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How to Create Denim Details

Why pay designer prices when you can jazz up your own jeans?
Threads magazine - 127 – Oct./Nov. 2006
Imagine your most comfortable jeans, kicked up a notch. To capture the latest trends, try beading, ribbon embroidery, and appliquéd patches. Photo: Jack Deutsch; hair and makeup, Christie McCabe. Stylist: Allison Berlin (styling credits on pages where garment primarily featured). Styling credits: earrings—Julie Sandlau, available at Saks Fifth Avenue; shoes, Oscar de la Renta, Amazon.com. Styling credits: necklace—Jessica Elliot, JessicaElliot.com. Styling credits: shirt—Byron Lars Beauty Mark, Runway, 212-925-9817; bracelet—Julie Sandlau, available at Saks Fifth Avenue; necklace—Dyanne Belle, DyanneBelle.com; boots—Via Spigot Willing, available at Nordstrom’.

I live in jeans. I’ll bet you do, too. In our busy lives, they are the epitome of easy, comfortable dressing. But oftentimes, plain-Jane purchased denim just screams for unique embellishment. In the following pages, I show you how to add designer details that I’ve spotted on the runways: reverse appliqué with machine-embroidered patches, beading, ribbon embroidery, and stenciling. Each technique is easy to learn and can be accomplished in an afternoon. And best of all, a limited-edition pair of jeans—which sell for up to $3,000—can be yours at a fraction of the price.

Follow simple design guidelines

I’ve embellished many purchased jeans for myself and my teenage daughter, so I know that embellishment is based, first and foremost, on personal taste. But whether you lean toward subtle and sophisticated or bold and daring, it’s always a good idea to first experiment with scale and placement on tracing paper. My favorite places to add embellishment are the waistband, back yoke, pockets, leg front, side seam, and hemlines. For pleasing balance, I place embellishments in two or three areas, and for impact, I opt for asymmetrical designs.

I also like to work within themes because I want my jeans to tell a story. Think of a subject that is special to you, perhaps an island theme or one based on a particular hobby. The topic you choose will guide you in shape and color selection. And don’t go too crazy with color. In my experience, three colors are more than enough (a ratio of 60-30-10 usually works well), but your theme may warrant a wilder palette.

Practice makes perfect

Once you have a plan in place, the actual embellishment is a cinch. As with any sewing project, the more you practice a technique, the…

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