Skip Navigation

Reverse Applique Jacket

Print PDF

To download a PDF, click the PDF icon above. In the print dialog window under "Destination", select "Save as PDF" then "Save."

As the artist who got all the fun of drawing the Grow Wild design pack, I couldn't wait to put a project together showing a neat way to use them. I love the idea of using a denim jacket to showcase my favorite designs from the series, but hooping a jacket with all those seams and sleeves and metal buttons was too cumbersome. Instead I thought I'd show you a reverse applique technique that makes hooping easy, and I'll show you how simple it is to make this retro throwback jacket I have already been wearing around everywhere!


The bonus with this technique is you don't have to go through the nerve-wracking experience of hooping and stitching all the designs on your favorite jacket only to have one go wrong and ruin the look. So, what do you need to make this quick project?

  • Your favorite embroidery designs from the Grow Wild collection, or whatever suits your fancy
  • Denim jacket (I found mine for $4 at a thrift store!)
  • Medium weight cutaway stabilizer and temporary spray adhesive
  • Extra denim (old jeans are great for this)
  • Pins and scissors
  • Seam ripper if you wish to add your designs to smaller areas like sleeves

Designs Used

If you are using old jean legs for your extra denim, open the seam of the pant leg and lay it flat. Decide where you would like to embroider your designs. I decided to place one over a seam for extra interest, and the rest over open areas of denim. Just make sure you have room around each design to hoop it on its own. By sewing each design on separate denim, you don't need to worry if one doesn't turn out just right. You can always try again on another piece!

Begin by stitching your chosen designs on your spare denim pieces, hooping your medium weight cutaway stabilizer and your fabric, tightly together using the temporary spray adhesive. Once your designs are all done stitching, trim away the excess stabilizer from the back. It's helpful at this point to arrange the embroidery designs about where you would like to see them on your jacket. This is just a visual way to check placement before you commit.

The trick with this reverse applique thing is that everything has to be done a little bit backwards. All our designs will be sewn inside the jacket with the embroidery facing in. That means you'll want to remove any tags or other things that may create unnecessary bulk in the area you're stitching. Place and pin your first embroidered piece with the embroidery side facing the inside of the jacket, in a similar location to where you laid it out on the front.

Arrange the rest of the embroidery designs as close as possible to where you laid them out on the front. Pin everything in place.

Using your sewing machine, keep the back side of the embroidery design up, and stitch around your first design in a loose shape. You can draw the sewing line on if you like, but I just stayed about 0.5 inches from the outside of the edge of the embroidery as I was sewing.

If you're adding embroidery to a slightly trickier area like sleeves, you'll need to open the side seam up with a seam ripper first. Leave a wide enough opening that you can place your embroidery design flat in the area you want it. You can stitch this in just the same fashion, and then close the seam up when you're done.

Continue sewing until all your designs are appliqued to the inside of your jacket. You can also trim away any excess fabric around the design that you don't want adding to your bulk.

The outside of the jacket will look like this when you are done stitching. Not very exciting... yet!

Now is where we reveal the magic of reverse applique. Snip through just the top layer of denim. There was actually two layers of denim on the top section of my jacket. Carefully snip through to reveal your embroidery design! Open up a gap so you can clearly see where your embroidery is.

Once you have an opening, trim about 0.25 inches away from sewn edge all the way around, removing the fabric on top of your embroidery. By leaving a little excess at the edges, you can get a nice fraying effect with your denim edge. The stitching you used to hold the embroidery in place will also keep the denim fray in control. Wash and dry your jacket to see the full fray effect, as it is shown here!

Continue carefully cutting and revealing the rest of your reverse applique designs.

In no time at all, you have a retro-chic jacket ready to wear.

It's a great technique for anytime you're a bit worried about stitching directly on a garment, and jean jackets are easy to work with and all the rage again.

It's a great time of year to dress up that stylish outer layer with your favorite embroidery designs!