Friday, 22 May 2015

Machine embroidered pockets - a tutorial

This whole thing emerged in my head while making my RAF trousers. Of course, at that point they were only trousers. Quite theme-less:)

The original Simplicity #3688 has got no pockets, but my rear really benefit from some kind of embellishment. High waisted things without, just end up up as a whole lotta unflattering flatness.

I drafted the pattern pieces for the pockets myself, but I also wanted them to have some decoration. I noticed that my trousers was the perfect match for my closet-dwelling Smooth aviator blouse, so it had to be wings!

Now, for this project, I could have drawn the design myself. So any image will work, self-made or "borrowed". If you draw something, you need to scan and save to your computer. If you find something online, download and save. So this would be your step 1.

Step 2 is prepping your paper on which you will print the image. Regular pattern tissue/tracing paper is nice and thin for your machine to embroider upon, but it can be tricky for your printer to feed through. So, take a single sheet of printing paper and tape a piece of tracing paper ontop. The size you need will depend on your image, but there is no need to cover the whole sheet. You only need to tape the upper and lower edge of the tissue. Place the sheet into your printer (the right way). It may be a good idea to have some extra paper inserted, I know my printer is a little fussy, and have an easier time grabbing the individual sheet if there is a stack of them in.

Step 3, open the image file and choose print. In the printing menu you will be able to adjust the positioning of the image in the preview window, and so on. I adjusted the side margins inwards so that there were sufficient space around the image. This is helpful when you attaching your paper piece to the fabric. When you're happy, print.

Step 4, carefully remove your tissue from the printer paper, and pin it onto your fabric piece. I made the embroidery before any cutting, or folding of edges or any of that.

Step 5, baste the printed tissue to your fabric and remove pins.

Baste close to edge.

Step 6, start sewing!
My image was rather intricate with all the feathers, so I made several passes over them. Start with the outline and just follow along all edges, and then filling in the "fatter lines". Go slow!

Slowly does it.
(Take breaks and stretch your neck!!)

I didn't worry about filling it in too perfectly, but if I were to make this design again, I would maybe use a thicker thread. I used regular cotton sewing thread. But again, it all depends on your design. It can also be useful to play around with your machine settings before cracking on with the final product. Check if you've got the correct tension and stitch length. If you've got a design with straighter shapes and thicker lines, you might be able to use a small zig zag stitch for example. Make some samples on a scrap first.

When your done, peel away the tissue gently. If you need to, use a pair of tweezers to get the small bits. Also remove the basting stitches. Et voilà! Embroidered pocket fabric. You can now go ahead and actually make the pocket,
and stick it onto your garment!

The navy ring is hand embroidered on.
The rest is Bertha:)

This method is also useful if you need to transfer something for hand embroidery. I don't own any good marker tool that creates a fine enough line, or can be easily removed. So I just use a thread matching the fabric color, trace the shape with my sewing machine, and continue embroidering by hand. It is great for small initials and other simple designs. That way, the markings don't get fudged while you handle the fabric, and are totally invisble after it has been covered by embroidery floss.

I hope you found this useful :)


  1. How freaking awesome! I need to try this. Thanks so much for showing us how! :D

  2. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I often use tracing paper over the fabric when I am machine quilting as I have never been happy with any of the other marking tools I have tried. Your work is so neat it looks gorgeous. :)

    1. Thank you!! I am sure I am not inventing the wheel here, but I never thought of this before, and thought it was kind of neat. You quilters are such a crafty bunch! I should learn how to quilt, by the way:) My scrap heap is growing over my head!

  3. After I saw your version, I had to have this pattern. Thank goodness there was a simplicity sale!