How to Embroider the Back Pocket of Your Favorite Pair of Jeans

comments (5) September 20th, 2008     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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Heres my embroidered pocket.
This is the before shot.
Use a sharp seam ripper to take the pocket off.
Heres my embroidered pocket.

Here's my embroidered pocket.

Photo: jen stern
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I'm always on the lookout for cool embroidered back pockets. It is amazing to see what other people come up with as far as design and technique. And there's always plenty to look at—walking down the street or shopping in my favorite stores. I'm embarrassed to admit that sometimes the temptation is too great and I find myself examining back pockets in church. (Everyone is so cooperative, standing perfectly still!) Anyway, if you have a pair of jeans in your closet that have plain back pockets, let me show you how to add embroidery to give them a face-lift. And when we're done embroidering, I'll show you how easy it is to sew the pockets back on!

I love this project because you can transform the look of your jeans in just a couple of hours.

Here's what you'll need:

  • A pair of jeans
  • A sharp seam ripper
  • Firm fusible interfacing
  • Embroidery designs and thread in colors of your choice
  • Heavy tear-away stabilizer
  • Temporary adhesive spray
  • Sewer's Aid (if you use metallic threads)
  • Topstitch needle, size 14
  • YLI Jean Stitch thread or your choice of heavy topstitching thread
  • Wonder Tape
  • A hammer and hard surface, like a sidewalk

I'm going to work with the back pockets of a pair of jeans that I have made into a denim skirt.

Use a sharp seam ripper to take out the topstitching. Most pockets have a heavy back-tack stitch at the top of the pocket. Once you carefully pick that out, the rest of the stitching comes out easily.

Use a sharp seam ripper. If you've had yours for a while, it might be time to get a new one (they get dull).

Fuse a piece of heavy interfacing to the wrong side of the pocket.

If you're worried that the raw edges of the pocket might be a problem, you can cover them with fusible interfacing to protect them, too.

Import the design you are going to use into your embroidery machine. This flower was part of a much longer design that included a stem and some leaves. I brought it into my customizing software and chopped off the bloom. If you have embroidery software that allows you to edit designs, keep in mind that you don't have to use the whole design. I thought that the top of this flower would make a perfect pocket design, so I got rid of the stem.

Center the design in the middle of the smallest hoop it will fit in.

Hoop heavy tear-away stabilizer and draw "cross-hair" lines to make it easy to get your pocket directly in the center of the hoop.

Use temporary adhesive spray to adhere the pocket to the stabilizer.

If you want a little sparkle, this is the perfect place to embroider it because the back side of the embroidery won't be against your skin (metallic threads can be a little scratchy). If you are going to use metallic thread, make sure to put a few beads of Sewer's Aid directly on the spool to lubricate the thread. Also, even though I forgot to put it in the photo, use a metallica needle, too.

Always use Sewer's Aid on the thread. Don't put it directly on your embroidery machine because it will mess up the tension discs...ask me how I know that.

Now, embroider your design.

Embroider the design on the pocket.

When the embroidery is done, take the pocket out of the hoop and tear away as much of the stabilizer as you can.

Here are some tips to make sewing your pockets back on a snap! The corners of a pocket are very thick because of all the edges that are folded on top of one another. You can use a hammer to gently pound the thick spots to soften the fabric.

Softening the thick corners will make them easier to sew through.

If you didn't take out the original topstitching thread when you removed the pockets, pick it out now. Notice that the thread protects denim from fading, so you have a nice dark line that you can use as a guide to sew the pocket back on.

Pick off all the topstitching before you sew the pocket back on.

The next step is to position the pocket back on your jeans, exactly the way it was originally. To keep the pocket from shifting as you sew, stick it in place using Wonder Tape. Wonder Tape is a 1/4-inch-wide, double-sided sticky tape, and I think it works better than using pins to hold the pocket in place. The best part is that the Wonder Tape will wash away when you throw your jeans in the laundry.

Wonder Tape is so sticky that you don't have to cover every inch of the edge—just get some on each side.

After you peel the paper backing off, it looks like mini Scotch tape.

Peel the paper backing off the Wonder Tape.

Stick the pocket back into its original position. Then, set your machine up for topstitching. Change the needle to a size 14 topstitching needle, and thread the needle with heavy YLI Jean Stitch thread. Don't use the Jean Stitch thread in the bobbin; it will be too much for your machine to handle. I use all-purpose thread in the bobbin—either the color of the Jean Stitch thread or the denim. If you can't find Jean Stitch thread in a store near you, you can get it at Red Rock Threads. Lengthen your stitch length to 3.5–4.0mm.

A topstitching needle has a very long eye so that it can accommodate the heavy topstitching thread.

Starting at the top edge of the pocket, follow the dark line to stitch the pocket back on. To reinforce the stitching at the top edges of the pocket, backstitch to create the look of a bar tack. If you stitch along the outer line all the way to the opposite top edge of the pocket, you can backstitch (creating a "bar tack") and then continue back on the inner topstitch line going in the opposition direction to your start point. That way you can finish sewing the pocket with a back tack on the top of the pocket where you started sewing.

You shouldn't have any trouble going around the corners if you softened them with a hammer!


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posted in: embroidery, pockets

Comments (5)

JonesEmma writes: Wow! I love the unfinished chalk marks and stains! Is there a name or address to research the embroiderer? I would try to look into it and if nothing, I would make up a history. The piece could become an artwork between stitchers through time, though I would leave the original stitches as is and add new completely different images too. Enjoy whatever you decide:).
Posted: 5:23 am on August 5th
thedigitizingdiva writes: Hey Jen!

As always you have great information!!! Your patterns are great, and I think this is great info...very detailed! So many "how to's" are woefully lacking in specifics!!!

Excellent comment about softening the edges with the hammer and positioning with wonder tape!!!

Charlton Sewing Center, Embroidery Instructor
Posted: 10:55 am on May 26th
scrapslady writes: I'm with sewingcats. I have an embroidery machine but haven't learned to use it yet. Don't see why you couldn't use a hand embroidery pattern to do the same thing. If you're really good at hand embroidery, it can be even more charming.
Posted: 3:13 pm on March 7th
sewingcats writes: Not everyone has an embrodiery machine! What's your idea for those of us who will have to use a needle and floss/ribbon or the built-in stitches on our sewing machines?
Posted: 4:37 pm on January 3rd
robingal1 writes: This is great! I'm looking forward to trying this myself!
Posted: 2:27 pm on September 22nd
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