How to give a Denim Jacket a fresh new look

How to give a denim jacket a fresh new look with fabric paint and some simple embroidery.


It’s time for The Sustainable Craft Challenge when I’m joined by a group of creative bloggers and we all create something to share with you that incorporates a sustainable, or eco friendly element. The aim to explore ways to craft in a more sustainable way, recycling, upcycling and using what we already have. This month our theme is FRESH.

I’ve chosen to give an old denim jacket a fresh new look.

How to upcycle a denim jacket with fabric paint and embroidery

The background to this craft project

This is a project that has been on my mind to try for several years. I saw this lovely idea on the cover of Mollie Makes Magazine (sadly no longer around) back in June 2021. I had 2 old denim jackets at the time and both needed some brightening up.

I shared this photo on Instagram and asked for feedback on which I should embellish. In the end I settled on a fabric makeover for Jacket A in March 2022 - check that out here: denim jacket refashion with brocade fabric. I mentioned at the time I would be giving Jacket B a fabric paint and embroidery and just over a year later here it is - whoop whoop!


Anyway enough waffling on about the background to this makeover, let’s get started with freshening up an old denim jacket with some fabric paint and simple embroidery.

These are my 2 pieces of inspiration

  1. the idea in the Mollie makes Magazine (I didn’t keep all my magazines, I just pulled out pages that I thought I might use one day and keep them in a ring binder)

  2. a floral doodle that I did a few months ago and shared on my Instagram

To give an old denim jacket a fresh new look you will need:

  • An old denim jacket (I guess a new one would be fine too!!!)

  • A fabric marker pen, I used a Frixon pen for this

  • Fabric paint in a section of bright fresh colours

  • Embroidery thread in a selection of bright fresh colours

  • A small paint brush, a sharp needle, scissors

Draw and paint a simple design

Start by sketching some simple flower, stem and leaf shapes on the back of your denim jacket with an erasable pen. You can use my design as inspiration if you want to of course. You might find it helpful to doodle a few ideas on paper first to create a design you are happy with. Keep it simple, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Basic flowers, a wiggly line with leaf shapes or dots etc.

Now use your fabric paint to fill in the shapes you’ve drawn. If your paint is very runny or your denim is quite thin you’ll need to put a piece of card under the fabric as you paint, just to stop the colour seeping right through. I didn’t need to on this jacket as the denim is pretty substantial but bear it in mind.

I chose fresh bright colours to fit with our FRESH theme for the craft challenge, and because that fits my style but of course you can use any colour scheme that suits you. Leave the fabric paint to dry and then iron to set the paint as per the instructions on your fabric paint.

Adding extra embellishment with simple embroidery

Now grab a selection of embroidery thread. I recommend using nice quality branded embroidery thread, something from Anchor or DMC. These wash well without fading too quickly and the colours don’t run.

You can choose colours that match the fabric paints you used or contrast with them, or a mixture of both. It’s a good chance to use up small left overs of thread from embroidery kits if you have them.

There are no rules here, just add embroidery stitches to your design in any way you like. You can use simple straight stitches:

You can add some lazy daisy stitches too, and french knots if you like doing them.

I used 2 strands of thread throughout but if you want the embroidery to stand out more then use more strands.

Use up shorter lengths of thread to stitch simple stars randomly over the design too, filling in the gaps.

Once the design on the back of the jacket was complete I added some stars and extra embellishment to the pocket trim and waistband, and another flower to the front above the pocket.

One lovely thing about embellishing an old garment like this yourself is that you can add more any time you like. The other main benefit is that you give yourself a lovely fresh addition to your wardrobe without spending too much at all. I’m very lucky as this was free - I already had plenty of fabric paint and embroidery thread. If you are buying new supplies maybe limit your colour pallet to keep the cost affordable.

I’m now the proud owner of 2 unique denim jackets, I actually don’t know which one I like most. Currently it’s this new painted and embroidered one but that’s probably because it’s a novelty, I’ve worn the fabric embellished one such a lot over the last year.


Now let’s take a look at the other FRESH themed project shared by my creative blogging friends for the Sustainable Craft Challenge: