!

  11. 11
    Us Bailey's

    Wow! Great job and great tutorial! I am so going to keep my eyes out for an old skirt! Thanks

  12. 12

    Looks fantastic!

  13. 13
    Out in the Fields

    I have been on the lookout for a denim skirt, but was only seeing blah ones, now i can buy one of those and fix it to look great! Thanks

  14. 14

    Great tutorial! I know what you are saying about the lighting. I am usually doing my projects in the dead of night and the lighting is so dark.


  15. 15

    Such a cool tutorial! Thank you so much for sharing it, and for putting it together so well. Love your skirt!

  16. 16

    This is amazing! Have you seen the new J Crew catolog with the painted splattered distressed jeans? I might try to replicate…I will be doing one of these darling denim flowers for sure.

  17. 17

    This is Kaaa-ute!!!! And a great tutorial too!! Well done!!

  18. 18

    WOW!!! I cannot believe that you took that old skirt and made this adorable skirt! I love it! You are so talented, I wish I had your creativity and talent!

  19. 19
    Crystal & Keith

    Ok, love the skirt!
    Everyone needs to go to SYTYC and vote for you because you are definitely the best craftaholic of them all!
    PS That site will not publish my comments…

  20. 20
    Crystal & Keith

    Ok, love the skirt!
    Everyone needs to go to SYTYC and vote for you because you are definitely the best craftaholic of them all!
    PS That site will not publish my comments…

  21. 21

    So cute, way to go!!!

  22. 22

    this is awesome! I have lots of boring OLD skirts I need to transform into something. This is a great idea, esp thinking of using my old denim for my 6 year old's skirt. CUTE– thanks for the tutorial!

  23. 23
    Lee Ann

    well done for getting through so far. Your skirt is awesome, thanks for the tutorial and good luck for this week x

  24. 24

    This is darling! I had a feeling it was yours when I saw it! great job!

  25. 25

    I am so jealous of your talent! This is amazing!! I am going to go pull out all my old skirts and think about facelifts!

  26. 26
    Alisa Ashby

    Awesome! I found your blog this morning via a friend. I have been glued to my computer looking at past tutorials. So talented! I will definitely visit again…(and maybe even try a few projects – sewing is not my forte!)

  27. 27

    I have a blah denim skirt and like you I am a shorty. I have already had 2 inches taken off of the bottom, but I need another 2 to 3 more inches removed. I don't know how to sew, so I would definitely have to pay someone to make my skirt look as nice as your does. I would love to transform it, right now I can't even wear the darn thing. How does she do it?

  28. 28

    Thanks for the FABULOUS idea & tutorial!!! I went right out to Goodwill & bought myself a long denim skirt just to remake like yours. :) Thanks to you, I now have a flirty little skirt for spring. Thanks again!

  29. 29
    Sassi Pants Boutique

    OK… I don't have a blah denim skirt but I am SERIOUSLY going to the DI to look for one tomorrow… THIS SKIRT IS ADORABLE!! I can't wait to make one!!

  30. 30
    TJ and Whitnee

    I can't believe I never saw this skirt, it's darling! I'd like to share a link to this tutorial on on July 16!

  31. 31

    Your denim remade skirt is very cute. I like the flower embellishment!

  32. 32

    I need one of these skirt! This is so cute! Thank you so much for the inspiration.

  33. 33

    Oh fun! Another neat project to put on my to-do list… :D

  34. 34
    Adena (aka cre82learn)

    This is adorable!!! Just found your blog thru All Free Sewing. I am on a quest for some major weight loss and want to repurpose my wardrobe as I lose.

  35. 35

    Oh my gosh!!!!! I absolutely LOVE this! I'm so very excited to try this myself! I've been trying to revamp my wardrobe, inexpensively, and this is perfect! Thanks so much! Made sure to share with my sewing buddies ;D I found you through freesewing!

  36. 36

    YOU are so cute…( I’m so glad I swallowed my coffee before I read my boogers would be blue for the next 2 days) I think I’m making 2 skirst like this…1 for me and 1 for my 7 yr old DD. she’ll love the flower.

  37. 37

    just thought I’d send my hemming pants for shorties tip. In order to get pants ti fit my hips, they’re always 4-6 inches too long. I always was sad to lose the full shape at the very bottom. I have started taking a tuck below the knee, all the way around till length is nice. I sew around the …tuck…pleat…not sure what to call it….at its top & bottom. if you use matching thread, it is hardly noticeable, & I get to keep the cute designed shape at the bottom. I’ve even taken out hems on a few pairs & redid them with this lifting tuck.

  38. 38

    This is the most attractive denim skirt I’ve seen in quite a while. The flower and trim really set this skirt apart from others and the distressing really makes this skirt unique pulling it all together. I found the distressing information (how to ) so interesting and informative. Thank you so much for your tutorial, Linda

    1. 38.1

      Thanks Samantha! I’m so glad you liked my post! Thanks for stopping by Craftaholics Anonymous! Stop by again :)
      happy crafting!

  39. Pingback: Craft tools | Craftaholics Anonymous

  40. 39

    Cute refashion…you should google hemming jeans keeping original hem (or search pinterest)….it’s a super easy method and you get to keep the original hem…so no one knows you hemmed them!

  41. Pingback: how to make a QR code | Craftaholics Anonymous

  42. 40
    Annie Lou

    I cannot even tell you how many denim dresses//skirts I have gotten rid of (donated of course to Big Sisters) …. I may have a couple in my closet … I love this skirt !!!!!

  43. 41
    Lady Di

    I love the flower! Thank You! Thank You for your creativity!

  44. 42

    This skirt is so charming! I plan to show a friend who through out the winter wears these old demin clothes. We tease her about her little house OTP look but she claims the denim and layers help her beat the cold. Maybe we can update her look and she can keep her demin and layers. Thanks!

  45. 43

    I am so trying this tonight!! I have a skirt that I purchased from Goodwill just to try this tutorial. Mine does not have pockets though, and I was wondering where I should cut it off…where it hits like a mini skirt, or where exactly should I cut it? Thanks!

  46. 44

    That is one cute skirt!Great idea.

  47. 45
    Alice Schunemann

    I really like the look of the finished skirt. However, I am not too clear about some of the construction instructions. You said to cut the original denim skirt off above the pockets. I think I need something a little more specific, such as how many inches down from the top, since the skirts I am finding do not have patch pockets, but side pockets inserted into the side seem. Thanks.

    1. 45.1
      Alice Schunemann

      Oops…side seam…

  48. 46

    Not only was this very cute and makes me want to make it right now, but you are so energetic in your writing style! There are a lot of crafting blogs, but yours is refreshing. Keep up the awesome work!

  49. 47
    Jackie Branscum

    I love this idea. And distressing it is another plus. I may even have to go to the thrift store to find one but I love this skirt.

  50. 48
    Ruth Ann Assaid

    Love your blog. It is fun. I’m a seasoned quilter and sewist. To gather up your jean material (or any other fabric for that matter) the easiest way is to draw a line on where you want to gather (wrong side of fabric), lay down a length of dental floss, and zig zag over the dental floss. Pull up the fabric to the size you want and sew it onto your next fabric. Easy peazy!
    Also, it helps to have a denim needle when you sew denim. Less breaking of the needle!