How to make a DIY patch-covered jean jacket (for WAY less than designer look-a-likes)

Patch-covered jean jackets have been brought back from the fashion grave. Style mavens from Beyoncé to Cara Delevingne have sported them lately, and even Marc Jacobs has a patch shop. But when I decided I wanted one for myself, I paused to think about spending designer or even retail prices on one. My heart said, ‘yes’, but my wallet said, ‘as if.’

(For reference, a patched Marc Jacobs jacket goes for $695, while Madewell sells a similar style for $148.)

Luckily, I’m pretty thrifty and fairly crafty. I’m not saying I can sew like a professional, but I can thread a needle and I know my way around the local Michaels. And basically the only three things that make you a good thrifter are patience, an eye for what you like, and a sense for what will fit.

What I like most about the trend (aside from cost) is the personalization in representing your passions in patch and pin form. Kind of like my high school boyfriend’s metal vest with Iron Maiden, Slayer, and Anthrax patches.

Kind of.

You can also support artists and their personal online shops or Etsy stores by buying independently (not through Urban Outfitters, etc). I had already started a small collection of patches and pins, and had been on the hunt for a well-fitting, black jean jacket for a few months — so I decided it was time to make my own patchwork jacket.

On a recent hunt at a Salvation Army thrift store in San Diego, I finally found it — the well-fitting, slightly cropped, worn-in, raw-edged black denim jacket of my dreams. It was priced at $8.09, but thanks to kismet, everything was half-off that day.

I walked out of there with the perfect jacket for less than the cost of a grande chai latte.

Next, I knew I wanted to spell out something on the back of the jacket, sort of like a letterman. While the commodification and commercialization of the feminist movement has its problems, I am a self-proclaimed feminist, and want more women (born that way or not) to feel comfortable with boldly stating that, too. So I went to Michaels and bought a piece of white felt for about 40 cents and came up with a way to make my own letter patches to spell out “FEMINIST.” You can buy letters from Etsy for about a dollar or two a piece, but that adds up.

Doing it yourself is pretty simple.

First, find the font you want, print out your word(s) onto thick paper, and cut the letters out individually. Then trace them onto your felt, carefully cut those felt letters out, and sew them onto your jacket! You can thicken the felt with paint, or leave them as they are. Temporarily taping the letters to the jacket while sewing the first few stitches per letter can help you with even placement.


With that done, it was time to roundup my patches and pins. I already had my beloved “Things Will Work Out Pin” (see below), but spent some time virtually window shopping for cool patches.

I decided to aim for a more ’70s color scheme (oranges, browns, reds, etc) and set my sights on this hodgepodge of patches:


Get #1 here for $40, #2 here for $5.43, #3 here for $12, #4 here for $5, #5 here for $7.50, and #6 here for $12.

Mind you, I splurged for a $40 Madewell patch because I have a dumb obsession with California poppies because they remind me of my childhood and I’m a walking cliché. You can easily find cheaper patches and spend less yourself.

Once all of my patches came in the mail from their various creators, I ironed on those that were iron-ons, and carefully hand-sewed on the giant California patch from Madewell. I added my pins, and voilà…

In total, I spent $81.93 for the pins and patches (collected over the course of three or four months), about $1.50 for the felt and paint for the FEMINIST lettering, and $4 for the jacket, which totals out $87.43. When you consider that I can reuse the pins and patches on other items, and forever morph the jean jacket to match my future moods, that’s a pretty solid fashion investment.

And my favorite part about the whole process? I now have a garment that’s reused, that supports a half-dozen independent artists, and that is uniquely my own. Win, win, win.