embellishing jeans with free motion embroidery

An easy way to restyle jeans is to add a touch of embroidery. Free motion embroidery, also referred to as thread painting is so easy and you don’t even need an embroidery machine for this technique. Instead we are going to use free motion quilting techniques.


  • Jeans
  • Medium Weight Tear-away Stabilizer
  • Any type of thread (all-purpose, rayon, embroidery, silk, cotton)
  • Embroidery Hoop
  • Fabric marking pen or chalk
  • ‘Open Toe’ Quilting Foot

Step 1: Layout the Design

  1. Try on the jeans and determine where you want the embellishment to go (Fig. 1).
    • Don’t place the embroidery..
      • Too close to the zipper
      • On top of thick seams
      • Over thick pockets
      • On top of metal rivets
      • Too far down the leg (remember you need to be able to get to the stitching area)
    • Good places for the embroidery:
      • Above the hemline
      • Along the back yoke (avoiding the center back seam)
      • Front hip
      • Waistband
Fig. 1 – Choose some Jeans
  1. Choose a hoop size that can easily fit into the jean pant leg and large enough for the design you have in mind (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2 – Choose a hoop
  1. Using tailor’s chalk, mark the placement for the design (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3 – Mark your position
  1. Draw a design with a fabric pen (Fig. 4).
Fig. 4 – Draw a design

Step 2: Hooping the Jeans

  1. Slide the stabilizer into the jean’s leg behind the design area (Fig. 5). My design is close to the front pocket, so I will pull the pocket lining out of the hooping area.
Fig. 5 – Add stabilizer
  1. Align the smaller inside hoop on the outside of the jean leg with the larger hoop and stabilizer inside the jeans leg (Fig. 6).
Fig. 6 – Align Hoop
  1. Push the hoop closed, encasing the jean fabric and stabilizer, and tighten the screw on the hoop (Fig. 7).
Fig. 7 – Securing the hoop

Step 3: Free Motion Embroidery

  1. Set the sewing machine up for free motion quilting by dropping the feed dogs on your machine, and sliding the hoop under the presser foot, making sure to keep the back of the jean leg out of the way.  We only want the fabric in the hoop under the needle on the machine (Fig.8).
Fig. 8 – Machine set-up
  1. Start in the middle of the design and fill in the design with thread (Fig. 9).
Fig. 9 – Begin to color with thread
  1. Here I have outlined the design first. Then fill in the petals by moving the machine back and forth with thread (Fig. 10).
Fig. 10 – Fill in the petals
  1. This is your design, so don’t worry about perfection, just have fun (Fig. 11).
Fig. 11 – Have fun
  1. Continue to change colors of thread and paint away (Fig. 12).
Fig. 12 – Continue to change colors
  1. When you are all finished designing, remove the hoop and tear-a-way the stabilizer (Fig. 13).
Fig. 13 – Remove hoop and stabilizer
  1. You can see here how my design falls just under the front pocket, perfect (Fig. 14).
Fig. 14
  1. Brush off the chalk marks and your new embellished jeans are ready to go!
Fig. 15 – Clean of chalk marks

Final Product

Fig. 16 – Final Product