The Upcycled Zara-Inspired Jeans You Can Make at Home


We're all about a good DIY, especially when it comes to trendier fashion pieces that'll go out of style. Spend a lazy day upcycling your jeans with this easy project!
Photo by Look Studio/


If you’ve been noticing the same trends that I have, then you know embroidery is everywhere. After a recent trip to Zara had me going heart-eyes over some embroidered jeans, I realized I could create the same look for a fraction of the cost. And what’s better than having a friend ask where you bought an item and being able to say that you made it?

There are a handful of ways that you can create this embroidered denim look at home. Many appliques come with iron-on adhesives on the back—in that case, all you have to do is choose where you want the design and iron away! However, I’ve found that many of the more elaborate appliques that I loved weren’t available in iron-on, so I attached mine with fabric glue instead.

Ready to get started?

DIY Upcycled Jeans 

Jeans design.

Photo by Ana Pierce/


  • one pair of old jeans (or any that you don’t mind permanently altering)
  • embroidered appliques (I bought mine from Amazon; one is larger and one smaller)
  • fabric glue (Aleene’s “OK To Wash-It” is a great one)
  • one handful of straight pins
  • fabric scissors (if you choose to cut the pants’ hem)
  • iron and ironing board
Supplies for jeans.

Photo by Ana Pierce/


1. Start off by ironing the appliques on a low heat setting. If your appliques are already perfectly flat, you can skip this step. But often, it helps to ensure the embroidery will sit perfectly on the new surface.

2. Next, use straight pins to place the applique where you think you want it on the pants. You can get an idea of how these will look before you even start by marking the spot you think you like with the pins.

Pinning jeans.

Photo by Ana Pierce/

3. After the applique has been entirely pinned onto the denim, try on the pants again to make sure you like where it is laying. This part is tempting to skip, but don’t do it! Once I had pinned the embroidery to both sides of my jeans, I decided to significantly lower the smaller patch, so you will definitely want to make sure you like where they are before you get out the glue.

4. While you’re trying on the pants, this is a good time to decide what length you want them to be, if you’re planning to crop them. If you decide you want to give your regular jeans an unfinished hem, use the fabric scissors to cut as much length as you like off of the end.

5. Once you’re happy with the length and where the appliques are on the denim, lay the pants on the edge of an ironing board. This will help you to make sure everything is staying flat while you’re gluing.

6. Go ahead and begin removing straight pins at the top of the applique, and apply glue to the back of the applique, paying careful attention to the edges. Since the glue dries quickly, you’ll need to do this in phases rather than gluing the back of the entire applique at once. Keep the pins in place until you’re ready to glue each area—this will help the applique stay better, and it will help you to remember which parts you’ve already glued.

Gluing jeans.

Photo by Ana Pierce/

7. Once you’ve finished gluing both appliques, let dry overnight and start planning what you want to wear with your new jeans!