DIY: The Perfect Studded Dolphin-hem Cutoffs

Many of us will end up spending that $30-$90 (yes, a pair that I fell in love with last season were $90) on a great pair of cutoffs. Different embellishments, distressing, and studding that strikes our fancy and hits the right length of coverage for our derriere. I've been wearing and making cutoffs as long as I can remember being able to operate a pair of scissors. Some have been really disastrous...too short, too weird, too uneven. Along the way of these disasters, I've learned some rules of thumb to the denim slice. We think it's simple until we try it, and then the challenges begin. Here are my triend and true tricks to getting the perfect pair of cutoffs.


  • jeans from your closet or thrift shop (these pictured by Holister were $6 from my local Goodwill)
  • exacto/craft knife
  • hammer and needle nose pliers
  • selected studs (the ones pictured were round and square studs purchased at Hobby Lobby)
  • fine sand paper 
  • chalk
  • scissors

Tips on picking the perfect denim:
Pick a style of denim with stretch. 
Always choose denim that fits well in the waist with room for a belt. Stretchy denim is usually a bad choice for cutoffs; you want a look of ease and comfort rather than exuding a love of all things bicycle and 80's. These that we are making here are fringed. It's not enough to just slice horizontally across the leg, you want style, interest, and elongated legs. That is why our hem will be that of a track short or a "dolphin hem", making them move in stride with something structured and yet deconstructed as the best denim always seems to be. The studs are optional, but I think they add something unique. You could always sew ribbon in sections across a front or back panel or lace peaking out under the fringe hem.

Put the jeans on and place a finger on the bottom of the pocket to make sure you don't cut through the pockets. Use the chalk to make a mark about 3/4-1 inch below the pocket. Use your finger to find the side marking sewn at the hip. Usually it is a triple stitch or button at the bottom of the pocket crease in the side inseam. With the chalk, mark about 1 inch below that side marking for the upside-down "v" of the dolphin hem.

This one is the most important because if your shorts are too "cheeky", you won't wear them out, so thoughtfully mark where, on the back of your legs, you would like your shorts' hem to fall. After taking them off, line them up using the hammer to measure evenly across the hip and make another mark in the front, side hip, and back of leg for symmetry and an even slice. Fold your jeans in half to check your measurements; always look at your chalk marks from the back of the pair rather than the front.

To make working with your denim easier, use your scissors to cut off the excess well below your chalk marks.

Cutting at a diagonal line from inseam up to hip, use the scissors to create the rough hemline. The diagnoal slice is what helps to create your dolphin hem.

At the side seam, use the scissors to cut the seam loose up to the bottom of pocket mark. Pull this seam open leaving an inverted "v" exposed on the sides.

Using a magazine or cardboard between the front and back surfaces of shorts, make small slits with exacto knife where you want to distress the shorts. Don't overdo it; a little goes a long way. Turn the pockets inside out to avoid slicing. Avoid the back of the shorts since they are where you want the most modest coverage. You can use the exacto knife along the pockets for distressing without exposing skin through the hole. Use the sandpaper to gently rub vertically on the slices you have created. You can try the sandpaper along the seams, the zipper, or buttons as well. Using the scissors, cut in tiny slits (less than 1/4 inch per section) to create the fringe. Use the sandpaper to refine the distressing along the fringe, but keep in mind, washing on the delicate cycle or in a lingerie bag will pull the threads loose and create the fringe as well. Try to keep your fringe slits to 1/4-1/2 inch long so as to avoid "the cheeky" look.

If you are using studs, lay them out in your desired pattern before piercing them through your denim.

The studs are tough, so take it easy and go one-by-one. You will use the needle nose pliars to close the studs and the hammer to secure them down flat. Machine wash your new shorts on a delicates cycle or lingerie bag.

Abracadabra! You have your custom-fitted, custom-studded dolphin-hemmed denim cutoffs...just in time for warm weather, tank tops, and maybe even a pair of heels.

Share your denim on our Facebook page or hashtag #campmakery #campmakerycutoffs on Instagram. xo