DIY Denim Jacket Embroidery Tutorial

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Embroidery on a jacket is a fun way to showcase your personal style!

And while denim jackets wax and wane in popularity, right now, I love the matching embroidered denim jackets I made my daughter and me. 

Want to learn more about adding machine embroidery to a jacket? Follow along in this tutorial!

how to embroider a jacket

Denim Jacket Embroidery Ideas

First, let’s talk about what you can put on a jacket and where to put it!

1. Embroidery Design Selection

back yoke of denim jacket with flowers embroidered

Flowers are arguably the most popular designs to add to denim jackets, but birds, music, sayings, and even names are all fair game. Try browsing around Etsy for inspiration!

Whatever design you use, though, make sure it is digitized well.

Designs with a too-high stitch density can cause puckering and curling at the design edges and affect the drape of the fabric. (Ever felt those hard designs that don’t scrunch or move when the fabric folds? Avoid this!) One easy way to ensure there aren’t too many stitches in your designs is to swap large fill-stitch areas for applique. 

If you don’t yet have a design idea for your jacket, I used the Just Jackets designs by Joanne Banko, which I got from DIME. This design pack includes three collections featuring folk art, shooting stars, and rose designs. 

2. Parts of a Jeans Jacket to Embroider

Unless your embroidery machine has heavy-duty mastery, you won’t be able to embroider over thick seams. 

However, there are still many places to add embroidery to denim jackets! 

mommy and me denim embroidered jackets

First, try the back yoke or the center back panel. The side panels are also an option for certain jackets!

front yoke embroidered on denim jacket

The two front yokes and collar tips are just waiting for embroidery, too.

adding embroidery to jeans jacket cuff

And lastly, don’t forget about the cuffs!

Sleeves are also an option if you have an embroidery machine with a free arm. Single-needle, flatbed machines can’t get to this area without seam ripping to isolate the sleeve in a single layer.

Stabilizer Selection for Jean Jackets

sticky tear away stabilizer

Stretchy denim jackets need at least one layer of cut-away or no-show mesh stabilizer for best results. Tear-away can also be an option, but only consider it for stable, non-stretchy jackets with low stitch count designs. 

Fusible stabilizers also keep jackets from stretching during embroidery, thus providing a better stitch out. I recommend a fusible stabilizer on the inside of the jacket! 

Also, since hooping is difficult, consider a layer of hooped sticky stabilizer to hold the jacket outside the hoop. The hooped stabilizer can be either a sticky tear-away or a sticky wash-away stabilizer like Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy. 

Supplies for Making a Denim Embroidered Jacket

Here’s what I used for this denim jacket embroidery tutorial!

How to Embroider a Denim Jacket

denim jacket embroidery tutorial with a machine

Now, follow these steps to embroider a jeans jacket for your new wardrobe!

1. Print a Template and Decide on Design Location.

print design template

First, print templates from your software to help with placement. You can download Embroidery Tool Shed from DIME or pick from these free embroidery software options

Before printing, make sure the designs are mirrored correctly and don’t need to be resized. You can resize most designs within ~10% without affecting the properties too much. 

using template to center designs

Next, cut the templates out and play with placement options on your jeans jacket. 

marking design centers

Then, mark the center lines of the design on the jacket with chalk or your favorite marking tool. 

marking design sides

I found it easier to mark the outside of the embroidery designs and use those lines as a reference for where the bottom corner of the design should stitch. 

Also, if you don’t want to mark the jacket, add a little temporary fabric adhesive on the back of the template and secure it. (When you later line up the needle with the template, peel it off before stitching.)

target paper

You could also print on something like DIME’s Print & Stick target paper, which is especially helpful if you’re embroidering in bulk. 

2. Iron Stabilizer On The Inside.

adding fusible stabilizer

Adhere the fusible stabilizer to the inside of the jacket using the package directions. Use a piece at least large enough to cover the area to be embroidered.

It can be tricky adhering stabilizer around certain seams and the armholes. I love my mini-iron and pressing ham for reaching those difficult locations. 

3. Hoop Stabilizer and Adhere the Jacket to the Stabilizer. 

Use the smallest hoop size possible for your design selection. This saves stabilizer and also improves the stitch out!

sticky tear away stabilizer

Now, hoop a piece of sticky stabilizer. Then, score the front surface using a pin or other sharp object. Remove the sticker paper to reveal the sticky surface on top. 

add lines to stabilizer

I then like to mark the stabilizer’s center with pencil lines to help with centering.

Next, line up the marked jacket with the lines on the stabilizer, and gently press down to adhere the jacket. 

Unfortunately, hooping the jacket was impossible due to the thick seams and embroidery locations. To further prevent movement of the floated jacked, consider a basting box, pins at the perimeter, or a magnetic hoop for added security.

4. Set Up the Embroidery Machine.

Next, place your jacket and hoop into the embroidery machine. For most flatbed machines, you want the majority of the jacket to be outside the machine’s throat space. 

Below are a few pictures of how I oriented my jacket when embroidering different areas. 

how to hoop denim jacket for embroidery embroidering the cuffadding embroidery to front yoke

Next, check for the correct needle, upper thread, and bobbin thread. 

rotate design

You also need to load your design and rotate it properly to match the orientation of the jacket.

Then, move the needle to line up with the center of the marked area. (Remove any templates you may still have on the jacket.)

Start the machine and watch it go!

5. Finishing Up

remove tear away stabilizer

Once the jacket is embroidered, remove the hoop from the machine. Release the sticky stabilizer from the hoop and gently tear it away from the jacket. 

cut away polymesh

Next, use your favorite embroidery scissors (I love duckbill applique scissors) to trim the stabilizer close to the design back. Also, clean up any jump stitches or loose threads. 

add tender touch backing

If someone with sensitive skin wears the jacket, consider a layer of fusible tricot interfacing or embroidery backing like Sulky Tender Touch. My daughter hates scratchy things, so her embroidered clothing always gets this covering. 

And that’s it. You’ve now learned how to embroider a denim jacket with an embroidery machine!

If you have issues, I recommend Joanne Banko’s website and YouTube channel, as she has some great recommendations. 

How to Remove Embroidery from a Denim Jacket

If you make a mistake while embroidering, removing embroidery from a denim jacket is easy. However, it takes time to do so. 

Check out how to remove embroidery using a stitch eraser tool for tips and tools!


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