Distressed cotton garments are fashionable and there are garments that look better when they appear worn, such as T-shirts and jeans. However, there are other reasons why you would distress cotton fabrics. For instance, if you want unusual-looking pillows, curtains or bedding, you may want to distress them. You may also want to distress Halloween or theatre costumes. Distressing cotton fabrics is a simple process and only requires some washing, nicking and roughening.
Wash the fabric with detergent and 1/2 cup of bleach. This will slightly fade the cotton fabric but not discolour it completely.
Hang the cotton fabric garment outside and let it weather for a week or so in the sun, rain and wind.
Glue a piece of 80-grit sandpaper to a small piece of board. The board does not have to be any particular size.
Stretch the fabric tightly and drag it across the board. Do this a few times and use different directions when pulling the fabric across the sandpaper. If you don't want a great deal of distressing, whisk the fabric across the board quickly and don't exert heavy pressure against the board.
Create nicks in the fabric by using a scissors or razor blade and place them on areas of the fabric that would naturally wear out sooner, like elbows, hems, knees, creases, necks and cuffs.
Take a wire brush and run it across the fabric a couple of times to create snags.