Hand Embroidery Project: Turn a Thrift-Store Denim Jacket into Art

18 Jun 2014

I've often blogged about how hand embroidery projects are great for creating on-the-go. But even I was amazed when I saw new QATV host Susan Brubaker Knapp at Quilt Market wearing a denim jacket covered with hand embroidery designs.

hand embroidery on denim jacket brubaker knapp
Susan Brubaker Knapp turned a thrift store jacket
into art-on-the-go with hand embroidery.
Susan purchased this denim jacket for $3 at a local thrift shop about two years ago and has been embroidering it with sewing implement motifs (scissors, spools, pin cushions, etc.).

Using solid and variegated perle cotton, she "draws" with a running stitch and fills in with hand stitches she refers to as "chicken scratches."

The beauty of this creative embroidery project is that Susan can wear it while she works on it. She lightly traces the patterns on the denim and fills them in as she has the time.

Susan says hand stitching projects like her jacket allow her to slow down in between her faster moving thread-sketched, fusible appliquéd, and wholecloth-painted works.

Slow stitching handwork--like embroidery, cross-stitch, and needlepoint--offers concentration and relaxation, while machine stitching fulfills her need for speed.

I'll tell you what I need: a thrift-store denim jacket to embroider!

You can find a variety of vintage-style slow stitching projects and needlework techniques in our sister publication, Piecework magazine.

P.S. "Slow stitching" seems to be gaining momentum as a movement in fiber arts circles. What do you think? Leave your comment below. 

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pat arndt wrote
on 19 Jun 2014 11:53 AM

I started one the day after I saw Susan Brubaker Knapp's! I need to slow down and do some hand work. The idea is appealing to me..

on 20 Jun 2014 3:30 PM

I'd be interested in seeing how she finished the inside of the jacket. It's challenging to embroider an unlined garment when others might see the inside (front band, etc.).

on 21 Jun 2014 6:31 PM

I have not finished the inside, and don't plan to... it would be too hot in my climate! (I live in North Carolina). I just knotted the pieces of perle cotton inside the coat. There are a few places where I'm worried about the ends of the perle cotton sticking out (like along the collar), and I may stitch a piece of ribbon along the seam to hide them.

Aviana2 wrote
on 22 Jun 2014 12:08 AM

I love hand embroidery.  I was taught to keep the backside neat enough to be seen. The main reason I might cover it would be to protect the threads from friction or snags. (eurekamarijka)

Aviana2 wrote
on 22 Jun 2014 12:09 AM

I love hand embroidery.  I was taught to keep the backside neat enough to be seen. The main reason I might cover it would be to protect the threads from friction or snags. (eurekamarijka)

on 22 Jun 2014 11:09 AM

I love hand embroidery as it's relaxing to sit and stitch just like knitting too.  I like the hand look so much more than machine embroidery. With machine embroidery there is no creativity at all just set it up and push a button and it sews for you, what's creative about that? You can use so many types and colors of threads when you do it my hand. Love Susan's jacket. I have a jean jacket and 2 denim vests and I had wanted to do some embroidery and applique by hand on one of the vests. This has inspired me to get going on it. Thanks foe sharing this beautiful creation.

SueB@96 wrote
on 3 Jul 2014 6:34 PM

Do you have any tips for trying this project? Also are there any pictures of the back? This is just fabulous!

Clenette wrote
on 7 Aug 2014 9:56 AM

Great idea.  Did you paint the jacket or use dye to color it before the needlework?


faunhaert wrote
on 24 Apr 2015 3:31 PM

no need to keep this

but by the way the piece work link is bad...