Denim technique sampler


With Patternreview’s Jeans Contest starting February 15th, I’m hauling out the big design guns and stretching my skills.

I’d been considering adding some detail with a bleach technique, but the only denim I have on hand is too light to show off a discharge pattern.

Hard at work at the drawing board, I’ve been messing around with various applique techniques.  Actually, the Denim Reverse Applique Hearts were a chance for me to explore reverse applique.

Since I really liked what I came up with in the hearts, I cut off one of the legs of an old pair of jeans to try out reverse applique over a larger area.  I traced a floral pattern onto tissue paper and stitched away before I cut away the denim to reveal print fabric behind the denim.  Here’s what I noted:


  1. Wow, this took a LONG time to even do a small area.  Like 3 hours to do my little sample here.  While I’m stitching, I’m considering the merits of a free motion foot (ah, but I’m not a quilter) or even an embroidery machine (nixed after I realized they’re the price of a car).
  2. I think the overall look is too country for my taste, especially once the denim frayed like a rag quilt around the cut edges.  Maybe a lighter denim and backing fabric would feel less this way.
  3. I’m not sure how the denim would wear over time on an actual garment.  Given the time investment, these jeans would have to last long enough to make the skull numbing stitching worth it.

Then I tried stitching a piece of silk over another piece of denim.  I observed:


  1. The stitching looked pretty cool
  2. I was really surprised that the silk was ultra easy to sew even though I used no pins, and no stabilizer for applique like Heat n Bond.  I’m sure it’s because denim is a champion of stability.
  3. The silk blended really well into the denim.  It made a statement as an applique but without overpowering the denim.  The denim still looked like denim and the silk still looked like silk.  I would not normally think about these two fabrics being compatible together.


Going on with the silk/denim idea, I stitched on rectangles of silk in random order, trying both a zigzag and straight stitch.  I’m curious to see how this sample in particular comes out in the wash.  I don’t wash my jeans that often, but I do wash them, though I let them dry naturally.  Will the straight stitched edges fray more than the zigzag?  The proof will be in the pudding I suppose.

How do you go about brainstorming a new design idea?

4 thoughts on “Denim technique sampler

  1. Reverse applique does take forever! I was worried about how it would hold up in the wash, so for the last denim skirt I made (which featured it), I actually did more of a traditional applique satin stitch and cut away from there. And then Fray checked it all. It looks like you’re coming up with some neat customization ideas– the silk with the stitching over top looks particularly fun!

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