How to "Ladder" Jeans

"Laddering" of jeans refers to the pulling of threads in a chosen part of the jeans so that they appear like a small ladder embedded in the jeans. This method is a form of "distressing" clothing and is commonly used for particular fashion styles, such as punk style or tomboy jeans. While some jean manufacturers go to the trouble to ladder the jeans for you (and charge an arm and a leg for it), it's really easy to ladder the jeans yourself.


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    Cut a strip where you want to rip the jeans. When you pull out thread, it pulls out a whole strip of blue thread. Cutting a strip prevents the jeans from falling apart with nothing to hold the fabric together.
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    Look closely at the jeans. You will see blue thread and white thread. This is what the jeans are made of. If you turn the jeans inside out, most of the fabric will be white with blue specks. The "ladder" part is basically just white thread with no blue thread going vertically across it. This is what you're aiming for.
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    Use the needle to pull out one of the blue threads. Grab it with the tweezers if your fingers can't reach it. As you remove the blue thread, only white thread remains, creating the "ladder".
  4. Image titled "Ladder" Jeans Step 4
    Use the tweezers to continue to pull out the blue threads. You should see it start to ladder.
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    Keep going until you get the effect you want. If needed, run invisible stitches along the edges of the ladder to prevent further laddering.
    • Be patient––this takes time to do well.
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  • Be sure not to go overboard with the ripping; look at your jeans every few minutes to make sure you still like what you see.
  • Wear the jeans first and mark out where you want the ladder with chalk.
  • Use old jeans to practice on first.
  • The more you do it, the bigger the ladder will be.
  • Don't pull the blue strings too fast or it will look trashy.


  • This could ruin a good pair of jeans; be sure you want to do this before proceeding.
  • Use appropriate care when handling the needle/pin and scissors.

Things You'll Need

  • Jeans
  • Sharp scissors
  • Tweezers
  • A needle or pin

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Categories: Featured Articles | Fabric and Clothing Decoration | Punk