Fraying fabric edges have that little character signature that says, “I’m shabby but can be ever so chic!” This tutorial will teach you 5 methods of how to fray fabric for a trendy shabby chic style as well as the best fabrics to use.
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.
Further Reading: How to stop fabric fraying
How to Fray Fabric, Fraying Fabric Tutorial
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.
Items to Fray Fabric
There are many 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.
- Quilts - A frayed edge quilt is textured and interesting with the frayed edges giving the quilt a tufted and trendy finish.
- Jeans - Upgrading those denim pants to shorts or denim skirts needing a new length.
- Jackets - Adding interest to the edge of a jacket or a cape, or anything that is loose.
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.
Fabrics to fray: Soft linens, cotton, and denim are good choices for fraying fabric.
Pre-wash your fabric and treat it in the same way you plan to when the item you make is complete. Jeans, in particular, should be prewashed for shrinkage otherwise, you may find they end up too short after the frayed hems are washed a couple of times.
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 about which is the best for your project. If you are looking to fray the hems of your jeans, then skip straight to method 2 for the best results.
- Using Pinking Shears
- Seam Ripper
- Chopping and Washing
- Trims and Applique
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.
Use pinking shears when you want a subtle fraying effect.
2. How to Fray Fabric with a Seam Ripper
Use a seam ripper to fray fabric when you want a dramatic look with fine frayed edges. This is my favorite method for fraying jeans. You do need a little patience to do this method of fraying fabric, but the results are worth it.
Step 1 - Stitch Across the Top
Start by deciding where you would like the fraying to stop and stitching across at that point.
- 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.
Step 2 - Cut Vertically and Fray
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 fabric 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.
3. How to Fray Fabric with Tearing
Tearing fabric will also result in a frayed fabric 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.
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’ sewer.
Your scissors do the job of cutting up the edges, and then the washing machine and wearing the garment do the rest.
- Just chop long vertical lines at regular intervals of ⅛-1/4 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. Literally a ‘wear and tear’ result!
Fraying Fabric for Trims and Applique
Fraying fabric can also lend itself to making trims. 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.
How to Fray Fabric - In Conclusion
Fraying 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 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.
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