The sweatshirt, that ubiquitous everyday wardrobe staple, will never go out of style. But this basic standby can transform into a sporty, retro-chic work of art when you factor in a little creativity and elbow grease. In classic 80s DIY style, its easy to remake a simple sweatshirt with some fabric-distressing tricks and a few snips of the scissors.
Put your sweatshirt on and use a tailor's marker to mark where you would like worn-in holes. Take it off, and place your sweatshirt on a clean, flat surface. Use a seam ripper or a small pair of cuticle scissors to make a small 1/4-inch incision at the top of the area where you want a shredded effect. Pull at the small opening with your fingers to stretch the fabric. Continue to make the hole larger, using the seam ripper and your fingers to create slightly warped openings.
Draw out a pattern of thin, inch-long, dashed, geometric lines on the sides of your sweatshirt with a fabric marker. Place an old book or a cutting mat on the inside of the sweatshirt, underneath the lines you created. Cut along each of the dashed lines with a craft knife until you have cut the desired amount of structured lines into the material. The final effect should be of laser-cut fabric that gives the sweatshirt a fashionably distressed style.
Old clothes are softened by hours of wear and lots of laundry time. Wash your sweatshirt in hot water with 1/4 cup of sodium bicarbonate washing soda and a cup of regular iodized salt. You might have to wash the sweatshirt in this solution a few times to get that soft, worn-in feel that makes old clothing so comfortable. This washing technique will also break in the holes you created with the seam ripper and the knife.
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To get a rough-around-the-edges look without creating actual holes or washing the fabric numerous times, use sandpaper. Place your hand inside the sweatshirt along a shoulder seam, a side seam or an area that would get naturally worn down as you wore it. Sweep some fine-grain sandpaper over the area to loosen up the fibers and give it a rough edge. Keep sweeping the sandpaper over the area until you get the desired texture. Repeat the sandpaper process along a few places on the sweatshirt to get an even final effect. Avoid sandpapering key areas near your chest, neck or lower back where it might look awkward.
Patch It Up
Patches signal that a piece of clothing has been loved for many years, and they'll give your sweatshirt a rugged edge. Look for vintage or decorative patches at your local craft store, or make your own. You can buy iron-on and sew-on patches, so choose an appropriate type for your skill level. Plot out where you want the patches, such as on the elbow, the sleeves or near the neckline. Sew the patches on by hand using sturdy thread and tiny stitches. If you opt for the iron-on patches, heat the iron on a high cotton setting. Place a tea towel between the patch and your iron, and press with plenty of pressure to ensure the patch adheres.
Sarah Vrba has been a writer and editor since 2006. She has contributed to "Seed," "AND Magazine," Care2 Causes and "202 Magazine," among other outlets, focusing on fashion, pop culture, style and identity. Vrba holds an M.A. in history with an emphasis on gender and fashion in the 19th century.