Saturday, August 25, 2012

Save your shirt — Shave your shirt!

Have you ever loved a shirt so much that it started to develop little warm fuzzies in all the places where you loved it most (the places where it rubbed against your arm, for example)? Or have you ever gotten a new shirt and found it frustratingly covered with fuzzies after a single washing? Well, those fuzzies have a name in the fashion world—pills. And that second example has a name, too: polyester.

All fabrics develop pills with time—they occur when [Warning: I'm about to sound all scientific!] friction weakens the fabric, causing it to unravel on the microscopic level, forming little balls of partially detached material. All fabrics do not wear evenly, though, and in my experience the worst culprit is polyester knits, which seem to pill the instant you put them on. Hence my personal policy and Style Tip Never pay full price for 100% polyester clothing. You're almost certain not to get your money's worth.

If, however, like me, you have recently come into possession of a large collection of used clothing, there is a good chance that some of it will be polyester, and some of it will demonstrate some unsightly pilling. You can make that clothing look almost new again with a basic tool you probably already have. What is that, you're asking? Read on to find out!

I bought this rainbow top on eBay for far more than I should have ($4.18 if you logically divide the price of the 4-piece lot it came in) because I thought it was so awesome (I mean, Holy Crazy Rainbow Colors! My boyfriend tells me it's very Brady Bunch, which I'll take as a compliment?) and was thus doubly disappointed to find it in such a well worn condition. But not to be daunted, I merely pulled out my secret weapon—a safety razor!

Yes, that's all you need to rejuvenate a pilled-up travesty.

Shaving your shirts is a pretty straightforward process—it's basically just like shaving your legs, but there is a significant risk involved: you might accidentally cut the fabric rather than just skimming off the pills. Here are a couple of tips to prevent this unfortunate event from occurring.
  • Use your old dull razor that you were about to throw out. A slightly unsharp tool is less likely to accidentally slice into your clothes. Plus, it means one fewer wasted item in the landfill! Hooray!
  • Stretch the fabric on a flat surface before you begin shaving. I just make do with my hands and feet, but I'm sure you can come up with a better system, like holding it in place with heavy books, or using a canvas stretcher if you happen to be an artist, or something.
  • Shave parallel to the lines in the knit. This is less likely to cause stretching and puckering and their inevitable result—cutting!
  • You'll probably need to go over the same spot several times. I use lots of overlapping strokes to ensure that no pill is left unturned!
  • Be especially careful over seams and places where there is more than one layer of fabric. In the process of shaving this shirt, I nicked it twice, and both times were over a seam.
  • Don't use shaving cream. I would hope this would be obvious, but since I made the smart-aleck comment about it being just like shaving your legs, I thought I'd better be sure. 
  • Oh yeah. Don't bother with the water, either.
Here's a picture of the shirt after I was done shaving it. Look at all the fuzz that came off it!

And here's a close-up of the fabric before (bottom) and after (top) shaving. Can you see the difference? Admittedly, there's nothing that can be done about the fading, but at least I've turned this old scruffy shirt into merely an old one—and old is appropriate for the Brady Bunch, right?

Author's Note: An article from eHow advises you to ignore all the wise instructions I have given you and to not use a razor because you might cut the fabric. To that I say, ha! A true Unfashionista is careful and brave! A true Unfashionista scoffs at these kinds of trepidations, and a true Unfashionista has never even heard of – let alone would be willing to pay money for – a brand-new "sweater comb" that the article recommends, when a used razor is so much more economical!

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