How to Upcycle Your Clothes With Embroidery

Sew Much 2 Wear
by Sew Much 2 Wear
6 Materials
5 Hours

Do you have a shirt, jacket, dress, or bag that is looking a little "blah?"

Maybe you loved it, but you accidentally spilled something on it and now you're considering retiring it.

Not so fast!

Embroidery is an easy to cover up stains or breathe new life into a piece you want to upcycle. Today I'm going to share with you a way to do it CHEAP and EASY with free, easy-to-follow patterns.

I stumbled upon a free pattern treasure-trove last year and have been so excited about the options.

The art of embroidery is easier than it looks, especially if you keep an open mind and have patience. It's a slow process, but stitching can be a very relaxing, peaceful activity. Once you start it's hard to stop!

There are a few beginner secrets to getting beautiful results on clothes, and I'll share them with you in this post!

The first secret is picking the right "canvas."

If you are a beginner I would suggest starting with a thicker woven material that DOES NOT stretch.

Think cotton, linen, denim.

The fibers in these pieces have horizontal and vertical threads that means the piece will not ripple and bunch up as easy if you accidentally pull your embroidery floss too tight.

The second secret?

Water soluble stabilizer. I use the brand Sulky, which is pictured above. It is sticky on one side and textured and printable on the other. If you don't have a printer, that's okay! You can trace a pattern easy peasy on this stuff with a pen or pencil.

A stabilizer like Sulky is perfect for beginners because it will hold the fabric in place, and prevent accidental bunching of your design.

The third secret?

There is a world of completely FREE embroidery patterns on the internet. You do not need to go buy an expensive kit from a craft store to get started.

The link above is my favorite go-to place for free patterns. DMC provides countless designs for any season or any skill level. They have small ones perfect for beginners all the way up to elaborate advanced needlework.

DMC also sells embroidery floss so if you want a perfect color match, all you have to do is buy their thread kit and it will match the numbers in their pattern. The pattern also includes instructions on how to finish each kind of stitch. The primary colors are included in the kits like the one I have below. You may have to purchase some colors separately for a full pattern match, but they are affordable!

For more clarity on the stitches themselves, I recommend checking YouTube as there are countless tutorials that are well produced and easy to follow! The pattern will tell you exactly which stitches to do in what places.

In my case, I've been a life-long collector of embroidery floss. Some of this was handed down to me by my grandmother!

I've also found great deals in the thrift store. The thread may not be an exact replica to the DMC pattern but you can get pretty close by eyeballing the colors you do have on hand.

For this project I picked out a DMC pattern for a Hawaiian flower and switched up the colors a bit to stand out on this top.

I simply downloaded the free pattern from DMC and printed it onto my Sulky water soluble stabilizer.

As soon as it was printed I peeled off the back paper of the stabilizer and stuck it onto this thrifted cropped tee. For the record, this is a stretchable fabric, and I wouldn't recommend a t-shirt for beginners. If you have some experience however, feel free to give it a whirl!

I put my shirt in a simple embroidery hoop and I was off to the races! I believe it took me about five hours of Netflix and stitching to finish this pattern.

Once I was done I simply clipped away as much excess stabilizer as I could, and then used a wet washcloth to rub away any excess Sulky. It really comes out very easily!

This was the finished product!

I would recommend gently hand washing any of your embroidered clothing and hanging dry.

If you want to secure loose threads on the back of your design, you could use an iron-on patch/interfacing cut in the shape of your design and iron it to the back of your design when the shirt is inside out. That will prevent any of the threads from pulling or dealing with a messy look inside your garment.

I'm excited to experiment with more of DMC's free patterns on garments like a denim jacket, linen dress, and even shorts!

What do you want to embroider? Have you ever tried using a DMC free pattern?

If you're new to embroidery and need to stock up on some supplies, I've linked some great options for you below! Happy stitching!

Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

Suggested materials:
  • Sulky printable water soluble stabilizer   (
  • Embroidery Floss   (
  • Embroidery Needle   (
See all materials

The author may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.

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4 of 13 comments
  • Rachel Jonas Rachel Jonas on Apr 06, 2021

    This came out so well!

  • Grandmasue10 Grandmasue10 on Apr 08, 2021

    I put my sweatshirt too soon after applying the long lasting lipstick I love, which is like paint. After trying Oxyclean, Grandma's stain remover, 3 washings, I realized that little stain isn't coming out. I stitched a sort of star over the stain, white on white, and it looks cute.