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Valentine’s Day Reverse Appliqué Heart Sweater

Dress to Cape Jacket Refashion
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A question I get from you guys a lot is, “Do you ever have a fail?”

The answer is, I used to have pllllenty of failed refashions when I first started sewing, but now that I’ve been doing it for a while, they almost never happen.

That being said, this refashion was very nearly a fail!

If you enjoy tales of suspense, mental torture, and redemption, read on!

In recent weeks, I’ve been scouring the $1 racks of my favorite thrift stores for a red sweater for a Valentine’s Day refashion.

I couldn’t find a long-sleeved one for some reason, but I did find this pretty short-sleeved sweater, which shall be the base for my Valentine’s Day Sweater Refashion!

refashionista Valentine's Day Reverse Appliqué Heart Sweater before
Just a basic red sweater.

Let’s take a look at that label, shall we?

alfred dunner label
I am not the target demographic for this brand.

The target demographic for this brand is 65+, which means Zennials are almost certainly going to make it mainstream in the 21-under set as well. I mean, if they can bring back mom jeans (which I’m totally cool with), they can do anything.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered the previous owner had snipped out the shoulder pads that were originally sewn in to this sweater.

shoulder pad scrap in sweater
Someone is after my own heart!

I also found this XL kid’s T-shirt!

refashionista Valentine's Day Reverse Appliqué Heart Sweater before holding T-shirt
Just a typical red T-shirt!

I decided to use a reverse appliqué technique to make a fun heart sweater for Valentine’s Day.

This could have gone one of two ways. I could have chosen to wear the T-Shirt and cut the heart out of the sweater, or wear the sweater and cut the heart out of the T-shirt.

I really liked the sweater, so that’s what I went with for the base.

Before getting started with the reverse appliqué heart part, I snipped out the neck of my sweater.

cutting out neck of sweater
Breathing easier already!

First, I traced a heart in chalk on the T-shirt.

chalk heart on t-shirt
See it?

If you’re really particular about the shape of your heart, you can print out a heart shape and trace it onto your shirt.

I wanted a funkier shape, so I just freehanded it.

Then, I cut my heart out.

Cut out heart from t-shirt

And here’s where all goes to crap for a moment!

What NOT to do!!!!

My original thought for this sweater was to do a punk-ish slash look over the heart, revealing the red T-shirt heart underneath.

Because I just wasn’t thinking, I traced the heart onto my sweater, and then began cutting slashes, thinking I’d add the heart later. DO NOT DO THIS.

cutting slash in sweater.

A few slashes in, I realized what a mistake this was (you’ll see what I mean in just a moment), and pinned the heart to the inside of my sweater (It’s turned inside-out in the pic below).

pinned heart to back of sweater
But is it too late?

Next, I stitched my heart down, using a simple straight stitch.

sewing heart onto shirt
Everything’s going to be okay, right?

When I was done, it looked like this.

heart sewn onto sweater
All good, right?

I turned my sweater right-side-out and immediately gasped in horror!

sewing mistake
What the WHUUUUUUUU?!?!?

Well this looks like hot garbage.

You can see how, despite my best efforts, a couple of those slashy bits got caught up in the stitching for heart.

This is why you want to make any cuts AFTER adding the fabric backing.

At first, I thought everything was salvageable. So, I trimmed off the parts of the sweater that had gotten caught up in the stitching, and kept making slashes.

cutting slashes into shirt
We’re back on track now, right?

But I quickly discovered an entirely new problem with my chosen method.

scraps sagging on shirt
Saggy and sad. 🙁

The sweater shreds were a saggy mess!

I should have known better than to think this would work, as the sweater fabric is heavy, cutting into it makes the shreds longer, and those things combined means they’re going to sag.

I was pretty annoyed with myself at this point, friends.

Still, I didn’t give up! I cut off the shreds altogether, and cut out the outline of the heart.

cutting out heart applique
This is some self-loathing snippage right here.

I thought my sweater looked like a botched DIY project (which to be fair, it was) at this point.

But then I had an idea!

I picked up one of the shredded bits and pinned it to the outline of the heart.

pinned shred on outline of heart

Then, I pinned more!

scraps pinned to edge of heart
Yes. The center thing looks stupid. Don’t worry. It’s doesn’t stay.

I carefully stitched them all down.

sewing edge of heart
Everything’s going to work okay now, right?

But when I tried it on, I noticed that center part had a…problem, so I snipped it out.

center part looking awkward
Apparently, I forgot I have breasts when I thought this was a good idea.

What was I going for with that thing anyways? Some sort of “NO LOVE” message? Nobody needs that level of negativity in their lives right now.

I was finally almost done with this (very stressful) refashion!

I didn’t like the original look of the sleeves, so I changed them up.

Scalloped sleeve

To do this, I folded them into cuffs and pinned them in place.

pinned cuff of sleeve

Then I tacked them down at the top and the bottom.

tacking down sleeve cuff
Just a couple of stitches with do it!

FINALLY, after much mental anguish, I was DONE!!!!!!

refashionista Valentine's Day Reverse Appliqué Heart Sweater close up
Hey…that looks not-so-bad!

You guys! I really like this one!!!!

refashionista Valentine's Day Reverse Appliqué Heart Sweater after
You could even say I “heart” it!

I styled my new sweater with a pair of high-waisted ripped mom/boyfriend jeans (See Zennials, I’m cool! I’m hip! I’m with it!) and waterproof boots.

refashionista Valentine's Day Reverse Appliqué Heart Sweater in rain with umbrella
This is why waterproof boots were necessary!

Feeling festive? You might also like this Valentine’s Day T-Shirt Refashion!

When Erin saw it, she said, “Oh…that’s a good one. Some idiot would totally spend $100 on it at Urban Outfitters.”

Jillian Owens and Erin

I’m happy with it. I like that I was able to keep some of the ragged/punkish aesthetic I was originally going for and that I kept going even when it wasn’t working out.

In refashioning, the difference between a success and a fail often comes down to not giving up. With a little creativity and problem-solving (even if you created said problem yourself), you can almost always pivot and adapt to make it work!

Jillian drinking wine
Deep thoughts, yo.

Cheers…and Happy Valentine’s Day!

refashionista Valentine's Day Reverse Appliqué Heart Sweater before and after
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51 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day Reverse Appliqué Heart Sweater”

  1. We were without power over St. Valentine’s Day (due to an historic ice storm in the NW) and just did get internet back about an hour ago, so I’m just now seeing the results of your beautiful perseverance. And you are so right… “In refashioning [as well as in life], the difference between a success and a fail often comes down to not giving up.” And…I can just picture Mr. R rolling on the floor with laughter all through this. What an adorable and entertaining wife he has!

    • I’m so sorry to hear you were without power! I feel terrible for folks in TX right now. 🙁 Hoping for warmer weather where you are! And thank you for your kind words!

  2. I really like this one, and I liked hearing about your process. The approach you take with refashioning and making clothing work for you is so motivating. You also have a great way of breaking the rules that makes sewing really accessible and removes some of the intimidation I felt when I first started using my sewing machine. I’ve appreciated reading through your blog for a few years now and even if the finished product isn’t always my style, chances are I still learned something valuable and for that I’m grateful you chose to share these refashions with people.

  3. Right up until the final couple of pics, I thought this was going to be an epic fail, but you managed to rescue it. Love the finished product.

  4. This may be one of my favorite EVER of your refashions! The fact that it didn’t go quite as expected, turned out beautiful in the end, and is perfectly un-perfect..It sure sounds a lot like love! If only you weren’t such a tiny thing, I’d offer to buy it for more than the hundred bucks the UO fool would pay! ❤️

  5. Oh for goodness sakes! Who goes after a blogger because of the ads on their site? To say nothing of the fact that your’e spewing right-wing nonsense and tying it to Jillian’s cancer battle. Gah!

  6. As a blogger and wife of a blogger, I will tell you that 1) bloggers have little or no control over the ads that show up on their blogs, and 2) ads are TARGETED to the viewer so it may be that you were targeted for whatever reason. So don’t dis Jillian about your politicfal views and what you’ve been scrolling.

  7. Thanks, Leslae. Do you mean that you hand wash them in just vinegar and detergent? I haven’t tried that. Doing a regular machine wash with lots of water and adding detergent and vinegar has not worked for me.

  8. I always wash my thrift store finds in my regular detergent and white vinegar. Vinegar removes smells pretty effectively, but the smell of the vinegar rinses out well and leaves no vinegar scent.

  9. Thank you, Pauline! I just saw your reply after I posted that I have tried vodka, but didn’t have any success with it. It probably works fine for more natural odors, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference for these newer synthetic fragrances.

  10. My 17 year old daughter loves thrifting and came home with a Alfred Dunner sweater. I told her that is the brand your grandmother use to wear! Guess you are on to a new trend. Love seeing your posts and your clever ideas.

  11. Hi Bethany, and YES, that fruity scent is absolutely impossible to remove! So healthy for all the girls soaking in the endocrine-disrupting chemicals that make it up, right? 🙁 I’ve even tried burying clothing items in unscented cat litter, both clay and silica, but that hasn’t made much difference. I think these newer long-lasting fragrances can probably only be removed with other chemicals. I have tried vodka, which I’ve heard is a cheap dry-cleaning substitute. I’ve tried mixing in essential oils, like lemon, with castile soap or laundry detergent or even unscented Downy, hoping I can find a magic formula that pulls the fragrances out, with little success. It’s very frustrating, because, as you said, once you’ve been in the store for any length of time, you do get nose-blind to most of the smells, so you end up bringing things home that you wouldn’t have if you could have properly smelled them.

  12. I have the exact same problem! I’m deeply sensitive to fragrances (I only use unscented cleaners and laundry products). I love thrifted clothing, but I can never tell if a scent will actually let go of the fabric or not. I’ve done the vinegar, Borax, and baking soda soaks. I’ve also let clothes “air out” outside for months at a time. (I usually have to do this with new items too, but not for nearly as long.) Sometimes, this works, but frequently, it doesn’t. And sometimes, my items aren’t safe to wear until after the season for them has long passed.

    When I’m in a physical thrift shop, I go a little “nose blind” after about 15 minutes, so I can’t always tell how bad a fragrance will be. But anything that smells even vaguely of that fake strawberry “tween” perfume is not even worth touching! That scent never comes out. These days I’m doing more online shopping, so I can’t predict what a thrifted item will smell like when it arrives. I’m considering only purchasing “new with tags” items now, but of course, those are more expensive.

  13. Hi Katherine. I had heard theatre wardrobe assistants spray actors’ clothes with a mixture of vodka and water in between performances as they don’t have time to wash them. It works by the vodka evaporating and taking the odour with it! I tried it on some coats which had gone a little musty in storage and it worked a treat.Lots of advice available on the Internet about ratio etc.

  14. Thanks, Lea! I have tried borax in the wash and vinegar in the rinse. I guess next time I’ll try them together and see if that makes a difference.

  15. Thanks, Deborah! I’ve tried all of those, and the problem is they are not very effective on synthetics. My neighbors who can see my deck probably wonder why I have clothing hanging out there all the time. 🙂

  16. Thank you, Rebecca, that is one technique I haven’t tried! I actually just used heat to remove fragrance from a thrift store bra. I decided it was worth the effort for a $200(!!!) bra I found for $3.99, but numerous washings failed to remove the dreadful scent. I hit on the idea of putting it on top of a heating vent in a room we don’t use, and it’s gradually fading away. Very gradually…

  17. Thanks, Murielle! I have found the same with synthetic fabrics. I’ve been outgassing a winter jacket for a year or so now, so I guess it’s time to give up on that one. 🙂

  18. I love what you do, Jillian! And that wig is darling. May I ask the name of the wig and where to purchase? My stepdaughter just started chemo and she would love this look!

  19. The deep thoughts are what got me. “…the difference between a success and a fail often comes down to not giving up.” I think that way in life.

    Thanks for the smile today!

  20. I am the same.
    Here’s what I have learned: Buy only natural fabrics, synthetics hold onto fragrance for dear life. Wash in vinegar, line dry, let it out-gas for a while, then wash in vinegar again.
    And the sad part is it can take a very long time for fabric to out-gas.
    I wish you the very best luck.

  21. Erin is 100% right–this is super cute!

    If you did it again, a smaller heart might make the slashing more doable. Also, you don’t necessarily have to cut the applique into a heart shape before attaching it. Instead, you can just trace the shape onto the applique fabric and leave a generous seam allowance. You can trim away the excess once it’s attached to the main shirt. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like having more fabric allowance might make that step less stressful.

  22. Hey Katherine! I’ve found that sticking vintage garments in the freezer often kills a lot of smells. Unfortunately old fabrics just hold on to scents sometimes, but give the freezer a try. Also never stick vintage in the dryer! Something about the heat resurrects that smell I swear.

  23. Love it. This bit made me laugh:
    Some sort of “NO LOVE” message? Nobody needs that level of negativity in their lives right now.

  24. Love it! Your process today pretty much sums up 2020. Your success today is a beacon of hope for 2021! Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your boys!

  25. Super cute!

    I have a question I’m hoping you or your fans can address: What is the most effective way to remove fragrances from thrifted clothing? I am sensitive to fragrances to the point of illness, so this has been my biggest frustration with buying used clothing. These new long-lasting laundry fragrances have proved so difficult to remove that I often have to donate them back, unworn. Anyone have a method that works?

  26. I love the message that you sent here about sticking with it, listening to your muse and using possible failure as a pivot to something that is successful and fun. Pure creativity at its best!


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