DIY Distressed & Embroidered Top

red distressed top with gold stars

A couple of weeks ago, I finally went to the Goodwill Sunday sale again. All items tagged with a particular color get marked down to $0.50 and it’s so. much. fun. The reduced prices are great for the sake of saving money, but it also gives me the chance to try out some new things without much investment. That’s where this top came in. It was tacky, unflattering, and crying out to be my next DIY.

red long sleeve top with gold embroidered stars

Here’s what I was working with. I was looking to add some playful pieces to my wardrobe, so a bunch of gold embroidered stars seemed perfect. Everything else about this top was oh so wrong. I wear a lot of oversized tops for that cool casual look, but this didn’t drape well and looked… just bad. Also, I’m not a huge fan of red, but on the plus side, it gets me out of my comfort zone.

flatlay of sewing materials

For this simple DIY, I used:

  • a rotary cutter, ruler, and mat (similar set)
  • fabric scissors (mine)
  • a fabric pencil
  • matching thread
  • seam ripper

An aside about sewing supplies- If you’re a beginner building up your kit, it’s worth investing in a good pair of scissors and rotary cutting set. I use them for every project and haven’t had to replace a single thing. To all my fellow left-handed people, they are versions of these tools for us too, so no more living in a right-handed world!

Okay, back to the DIY.

cutting new hemline

The first thing to go was the hem. Initially, I took 4 inches off. Always, take off less than you want! It saves you from ending up with a crop top when you weren’t trying to make one. I then put the top back on and decided to take off another 1-2 inches.

I left the hem raw because let’s be real, I’m intentionally putting holes in the shirt later, so I think an unfinished hem is fine. The raw edges of t-shirts curl up when stretched or washed, so if you didn’t cut an perfectly straight line, no one will be able to tell!

After adjusting the hem, the top immediately felt cooler. Still, I was unsure of my next move. I wanted to play up the stars. I considered outlining the existing ones in matching or contrasting thread, but it seemed a bit too subtle.

large star pattern marked on top with washable fabric marker

In the end, I went for a large star. As you can see, the whole thing didn’t fit and I thought that was fun and a bit unexpected. Drawing this star was the most time consuming part of this project! As it turns out, the small stars are off center, so centering the large star looked weird. I opted for off center placement instead. To keep the “legs” of the star even, I measured the base width and length of the top one and drew the two side legs to match. The large scale meant I didn’t really have to do the bottom two, which I’m thankful for because I probably would have ended up with a wonky uneven star.

I sewed over the lines with thread I already had that happened to match quite well. Don’t you love when you already have what you need? It’s kind of the best. I used a zigzag stitch with a short length to keep the stitches closer together. Again, I wasn’t going for a perfect look, so I thought this worked well.


The last step was to rough it up! It isn’t for everyone, but I like distressed clothes. It gives the garment more interest, texture, and all the chill vibes. To do this, I used a seam ripper. I concentrated on specific areas like the around the collar, the hemline, and a few spots in the midsection. I recommend clustering the holes and varying them in size. If you don’t want to show skin, don’t worry. You can still do this, just keep the holes small.

red distressed top with gold stars

Apologies for the blurriness, the light wasn’t on my side.

For a $0.50 investment, I think I did pretty good. You can do this to anything that has an existing graphic or embroidery. Honestly, the options are endless and I think it’s safe to say the layered embroidery, raw hem and distressing combination would almost always result in a cool garment.

This top makes any jeans and t-shirt outfit a little more interesting. Because it is slightly cropped, it would look cool layered over longer tops too. I’m even inclined to pair it with my Everlane wide leg cropped trousers for a more elevated, but still casual, look. I’m sure some of these looks will be popping up on my Instagram, so stay tuned!

I hope this inspires you to have a little DIY fun.




7 thoughts on “DIY Distressed & Embroidered Top

  1. Pingback: DIY The Perfect Boyfriend Jeans | Rose Recast

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