Adding Hand Embroidery to a Zip Pouch

This tutorial is part of the “Build a Zip Pouch Series“, giving you the skills you need to sew custom zip pouches in a variety of styles and sizes. Links will be added to the series homepage (here!) as new tutorials go live.

A great way to add a personal touch to your zip pouch is with hand embroidery. This works especially well for me because most of the reclaimed fabric I use is solid colored. Hand embroidery allows me to include more color and customization to a pouch, while still sticking with my preferred fabric- denim!

Here are my best tips for hand embroidery on denim or other heavy weight fabric. If you’re using a lighter weight fabric, don’t worry, there are tips for you too!

Pattern Application

There are multiple ways to transfer an embroidery pattern to your chosen fabric.

The easiest way to transfer an embroidery pattern to a heavy/opaque fabric is to use Sulky Solvy Stabilizer (or another washaway embroidery stabilizer). Simply print the pattern onto the stabilizer, stick it on your fabric, stitch over the pattern, and then rinse away the sticker. Of course, traditional transfer paper and/or pencils work well too.

Another fun, and even more custom, option is to draw directly on the fabric with a water soluble marker. I use this option when writing words on my zip pouches. It’s easy to make sure you’re getting the words the right size for the fabric this way!

Pattern application tips:

  • Remember to leave margin for pouch assembly. If you have a 1/4″ seam allowance, leave at least a 1/4″ border around the embroidery pattern. Ignore this tip if you DO want your pattern to run all the way to the edges (as I do with the beginning and ending letters when writing cursive words).
  • If you are boxing the bottom of your pouch, adjust your pattern accordingly. For example, if you are boxing your corners at 1″, make sure the embroidery pattern is at least 1/2″ + the seam allowance from the bottom of the fabric.
  • Consider stitching on your fabric before trimming it down to the size you need. It’s easier to stitch on a larger piece that can fit in a hoop!


Follow the stitching directions of your chosen pattern. If you are stitching mostly words, I recommend using a simple backstitch. Use shorter stitches when going around curves. For more depth when stitching in cursive, use two overlapping backstitches on the downstrokes.

When embroidering on denim or another heavier weight fabric, I use all six strands of embroidery floss. This helps the stitching stand out better. If you are stitching on a lighter weight fabric, use two or three strands of floss instead. Also, consider using a fusible interfacing/stabilizer for the back of the fabric or stitching through two layers instead of just the one.


After stitching, rinse off your transfer method if needed. Thoroughly dry the fabric before assembling it into a pouch. Sew as normal, then flip right side out to enjoy your unique addition to a simple zip pouch!


There are endless possibilities for hand embroidery pattern choices. Pretty much anything you can draw or print from a computer, you can stitch!

When it comes to words, I usually like to keep it simple these days and stitch my kids’ or my own handwriting. I also have some go-to encouraging phrases to use on my upcycled tote bags – you can find those here :).

If you’d rather write your own phrase or word, it’s easy to create a pattern. Open a word document and add a text box the size you desire. My favorite fonts for stitching are Dancing Script and Gadugi, but you can choose any font you’d like.

I can’t wait to see how you embellish your own unique zip pouches!

Together we can find more ways to reclaim fabric
and breathe meaning, joy, and life into our days.

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