A Blog for the Perpetually Frustrated Home Sewist

Kitschy Kitty Shorts Tutorial

Hi everyone! Welcome to the inaugural post for the Ready-to-Swear Blog. I hope you enjoy this post and that it doesn't leave you ready to shout any obscenities at your sewing machine. Let's get right into it.

A few weeks ago I ended up in American Apparel browsing their store closing sales. When I came across this pair of high waisted denim shorts in my size, I knew they'd be perfect for a pastel summer wardrobe. But I felt like they'd be cuter with embroidery!

This tutorial will show you how to apply machine embroidery to a patch pocket on any clothing item you desire. This is the first project I ever completed with machine embroidery, so I believe this project is definitely within reach of other novices like me. Just be patient and take your time! 

I chose to complete these shorts using a machine capable of machine embroidery, specifically the Brother SE400 (available here). I learned how to machine embroider by using the instruction manual and consulting the advice of this blog. However, if you don't have an embroidery machine at your disposal, I think this tutorial may still be helpful. Rather than using the machine to embroider, you will simply need to do it by hand.


  • A pair of shorts or a clothing item with some kind of patch pocket (I think this is a wonderful tutorial for up-cycling a thrifted article of clothing)
  • An embroidery file- I selected this one from Oopsidaisi on Etsy
  • Embroidery thread for the colors in your embroidery file
  • Stabilizer- I used cut away stabilizer because my shorts were made from denim, but tear away or water soluble might work better if you're if your fabric isn't denim
  • 90/14 Jeans needle
  • Thread to match the stitching around your pocket 
  • Temporary Adhesive Spray (optional)- I used this 


Before getting started, I think it's a good idea to practice your embroidery on a scrap piece of fabric that is similar to your final pocket fabric. This will help you determine your final spacing as well as check the embroidery colors before embroidering your final pocket. As a newbie to machine embroidery, the layout and spacing proved to be one of the more difficult aspects of this project. 

1. After testing out an embroidery file you feel comfortable with, it's time to remove the pocket from your clothing item. Before removing the pocket, it's wise to mark the exact placement of the pocket so you can sew it on precisely later. Initially, I measured the distance from the pocket side to center back and the distance to the hem. Although taking note of these measurements was helpful, I found that outlining the pocket with blue chalk was easier and more straightforward. (However, after doing so, I realized this may not have even been necessary, because it was easy to see the previous stitching line and simply follow it.)

Then, I finally turned my shorts inside out and unpicked the pocket from the inside. 

Below is the removed pocket! 

2. The next step is to prepare your pocket for the embroidery process. If your pocket is made of denim, you'll want to place a layer of cut-away stabilizer on the back. If your pocket is an awkward size like mine (meaning it's almost exactly the same size as the hoop, making it hard to pull taut), you might want to use a spray stabilizer to fuse the two together temporarily, so you can pull it tighter. As a beginner machine embroiderer, I'm not sure if this is the best method, but it worked reasonably well for me. 

Sorry for the bad photo quality and crooked pocket placement! 

3. The next step is to actually embroider your selected design onto your pocket. The settings for this will really depend on your machine. I used the Brother SE400, and consulted both the manual and the  guidance of this blog post. If you don't have an embroidery machine, you will need to embroider or sew a design by hand. Below is the completed adorable kitty pattern on my pocket! 

Remember to clip all the threads from the embroidery! I found it helpful to clip many as I went. It's also time to trim the bobbin threads and trim the stabilizer to a reasonable size around the embroidery. 

4. The fourth and final step is to reaffix the pocket to the shorts. I followed my chalk line and the first stitch lines on my shorts to make sure the pocket layout is as true to the original as possible. 

I found it easiest to pin in this way, but there may be an easier method available. I also made sure to zig zag and reinforce the location of the original bar tacks on the top part of the pocket. 

You should end up with something like this! Please ignore the unsightly blue chalk. 

To complete the other pocket, simply repeat the steps listed above! 

Now we're all done! 

We started with this...

And ended with this! 

Thanks so much for checking out this tutorial! I genuinely hope it helps! 

xoxo Anna Kate 

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