How to Embroider Clothing By Hand The Easy Way (Without Messing Up) + Free Download

It turns out learning how to embroider is much easier than you think! And I have a simple hack (and free download) to help you complete your first embroidered piece of clothing.

Closeup of embroidered jean shorts back pocket with abstract face design.

I’ve been seeing simple line drawings of faces popping up everywhere recently. And I wanted to give this trend a try on a pair of jean shorts to see how it would look, with embroidery.

I ended up loving how they turned out, so I wanted to share the tutorial. Along with a trick I learned along the way that makes embroidered clothing designs pretty much fool-proof.

Click through to see how to make your own embroidered designs on clothing the easy way, etc. AND download this face drawing to copy this look to a tee, if you’re into it.

Learning How to Hand Embroider

Learning how to do embroidery by hand is much easier than it sounds, especially with this embroidery hack that I’m sharing today.

After you get the hang of beginner embroidery like this, you’ll be skipping the embroidery guides in no time and going straight to freehand drawing on clothing. And embroidering clothing that way.

This embroidery hack I’m sharing is a great start to embroidery, if you’re new to it. And you can use this technique to create any design, drawing, or doodle you want. But I have a free download for this design below too, just in case you’d like to use it.

Is it hard to embroider?

There are more advanced embroidery stitches that can be more challenging to get the hang of, but the basics are actually quite easy. And it’s also a super affordable hobby, considering you only need a few, inexpensive supplies to get started. Speaking of which…

What supplies do I need to get started with embroidery?

Well, for this beginner embroidery technique, you really only need a few supplies (listed below). But once you give it a try and determine whether or not you want to keep up with this new skill, you can invest in a few more inexpensive items like an embroidery hoop, water soluble pen, etc.

Images show the process of embroidering clothing by hand with a tracing paper drawing.

Materials Needed to Embroider

How to Embroider Clothing the Easy Way

Step 1: Draw a design or print out my free download.

Start by drawing a design onto a very thin piece of paper (tracing paper works great for this). OR print out the downloadable face design here onto thin printer paper.

Step 2: Cut around the design.

Next cut around the design, leaving some space all the way around, but not too much that you’d have a bulky area to have to sew around.

Step 3: Pin paper to clothing.

Then pin the paper to the clothing that you want to embroider, in the spot that you want the design to go.

Again, this is a moment where using tracing paper for the design comes in handy because you can see through it to figure out the placement of the design, in relation to pockets, seams, etc.

Step 4: Thread needle and knot the end.

Thread a needle with embroidery floss and then double or triple knot the end of a long piece of that floss (make it much longer than you think you’ll need and double the width if you want a bold / thick line like you see in the photos).

Step 5: Start embroidering.

Then start on the underside of the piece of clothing you’re using, so the knot won’t be visible, and hand sew the design through the clothing and paper that has your design on it, as shown in the photo. You can try any simple stitch that you feel most comfortable with.

The easiest / most basic embroidery stitches to try would be:

  • Running Stitch: This stitch is also known as a straight stitch and is the most basic of embroidery stitches. For a running stitch, you will push the needle through one side and then back through the other side, leaving a small space in between each stitch. *This may not be the best stitch for this particular project, if you’re using the tracing paper or printer paper as your guide. Here’s an example of a running stitch.
  • Back Stitch: A back stitch will create a solid line, which is perfect for this tracing paper design technique. To create a back stitch, you start with a simple stitch. Then skip the length of the first stitch for the second, and then go backward to attach the second stitch to the first, by going through the end of your last stitch. Here’s an example of a back stitch.
  • Split Stitch: This is also a good stitch for the design and technique shared here. For a split stitch, create a simple stitch, then push your needle through the middle of the stitch you just made and create a new stitch. Repeat that process over and over again. Here’s an example of a split stitch.

Step 6: Knot the end of the thread once again.

Once the design is complete, tie a double or triple knot on the inside of the garment once again to secure the remaining end. And snip off excess length.

Step 7: Rip paper away from design.

Then, you can rip off the paper by hand and it’s ready to wear. Be careful though. You don’t want to aggravate the embroidery floss design or cause it to fray / bunch up in any areas. 

Steps of embroidering clothing with an abstract face design.

Closeup of woman wearing embroidered jean shorts laying down at a picnic.

Young women enjoying a picnic, wearing jean shorts and straw hats.

Closeup of embroidered abstract face design on jean shorts.

How to Embroider Clothing without Messing Up

Want to learn how to embroider designs onto clothing? This easy-to-follow tutorial will show you the fail-proof way to embroider by hand. And includes a (free download) for creating your first embroidered clothing item with the abstract face design you see in the photo.
So whether you're attempting emboidery by hand on a pair of jeans or embroidering a t-shirt, this embroidery guide / technique has you covered.
Total Time1 hr
Keyword: clothing, crafting, diy, embroidered, embroidery, fashion
Author: Brittni
Cost: $5 or less

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Start by drawing a design onto a very thin piece of paper (tracing paper works great for this). OR print out the downloadable face design here onto thin paper.
  • Next cut around the design, leaving some space all the way around, but not too much that you'd have a bulky area to have to sew around. Then pin the paper to the clothing that you want to embroider, in the spot that you want the design to go. Again, this is another moment where using tracing paper for the design comes in handy because you can see through it to figure out the placement of the design, in relation to pockets, seams, etc.
  • Thread a needle with embroidery floss and then double or triple knot the end of a long piece of that floss (make it much longer than you think you'll need and double the width if you want a bold / thick line like you see in the photos). **See notes for beginner embrodiery stitch options.
  • Then start on the underside of the piece of clothing you're using, so the knot won't be visible, and hand sew the design through the clothing and paper that has your design on it, as shown in the photo.
  • Once the design is complete, tie a double or tripe knot on the inside of the garment once again to secure the remaining end. Then, you can rip off the paper by hand and it's ready to wear. Be careful though, you don't want to aggravate the embroidery floss design or cause it to fray / bunch up in any areas.

Notes

The easiest / most basic embroidery stitches to try would be:
  • Running Stitch: This stitch is also known as a straight stitch and is the most basic of embroidery stitches. For a running stitch, you will push the needle through one side and then back through the other side, leaving a small space in between each stitch. *This may not be the best stitch for this particular project, if you're using the tracing paper or printer paper as your guide. Here's an example of a running stitch.
  • Back Stitch: A back stitch will create a solid line, which is perfect for this tracing paper design technique. To create a back stitch, you start with a simple stitch. Then skip the length of the first stitch for the second, and then go backward to attach the second stitch to the first, by going through the end of your last stitch. Here's an example of a back stitch
  • Split Stitch: This is also a good stitch for the design and technique shared here. For a split stitch, create a simple stitch, then push your needle through the middle of the stitch you just made and create a new stitch. Repeat that process over and over again. Here's an example of a split stitch.
Tried this recipe?Mention @paperandstitch or tag #paperandstitch!

Photography Brittni Mehlhoff
Embroidery design and DIYing Cori Maass

Think you’ll give this DIY embroidery project a try? What other designs and or clothing pieces do you think would look cool for this concept?

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23 comments | Click here to reply

I have never seen anything like this! This is so cool!

https://beafreee.com/

Bea

Glad to hear that Bea. I feel like I’m going to be embroidering ALL of my clothes now. Ha!

Brittni

This method is genius, I have to try it the next time I want to embroider something!
https://www.makeandmess.com/

Michelle

Thanks Michelle. It’s so, so easy!

Brittni

I LOVE this!! Such a great idea and a fab design too!

Gemma
http://www.fadedwindmills.com

Gemma

Thanks Gemma. Cori did an awesome job with the design. I love her drawings.

Brittni

I used to love embroidery. How machine-washable do you find your stitching? I’ve had various luck and I don’t know if using backing will help my cause.

jesse.anne.o

Hi Jesse. Good question. I’d recommend washing in a mesh lingerie / delicates bag if you’re concerned about the stitching coming loose or getting snagged. If you have tight stitches though, this will be less of a concern. Although…better safe than sorry. 🙂 Hope that helps.
-Brittni

Brittni

Beautiful i love details
New post: http://thepinkpineappleblog.blogspot.com/2017/08/haute-couture-street-style-2.html
Blog: http://thepinkpineappleblog.blogspot.com/

The pink pineapple

I wish I had pictures of my now vintage clothes from the 70s. I embroidered faces peeping out of pockets, used blanket stitch and other variations on patches. I even used a Spirograph to draw designs on shirt pockets.

MG Thomas

This is so cool! I want to try this!

Sophie

The tutorial was very helpful. My first pair of embroidered jeans hit the world in 1973. If I had known to tracing paper, it might have been easier. But while I wouldn’t have expected anyone to recognize the works of Devendra Banhart or February James (first and third links), I am surprised no one here, including the author, noticed the second was a portrait by Henri Matisse. He was rather famous, and it pains me that he was given no mention other than to be an anonymous contributor to the list of “simple line drawings of faces”. Have we become so out of touch with our culture that we remake only because we think it’s a “trend” and without any knowledge of the art we are recreating? It breaks my heart. Please try to keep our artistic journey alive, young people. We’re losing touch with the knowledge as quickly as posts like these gloss over the history and origins of what is being presented.

Allison Dey Malacaria

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OMGGG!!! So me and my sister wanted to do this and I was going through Pinterest to get some ideas and to learn how to do it. I came across your page and I loveeeee it, I kid you not you have helped me out❤️❤️❤️❤️ Much love

Ramisha butt

Awesome. Glad to hear that Ramisha. 🙂

Brittni

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You are genius!
I am thinking of something like this, and I found your blog, thank you.
Adda

addas willams

So cute! I would have never thought to do that. Thanks for sharing. http://katytshirts.com/

Nathan

It’s helpful that you said tracing paper works great because I actually have a lot of that. I want to embroider a flower over the hole in my jeans so I’m definitely going to try this. It’ll be nice that I can choose any design I want!

Tori Raddison

My daughter just tried this method on a sweatshirt. She’s concerned that some of her stitches are a little loose. Is there a way to tighten then up without re-doing the whole thing? Thank you

Chris

Hi Chris. If your daughter is able to unknot either one the ends, it can slowly be pulled tight on the one side and then re-knotted. Hope that helps.
-Brittni

Brittni
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