Frayed fabric edges have that little character signature that says, “I’m shabby but can be ever so chic!” The whole idea of using frayed edges to personify a look of something a little shabby but very stylish is almost a contradiction of terms. How can an item be shabby but chic at the same time? It is the art of learning how to fray fabric and letting it hang loose in the finish of the garment that actually makes the difference.
Developing a frayed edge finish lends itself to many different sewing projects. Think about changing the look of some items of clothing you already have. Re-inventing or up-cycling clothes is a great way to get some extra mileage out of your wardrobe.
There are many other great ways to use a frayed edge:
- Table linen – serviettes can look trendy with a frayed edge.
- Scarves – easy to run up in a few minutes with the added frayed edge style.
- A frayed edge quilt – textured and interesting with the frayed edges giving the quilt tufted and trendy finish.
- Upgrading those denim pants to shorts or denim skirts needing a new length.
- Adding interest to the edge of a jacket or a cape or anything that is loose.
How to Fray Fabric
Types of fabric to fray
The first part of learning how to fray fabric is caught up in choosing the right fabric. Most fabrics will fray if not neatened but some will fray more easily than others. It is a good idea to look for natural fabrics and loose weave types of fabric because they do fray more easily. Soft linens, cottons and denims are good choices.
Pre-wash your fabric and treat it in the same way you plan to when the item you make is complete.
Methods of fraying fabric
Choose a method of fraying the fabric that gives the best results and will be long lasting. Even if the outcome is a shabby chic style, you don’t want to end up with something that actually falls apart! Frayed edges can range from very choppy to a fine display of soft fringing. Try these different methods before you make up your mind.
Method 1: How to Fray Fabric with Pinking Shears
Pinking shears are a firm favorite as they cut a zigzag line across the section you want to have a frayed edge. They hold their shape but will fray gently as they are washed and worn.
Method 2: How to Fray Fabric with a Seam Ripper
A simple machine line of either small straight stitches or a narrow zigzag will set the margin for the frayed edge. Use a matching thread to create an invisible line. There are also fabric glues on the market that come with a nozzle. The glue can be applied along the line to which you plan to fray the article; the frayed edge will be maintained. Stitching, however, will be longer lasting.
Once the stitch line is in place the loose threads can be gently ‘teased or combed’ out from the fabric up to the stitch line. You can achieve this frayed effect with a needle or seam ripper to pull out the threads or even go bold and use a wire brush or fork.
The threads going across the fabric are pulled out while the threads on the downside of the fabric are left to form the frayed effect. The thickness of the frayed edge will depend on the texture of the fabric you have used. If you have long lengths of fabric to fray, it can help to make some vertical cuts as shown below and fray in one small section at a time.
Method 3: How to Fray Fabric with Tearing
Tearing fabric will also result in a frayed edge. Snip at the point you decide to tear and then pull the fabric to the edge. Your torn edge will have a slightly frayed look.
Method 4: How to Fray Fabric by Chopping and Washing
Chopping is another method of fraying fabric. Definitely an approach for the adventurous slightly ‘easy come, easy go’ seamstress. Your scissors do the job of cutting up the edges and then the washing machine and wearing the garment does the rest.
Literally a ‘wear and tear’ result!
Just chop long vertical lines at regular intervals of 1/8-1/4 inch (3-6mm). The finer the cuts, the faster it will fray. Just don’t wash it with any other articles as the threads will go everywhere.
Method 5: Trims and Applique
Fraying fabric can also lend itself to making trims. If you cut a strip of fabric and fray either side of the strip it will give a frayed ribbon effect. Sew a line of gathering stitches down the middle and pull up the strip of fabric to make a very interesting ruffled effect.
Sew a line of gathering stitches down the middle and pull up the strip of fabric to make a very interesting ruffled effect.
Cutting shapes for applique and leaving a frayed edge is also a very effective way of adding some applique style to a serviette or any other kind of table-wear, quilt, cushion or jacket. Here is a heart applique with long frayed edges.
How to Fray Fabric: Conclusion
Frayed fabric edges can be an enhancing trim to any garment. It is always wise to try out the fabric for suitability. If the technique suits the fabric and the style suits the garment then you will have a shabby chic masterpiece. This is a very versatile and creative way to add a little something special to your creative sewing skills.