Hi friends, I hope you are all well and staying safe out there. What a wild, exhausting, and scary couple of weeks we’ve had. My husband and I have been self-quarantining for the last two weeks (with just one or two trips to the grocery store) – for both our own safety and to help #flattenthecurve. We are very fortunate that we can both work from home, and we don’t have any children to care for – but I know that is not true for many, if not most of us.

My freelance work has taken a hit as marketing budgets are put on pause (it’s okay, I’m okay), and with that I have an abundance of time to catch up on my writing, sewing projects, and maybe try some new things (gardening?). I’ve never been so grateful for this hobby – both as something to keep my hands busy and my mind distracted. It’s strange sharing projects as if nothing has changed – but I know that for me personally, seeing what everybody else is working on is a welcome distraction. I hope I can offer the same to you. So, without further ado . . .

Embroidered Hampton Jean Jacket

I often find myself proclaiming that whatever I’ve just finished is my favorite project ever. I recognize that I am here about to do it again. But if I genuinely mean it every time – that’s okay right? Because this Hampton jean jacket is my new favorite ever. It’s the pinnacle of the last 4 years of my textile practice, and I’m so, so proud of it.

Because it was such a large project, I am going to be breaking it up into two blog posts. This post will focus on the embroidered part of the project, and the next post will focus on the actual construction.

Hampton Jean Jacket Embroidered with Lemons

I originally conceived of this garment back in April of 2019 (maybe even March, gasp!). Long enough ago that those early details are fuzzy at this point. All I can really remember is that I bought the fabric on a whim while sourcing the denim for my Ginger jeans.

However, given how much I love embroidered denim, I knew early on that I wanted to feature a large statement motif on the center back panel of this jacket. Because embroidery is so much easier on a flat piece of fabric, this was definitely something I wanted to finish before and not after jacket construction.

Denim jacket embroidered with floral motif by stitchinginspace
I have embroidered ready-to-wear jackets before, and there is no reason you can’t stitch a motif on an existing garment. You just have to be okay with sleeves everywhere, all the time, and lugging the entire garment around with you while you work on it. Photo Credit: jondl

DMC offers a beautiful collection of free embroidery patterns. The first thing I did was curate a Pinterest board with potential patterns to try to narrow down my decision. After much mulling (and an Instagram poll I chose to ignore later), I decided to go with lemons as the motif for the back of my jacket. Oranges were a close contender but I preferred the yellow and pink contrast of the lemons. Lemons also remind me of my hometown and feel closer to my heart (see cheesy photo below), so the choice felt obvious.

Lemon Jean Jacket in front of Lemon Grove California
It already feels like a lifetime ago that I was dragging my husband around southern California to take this photo.

Although this embroidery pattern was the original inspiration, it also wasn’t quite right. My IG poll informed me that oranges were by far the popular vote, but I’m pretty sure this was more about composition than subject matter. With this in mind, I decided there needed to be two lemons instead of one. Although I searched the internet high and low for an image of that description I liked, I had very little luck. Which meant I needed to go ahead and create my own embroidery pattern.

Embroidered denim jacket examples
Early prototypes based on free DMC patterns.

The great thing about embroidery patterns is that they are essentially just line drawings. This means it is super easy to source images from all kinds of things – coloring books, clip art, stock vectors, etc. My rudimentary Adobe Illustrator skills allowed me to find several vector illustrations of lemons and roughly mish-mash them together to create the exact motif I was looking for.

Screenshot of lemons vector illustration

After finalizing the embroidery design, it was time to prep the fabric before transferring the pattern. I knew the embroidery was going to take me a long time, and I wanted to make sure I had enough fabric that I’d still be able to use a large embroidery hoop. This meant cutting out all of the other pattern pieces first, so once I got to my center panel piece I knew exactly how much fabric I could or couldn’t use. (I did this for the back yoke too, although ultimately I decided not to embroider it).

This had the added benefit of giving me very little work to do when it was time to start sewing since everything was cut out already. It was like a present to myself I’d put on layaway for 9 months!

Finished embroidered motif of lemons
Transfer paper dissolved, with everything cut and ready for construction!

When I got to the center panel piece, instead of cutting it straight out, I first traced the pattern piece onto the fabric. Then I used contrasting thread to stitch the lines I had just traced (this allowed future me to know where to cut when I finally finished the embroidery). I also stay-stitched the 5/8″ seamline to prevent the fabric from stretching out. When you embroider in a hoop you want the fabric to stay as taut as possible, which can easily distort it if you aren’t careful.

Dissolvable Embroidery Transfer paper.
The cut line is stitched in contrast thread while the seam line is stitched in a matching thread.

With my stitch lines in place, it was easy to cut around the whole thing and ensure that the entire piece of fabric was large enough to stick in a hoop. I serged all of the edges so that I wouldn’t need to deal with any fraying later on.

Once the fabric was cut and prepped, the next thing I did was transfer the embroidery pattern to the fabric. I like to use a printer-friendly dissolvable transfer paper from Joann, since I’m much better with computer graphics than hand tracing or drawing anything. This paper makes it easy to download an image online and then print it straight from your computer. From there you stick it right onto your fabric and you are ready to go! Once you’re done, the whole piece goes in water and the paper dissolves away like it was never there to begin with.

Embroidered pink denim hampton jean jacket

I worked on the embroidery on and off (mostly during my lunch breaks) until January of this year. This is, without a doubt, a very long time to have a project going. But for me, I really love to have an embroidery project to turn to (with no prep required) when I’m craving it. It travels easily, it’s nice for watching movies on the couch with my husband, and I love being able to easily pick up something I’m already working on instead of having to plan something new. I’m not much of a knitter but I imagine embroidery and knitting are similarly appealing that way.

Large embroidery hoop in a car.
Scenes from a corporate lunch break.

I didn’t track the total hours it took me to finish it, although I should start doing this as it’s often the first thing people ask me. If I’m guessing (which I am), I’d say it took me somewhere between 40 and 50 hours. Again, I worked on this for over nine months!

Lemons embroidered on pink hampton jean jacket
Yes, slightly wrinkled. What can you do?

That wraps it up for the embroidery portion of this project. As I mentioned, I will have a follow up post detailing the actual construction . In the meantime – how is everybody doing out there?