Whether you’ve bought a sweatshirt that’s too small or have one that has shrunk in the wash, knowing how to stretch a sweatshirt can be a useful skill. It can take a bit of time and effort, but the results can be impressive if done properly.
Below, we’ll cover how to stretch a sweatshirt. Before moving on to the method, let’s go over some considerations.
Things to Know Before Stretching a Sweatshirt
Stretching a sweatshirt isn’t a difficult process. However, there are a couple of things to bear in mind before you get started:
- What’s your sweatshirt made of? Natural fibres (cotton, wool, etc.) have a lot of natural stretch in them. Synthetic fibres, however, don’t. As such, a sweatshirt that’s purely synthetic or a blended fabric won’t be stretchable.
- Will it be permanent? If your sweatshirt has shrunk, stretching it should help return it to its original size. However, if you want to make a small sweatshirt bigger, you’ll have to repeat this process, possibly after every wash.
- How will it affect the fit? Stretching a sweatshirt incorrectly can result in a poor fit. You’ll want to avoid stretching the arms, head hole and waistband wherever possible to try and retain its original shape as much as possible.
Make sure you consider these points while stretching your sweatshirt to ensure you get the best results possible.
How to Stretch a Sweatshirt
Method 1: Soak with conditioner
For the first method, you’ll need:
- Fabric softener or hair conditioner
- A sink or bucket
The steps are as follows:
- Run some lukewarm water in a sink or bucket and add around 50ml of conditioner or fabric softener per 5L of water.
- Put your sweatshirt in the water and knead thoroughly to make sure the conditioner properly penetrates the fibres. Leave it to soak for 30-60 minutes.
- Drain the water and replace it with cooler water.
- Knead the sweatshirt again to remove the conditioner and leave it to soak for 5 minutes.
- Drain the water again and lightly wring out your sweatshirt.
- Lay it on a towel (or several, depending on its size), ensuring it has enough room to spread out.
- Hold it near the top and begin stretching one side seam. Work your way from under the arm to the waist seam, stretching with small, gentle pulls. Repeat this on the other side, and ensure the seams remain level.
- Leave the sweatshirt on the towel to dry and it should’ve stretched.
You can use this method to make the sweatshirt wider, too, but you’ll want to be careful doing this. Stretching its width can affect the fit more than stretching the length.
You might want to consider doing it gradually over several soaks to make sure you’re happy with the fit.
Method 2: Washing and ironing
For this method, you’ll need:
- A washing machine
- A tumble dryer (although this isn’t entirely necessary)
- Ironing board
- Weights (dumbbells, jugs of water or plastic bags of sugar, etc.)
The steps are as follows:
- Wash your sweatshirt as normal in the washing machine. A 30-degree Celsius cycle with some fabric softener will be best.
- Put it in the tumble dryer for 20 minutes or so. It should come out still damp. If you don’t have a tumbler dryer, hang it up for an hour or two.
- Turn on your iron and put it on the cotton setting. Put your sweatshirt on the ironing board and iron down the side seam, stretching the fabric as you go. You should use the iron to push the fabric as you stretch it. Repeat along the other seam.
- Hang it up to air dry from the bottom seam, so it’s upside down. Alternatively, lay it flat to air dry on a towel and place weights along the top and bottom seams. This should hold the material in place as it dries to prevent it from shrinking back into place.
The steps for how to stretch a sweatshirt basically involve pulling it into the desired shape. When doing so, however, you need to take care to stretch it evenly. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a wonky bottom hem, which can be pretty obvious when you’re wearing it.
It might be worth practising on an older sweatshirt that you no longer wear. This’ll mean you can get it right first time on the actual sweatshirt you want to stretch, so it looks even.
Either way, make sure you wash it in cold water moving forwards to avoid as much shrinkage as possible.
Jacob is a freelance writer based in Wales, where he lives with his partner and two dogs. All his work is fuelled by extensive research and buckets of coffee.