The environmentalist precept of “reduce, reuse, recycle” is an aesthetic touchstone for designer Emily Bode, isolating since mid-March in British Columbia. Since graduating from Parsons a few years ago, she has established herself as a maverick presence on the menswear scene, her quirky designs attracting the attention of awards committees as well as a passionate fan base.

The notion of repurposing whatever is at hand was thus no challenge for Bode, who often makes clothes from vintage and scavenged materials of all sorts, including French mattress ticking, quilts, embroidered tablecloths and even old pennies.

For this project, she proposed making a “sweetheart” T-shirt as a present for that significant other you may not have seen IRL for some time.

“There’s no experience in sewing necessary,” Bode said. “The more homemade and messy, the better.”

The first step to creating your “sweetheart” T-shirt is to gather your supplies.  (Samantha Hahn/The New York Times)
The first step to creating your “sweetheart” T-shirt is to gather your supplies. (Samantha Hahn/The New York Times)

Your tool kit

— T-shirt

— Scissors

— Needle and thread

— Pencil

STEP 1: Choose your thread

Choose thread colors that contrast with the T-shirt. “This is a great time to use all of the pre-threaded needles from those miniature hotel mending kits,” Bode said.

Examples of stitches for your “sweetheart” T-shirt. (Samantha Hahn / The New York Times)
Examples of stitches for your “sweetheart” T-shirt. (Samantha Hahn / The New York Times)

STEP 2: Sew a running stitch

Sew a simple loose running stitch along the edges of the cuffs, collar and hem of the T-shirt. Repeat as many times as you like, using different colors, and feel free to experiment with harder stitches like a whipstitch or a zigzag, if you’re undaunted by those. Stitch loosely so the shirt can stretch over your head and body. Tie the thread ends to your last stitch so the knot does not pull through the knit of the shirt.

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STEP 3: Outline a heart

Very lightly, with your pencil, outline a large heart on the front of the T-shirt. “I like to draw an arrow through the heart,” she said.

STEP 4: Trace the heart with thread

Using the same running stitch, trace the heart with the needle and thread.

STEP 5: Add chosen name or initials

Again, very lightly with a pencil, write your chosen initials or name diagonally inside the heart. Stitch the initials as in Step 4.

STEP 6: Wash your tee

Wash your T-shirt to erase pencil marks.