Are you interested in dipping your toe into apparel sewing? In this beginner-friendly tutorial, quilting collides with fashion in a fun and exciting way! By starting with upcycled clothing, you can create unique garments without the expert skills of sewing the clothing first. This patchwork jacket DIY is the perfect chance to breathe new life into your wardrobe.
Today on the blog we have the owner and designer behind Hilda, Heidi Cronce. Hilda is a Portland, Oregon based heirloom goods and quilting company that creates timeless textile designs through intentionally simplistic colors and fabrics. And as a side note, if you would prefer to purchase one of Heidi's patchwork jackets rather than make your own, check out her shop!
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Patchwork Jacket Tutorial Supplies
The fabric needed depends on your specific upcycled garment. This is the amount of fabric I needed for an 8" square sawtooth star block plus sashing to cover a 2T jean jacket.
- Denim jacket or other upcycled garment
- Basic sewing machine and thread
- Dark fabric (sawtooth star): half fat quarter or scraps
- Light fabric (background): one fat quarter
- Hand sewing needles
- 8 wt. hand quilting thread – I prefer using #8 Perle cotton thread in contrasting colors to my fabric
- 40 wt. hand quilting thread – I recommend matching this thread to the Light fabric. Gutermann is my favorite for handwork. Their 40 wt cotton thread is so strong and has a silky finish, plus it's already waxed so it rarely knots. NOTE: Typically if a thread is labeled "quilting thread" it is waxed for hand quilting. Any kind of waxed thread should not be run through your sewing machine. Quilting thread is waxed so it glides through fabric easier when hand quilting. If you have regular cotton thread, you can add wax or conditioner to it with products like bee's wax or thread conditioner.
Working with Upcycled Clothing
First things first, find a quality garment to upcycle. I have a deep affinity for function and utility, pieces that stand the test of time and become family heirlooms...hello quilts! So this patchwork jacket tutorial will use utility style outerwear: a jean jacket.
If you don't have old clothing or are unable to visit a second hand store to find an item that works, there's no shame in buying something new so you can personalize it with one of these quilted patches. No matter where you source your garment or accessory, it will be transformed in a beautiful way once you're finished with it.
Other upcycled clothing options that would also work great include:
- Chambray button down shirt
- Linen pants
- Jean pants or shorts
- Cotton sweatshirt
- Canvas bag
All of the same principles discussed here can be applied to any of those. Do you have a lovely accessory or item of clothing that needs jazzing up, but it's not listed here? No problem! Unless that item is made with stretchy (think spandex) or stiff (think leather) materials, chances are it will still work great.
Patchwork Jacket Tutorial
Step 1: Measure for the patchwork block.
Lay the item to be bedazzled flat (in this tutorial I am working with a denim jacket), with the back facing up. Give it a long hard look and decide how large you want your patchwork pattern to be. The size of the block is entirely your choice.
As you can see, in this little boy jean jacket I aimed for maximum star visibility so all the points are still seen when the jacket is worn. This patchwork jacket tutorial uses an 8" x 8" startooth star block and size 2T jacket (for the cutest wittle boy on the planet!!)
Mark the area on the jacket with the tool of your choice - pins, pen, chalk, hera marker. This will come in handy later when you’re trying to center block placement. Check out, The Best Quilt Marking Tools for more information.
Step 2: Measure for the sashing.
Next you will need to calculate the sashing or borders that create negative space around your block. Excess is key. You need at least a 1/2" seam allowance on all sides. Pay special attention to the construction of the jacket; some shoulder seams actually fall on the front of the jacket so you’ll want extra material for this area.
Step 3: Sew your patchwork block.
Let’s get started! For a full tutorial on making sawtooth star blocks in four different sizes, read this post – Reverse Sawtooth Star Quilt Pattern.
For a sawtooth star block that finished at 8" square (unfinished it will be 8 1/2"), you will need:
- Light Fabric: 1 - 5 1/4" square
- Light Fabric: 4 - 2 1/2" squares
- Dark Fabric: 1 - 4 1/2" square
- Dark Fabric: 4 - 2 7/8" squares
Step 4: Sew sashing.
Next cut two 8 1/2" x 4" strips to attach to the top and bottom of the block. Press the seams away from block. My sashing strips are 4" wide because of the seams on this jean jacket.
Be sure to measure your garment to double check how wide your sashing needs to be. Leave wiggle room and seam allowance! You can always trim fabric, but it's harder to add extra later.
Once you have the sashing sewn to the top and bottom of the block, cut two 4" x 17"+ strips to attach to sides. Bottom-align the side strips so any excess can cover the exaggerated shoulder area, the “+.” Press seams away from the star.
Step 5: Baste the patchwork to the jacket.
Using the lines/pins you marked earlier, center the star on the jacket back. I test for placement accuracy by folding up sides and measuring equal-distances from jacket seams. That being said, go with what looks best - it’s ok to ignore what the rulers say here.
Start pinning like you would baste a quilt, starting from the center, smoothing and working your way toward outer edges. Since this is smaller scale than a quilt, regular pins work just fine over safety pins.
Step 6: Quilt the patchwork to the jacket.
Option: You can machine quilt your patchwork to your jacket. In this tutorial I hand quilt my patchwork.
Using perle cotton thread and a needle, quilt your block. For a full tutorial, with video on how to hand quilt, check out this post - How to Hand Quilt.
The only difference to keep in mind is that you are working with two layers instead of three – there is no batting. This means you don't need to pop your knot at the beginning or end. The knots will all be visible on the inside of the jacket.
Now's the time to have some fun by adding as much hand quilting as you like! You don't have to just quilt around the edges of the design. Stitch in the center of your block to provide added structural integrity and that covetable yummy handmade texture.
Make sure your thread goes all the way through to the jacket's interior. Bonus result: interior will have a hand-quilted pattern too! Double or even triple knot your thread at the beginning and end for extra security.
Step 7: Finish the edges of the patchwork.
You're on the homestretch! The final step in this patchwork jacket tutorial is to finish the edges. Thread your needle with the 40 wt. hand quilting thread and start working your way around the edge using a simple finishing stitch, like a whip stitch seen below.
I recommend using a smaller needle than you did when hand quilting with thick 8 wt. hand quilting thread. For more information on needles, check out The 5 Types & Sizes of Hand Quilting Needles.
- Trim excess fabric sashing leaving a 1/2" seam allowance around the edges. You can trim as you go if you find that to be easier. If you are sewing just a patchwork block, then no excess sashing will need to be trimmed and your seam allowance will be a 1/4", rather than a 1/2". You can see an example of a block with no sashing in the photo of the baby girl jean jacket above.
- With either an iron or by finger pressing, fold under the seam allowance so the folded edge of the patchwork butts up against the jacket seam. Pin or *glue baste this in place if you find that helps. Again, this is something you can do as you sew if you find that to be easier and/or faster.
- Starting at the bottom center, smooth excess fabric toward jacket edges. Triple knot your thread and start sewing around the edge. Keep your stitches small – try to make them no larger than an 1/8" so the patchwork doesn't gap or have space for something to snag between stitches.
To see how glue basting works, check out this tutorial on How to Sew Cloth Napkins.
When you reach a corner, remember to add stitches for extra reinforce (likely areas for high wear and tear).
If your patchwork folds into an armpits, I have found cutting small darts into the seam allowance helps ease this area. You can fold and work with the fabric any way you need to make it fit. If the fabric gets puffy or puckery, just add more hand stitching as needed to tack it in place.
Keep working up the side, but stop before you get to the top of shoulder. I stop near the shoulder blade (usually the horizontal seam across the jacket), make a knot, and pin the shoulder and neck area. Since this is usually a rounded area with a collar, it may require a lot of pinning finessing. You may find darts useful around the top corner area too. Pin and repin until you’re happy.
It's time for a celebration dance! You're finished!! Yay!!
If you're excited to add patchwork to some of your old clothes, tell us in the comments? Is quilting on upcycled clothing something you've been doing for years already? We'd love to hear your tips!
12 thoughts on “Patchwork Jacket Tutorial: Upcycle a Denim Jacket with Style”
Absolutely perfect!! How fun to upgrade a Jean jacket!!
I love the idea of a quilt patch on denim! Mine will go near the hem on one leg of my jeans though. There are still a few pair of wider boot cut jeans in my closet and I’ll start with that. GREAT idea! Nice to see your neighbor adopting and making the best of this autumn weather.
Thank you for this great tutorial! Long ago I quilted cuffs and a collar for a switch out on a corduroy shirt. I have several denim jackets I could place a pretty block on.
Thanks for the tutorial! Adding quilting to an unused jacket has been dancing in my head for a while. Now I have a plan. Thanks again.
Such a super fun idea!!! Your models are adorable…
Love it! And the kids are such pros! Reaching into my closet as I write this to grab the jacket. I was going to cut it up for a tote, but may give it one more chance. Thanks!
These are so cool! What is the name of the block of the other design. The one made of small squares without a background?
I’m not sure that has a specific name, but is just a basic gradient design with squares.
I’ve heard it referred to as Trip Around the World
What an awesome idea! It’s just adorable on those toddlers!
I think it was 5 or 6 years ago that my adult daughter said that my homemade jackets had to go. I also pitched the denim jacket I had upcycled with quilty places and photos printed on fabric. Bc it had family, old childhood photos, I just sent it to the burn pile, not wanting that in a store. Alas…. what comes around – goes around. Right?
Love them, I will make one for my grandson and one for me!