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How To: Distressed Denim Knits

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I was a teenager when Seattle grunge fashion was born, so seeing the distressed denim trend make a (much chicer; less grungy) comeback has me feeling nostalgic for some torn jeans and old school alt-rock. Lucky for me, with a click of my keyboard I can listen to Hole’s Pretty on the Inside while pondering the relevance of ripping up a perfectly good pair of pants. As a designer, it also has me thinking about how to make the look translate into knitwear.

Denim Knit Swatches

Patons Denim shades does most of the work by offering a pick-your-pleasure palette of denim look washes, but I thought I’d take it a step further by playing around with a few techniques to bring that vintage-cool of your favorite pair of worn jeans to your next WIP. Here’s what I tried and how it worked!

Ripped Denim look

For a ripped look I dropped a few stitches in the middle of a stockinette stitch piece, then used my sewing machine and a long stitch to zig-zag under the point I wanted the stitches to stop dropping and over the “ripped” portion. I finished by cutting the loops of the dropped stitches for an extra, ratty effect. The result is messy with a side of punk rock, and would be cool for a knit kids denim jacket.

Mended Hole Denim look

For a mended-hole look I bound off 3 stitches on one row, then cast them back on the next. Once I finished the swatch, I used a traditional darning technique to create a patch: using an embroidery needle, darning egg (or whatever), and vintage, crewel thread I sewed around the perimeter. Then, I sewed long strands back and forth horizontally across the hole. From there, I use my needle to weave over and under the threads which created the patch fabric. The result is sweet and textural, and would be adorable on the knees of a pair of baby pants or the elbows of an adult cardi.

Decorative Repair Denim look

For a decorative, repaired moth-hole look I bound off 2 stitches on one row, then cast them on the next. I repeated the process a couple more times at staggered points of my swatch to form a little cluster. I finished the holes off by whip stitching generously around the insides of each hole with a contrasting color of crewel thread. The result is a batch of quirky-cool, pop colored eyelets that would be a great, unexpected detail on a cuff, pocket or along the hemline of a little dress.

Have you tried distressing your knits before? If so, let us know what you did and how it went!

xx, Vickie