Machine embroidery on denim

By on August 11th, 2021
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machine embroidery on denim
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My kids say that I’m a true hippy at heart which may explain why I love the look of machine embroidery on denim.  The contrast of the glossy embroidery thread against a deep indigo denim simply makes me swoon. In fact, when I first got my embroidery machine, it was probably the first fabric I began experimenting with.

Can you machine embroider denim?

Yes! Of course! And, it’s actually pretty easy to do.

The reason why denim is such a great fabric for machine embroidery is because it is fairly flat (no nap), incredibly durable (so it can withstand all of the punctures associated with stitching out a dense and detailed design), and it has very little stretch. These properties make it a great base for almost any type of embroidery designs as well as appliqué.

What types of denim clothing and accessories can you embroider on?

The possibilities for machine embroidery on denim are endless.  You can embroider on existing denim clothing like skirts, shirts, jackets and jeans.  Or, you can purchase denim fabric and then assemble the project after you complete the embroidery.

Machine embroidery on denim skirts

If you decide to embroider on existing denim clothing, I think a denim skirt is one of your easiest options. Because a skirt has a wide opening at the bottom, it’s easy to access all areas using your embroidery machine. I have embroidered on several denim skirts, stitching out a repeated pattern or a bold, graphic flower on the front of the skirt.

Even with a small embroidery hoop, you can make a cool and interesting pattern by stitching out multiple instances of the same embroidery design down the front of the skirt.

machine embroidery on denim skirt
A little bit of machine embroidery gave this skirt some funky flavor. I made this for my sister-in-law several years ago using my modern circles embroidery design.

Machine embroidery on denim jackets

Another popular denim item to machine embroider are jackets. I have seen people stitch out large designs on the center back of a denim jacket and it looks amazing.  The only issue is that stitching out a large embroidery design requires a large embroidery hoop.

If your embroidery machine limits you to a smaller hoop, you could stitch out a cluster of designs on the back to make a larger design, or you could stitch two coordinating designs on both sides of the upper front chest of the jacket.

machine embroidery on denim jacket
Photo provided by Shannon Crabtree and used with her permission

If you do stitch a large design on the back center of the jacket, take your time to make sure that your design is properly placed. One of my Facebook friends accidentally stitched a huge tiger’s face way too low on the back of a jacket so she added a branch over the head of the animal. It was actually a pretty clever way to fix an embroidery mistake.

If you are excited by the notion of embroidering on a denim jacket, check out DIME’s Just Jackets collection.  It includes 50 different embroidery designs specifically suited for embellishing denim jackets.

Machine embroidery on denim jeans

There are a lot of different places on which you can stitch out an embroidery design on a pair of denim jeans. I’ve seen people monogram the back pocket of a pair of jeans or stitch designs on the upper thigh. But, most commonly, I’ve seen embroidery and appliqué applied near the ankle of the denim jeans.

The trickiest part of embroidery on denim jeans is that you often have to open up a seam in order to access the spot on which you want to embroider.  If you want the design to be visible, you will likely want to open the inside seam of the jeans. Unfortunately, on the inside seam of many women’s jeans, there is an extra bit of topstitching – so it’s a bit more effort to remove it and requires you to repair the extra top stitching.

Machine embroidery on denim fabric

Denim is a great fabric for clothing, but it can be used for a lot more than that.  Since denim is such a durable and versatile material, you can use it to make a lot of different items that need to withstand a bit of wear and tear.  Denim is a perfect fabric to use for a small duffel bag or a tote.  The beauty of making the finished product is that you can embroider it up all you want prior to stitching it all together.

Denim is also great for home goods.  You can make denim napkins, table cloths and even pillow covers. Then, add a bit of embroidery to give them a bit of character.

Can you embroider over a hole in your denim?

One reason you may want to machine embroider on denim is to cover a hole!  A little butterfly or heart adds a bit of new life to a slightly worn out pair of jeans while disguising a hole. The key is to seal the hole shut prior to stitching out the design. Check out this previous post where I demonstrate how to machine embroider over a hole.

What to embroider on denim

After scouring my embroidery Facebook groups for examples of machine embroidery on denim, I feel like I have seen just about everything embroidered on denim.  Of course, many people opt for the classic 60s look of wild flowers and butterflies which I’m a big fan of – of course.

Single initial embroidered on denim
Photo provided by Karen Newman and used with her permission

But, don’t be afraid to think outside the box when looking for designs to stitch out on your denim. I’ve seen wild animals, signs and symbols, favorite characters, flames and explosions, and more.  The back of a denim jacket can be a great place to pay tribute to an event, a club or even a memorial to a special person.

tiger embroidery design on denim
Photo provided by Julie Fenn of Over the Top Embroidery and used with her permission.

Where to purchase denim for machine embroidery

I’ve found denim skirts and jeans for next to nothing at Old Navy at the end of the fall/winter season.  But, if you don’t have patience for the sale season to roll around, there are inexpensive denim items available year round at places like Marshalls and TJ Maxx and even on Amazon.

Probably your best deal on denim fabric is to use your 50% off coupon at Joann’s.  Denim is the type of fabric that’s always in stock.

If you are gun shy about how your embroidery on denim is going to turn out – head to Goodwill to buy some denim for next to nothing.  I just about live in cut off jeans, but prefer to make them out of men’s discarded jeans so they sit lower on my hips. After I’ve created cut offs, I sometimes use the leftover denim for other projects – even denim skirts for my girls when they were little.

Preparing your denim prior to embroidery

Anyone who has owned a pair of jeans knows that denim shrinks – and it’s not just when we put on a few extra pounds.  So, before you start to add embroidery or appliqué to denim, you definitely want to wash and dry it. And, of course, you definitely want to wash and dry the appliqué fabric if you will be adding appliqué to your denim.

Essential Stabilizer for Machine Embroidery

Stabilizer for embroidery on denim

Even though denim is quite tough, you still want to use stabilizer when embroidering on it.  Most people recommend using some type of cut away stabilizer.  I prefer fusible poly mesh because it’s a bit more flexible than standard cut away.  Plus, I just fuse it on the back of the fabric where I’m embroidering and then float both the fabric with the fused stabilizer onto a piece of sticky back tear away stabilizer.

Tips for embroidering on denim

embroidery on denim
Photo provided by Julie Fenn of Over the Top Embroidery and used with her permission.

While denim is a fairly easy material to embroider on, your will likely have better results if you take a few precautions.

Since denim is so tough, you should consider changing the needle on your embroidery machine.  If you are stitching out a design on a lightweight denim shirt, you can easily use a typical 75/11 to stitch out a design. But for tough denim, you probably want to embroider using a stronger needle, such as a 90/11 titanium embroidery needle.

If you are embroidering on denim clothing – look out for obstacles within the garment. As your machine moves over the fabric, it can easily get hung up on the seams, pockets and rivets.

if you are planning on stitching out several designs on your denim, you may consider printing out the design and laying it out on your garment.  This can help you identify all the center points for every instance of embroidery design you stitch out.

Most importantly – have fun and get creative.  Embroidered denim can truly be a work of art.

xo

Julie

Denim for machine embroidery

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how to machine embroider on denim
Photo provided by Julie Fenn of Over the Top Embroidery and used with her permission.

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