Maybe your daughter just brought home her first Girl Scout’s badge for her sash, or perhaps you moved out on your own and just discovered a hole in the elbow of your favorite flannel shirt. Even in this age of ready fashion, people still need to sew patches on clothing for various reasons! So how exactly do you sew on a patch?
The best way to sew on a patch is to use a sewing machine or a sturdy hand-sewing technique. For more decorative patches, techniques like using a set-in patch or an appliqued patch will also work. To attach an embroidered patch to a uniform, hat, jacket, or backpack, the best method is to use a running or applique stitch.
In this article, you will learn eleven ways to sew on a patch. You will find out if ironing or sewing works better to keep a patch permanently fixed on a garment. Finally, you will find tips on where to find patches for different kinds of clothing.
- How Do You Sew a Patch on Fabric?
- How To Sew On a Patch: 11 Methods
- What is the Best Way To Sew On a Patch?
- Is it Better to Sew or Iron on a Patch?
- Where Can You Find Patches for Clothes?
How Do You Sew a Patch on Fabric?
You can sew a patch on fabric using many different methods, some as simple as using a needle and thread, and others requiring a sewing machine. You will also find that you can use many different types of patches, depending on your particular need.
One of the most common patches to sew on clothes is an embroidered badge. You may need to place this in a specific spot on a military uniform jacket or shirt. If you have a child in Girl Scout,s Boy Scouts, or a similar organization that awards badges in recognition of accomplishments, you will probably need to apply the badges n a particular setting as well.
In contrast to this precise type of badge setting, you can also use much more whimsical and decorative types of patches. Using applique or reverse applique techniques, as well as a variety of fancy hand stitches such as a herringbone stitch, will allow you to make your patchwork look fun and interesting.
Finally, you may just want a patch to hide a hole in your clothing. In this case, you can learn several darning methods to make the hole disappear almost entirely!
How To Sew On a Patch: 11 Methods
The eleven most popular ways to sew on a patch include using a sewing machine or a needle and thread, but you will also find several special applique and darning techniques here.
Before you begin any of these methods, secure your patch where you want it to remain on your clothing or fabric item.
You can do this using sewing pins or safety pins in most cases. This gives you a chance to double-check and make sure you like the placement before you put in a lot of time and work. It will also hold the badge or patch in place, so it does not accidentally skew sideways as you sew!
1. With a Sewing Machine
One of the quickest ways to sew on a patch is to use your sewing machine. Machine-made stitches will also provide a sturdy attachment as an added benefit.
That said, a sewing machine may not always be the best choice for sewing on a patch. For example, you may find it difficult to stitch neatly around the edge of an intricately shaped embroidered patch. You may also find that you like the style of a hand-sewn blanket stitch applique better than a machine stitch for some inset or appliqued patches.
Finally, a sewing machine works best on a flat object that you can easily insert under the needle, like a shirt or jacket. You will likely need to sew patches onto backpacks or hats by hand.
In many cases, though, quickly stitching a patch on with your machine will save you a lot of time and hassle.
To sew on a patch with a sewing machine:
- Pin the patch in place using either sewing pins or safety pins, depending on the thickness of the patch. You may need to use a sturdy safety pin for an embroidered badge.
- Set up your sewing machine with a heavy-duty needle for an embroidered badge or a universal medium-weight needle for a fabric patch. You will also want to set your stitching settings to a narrow zigzag stitch, which looks almost like a flat line of stitches.
- Thread the machine with a thread that matches the outer edge of the patch.
- Insert the patch over the needle plate and align it so that the needle rests over the outer edge of the patch. You will want to sew around the edge so that the narrow zigzag overlaps both the edge of the patch and the fabric outside the edge of your garment.
- Slowly stitch around the edge of the patch. You want this stitching to look very nice and neat, as it will remain visible!
- When circling around the patch, clip the threads and remove the garment from the machine.
- For a nice finish, thread the upper thread through a hand-sewing needle and use the needle to bring that thread to the inside of the garment. This way, you will not have a loose thread end marring your patch on the surface of the garment.
2. With a Sewing Machine and Iron
In some cases, it may help to add the additional step of using an iron before machine sewing a patch or badge to your clothing.
Many embroidered badges come with a heat-activated adhesive coating on the reverse side of the badge. You can use an iron on a gentle setting to essentially glue this kind of badge down onto the fabric.
While this method does not provide the neatest and most secure form of badge attachment, it can prove helpful as a pre-sewing method. The adhesive will hold the badge nicely in place as you sew!
If you get a very large embroidered badge, such as a decal to place on the back of a jacket, you may need to purchase iron-on hem tape. You can place several strips of this tape along the middle of the large badge, use your iron to activate these strips, and then carry on with your sewing method of choice.
The hem tape will prevent the large badges from bowing out in the middle as you wear the jacket later.
3. By Hand
Sewing on a patch by hand takes a bit more time than using a sewing machine, but it allows you to create super neat or decorative stitching. This is also the easiest way to sew on tiny patches or to use pretty appliqued patches!
While hand sewing does work best on intricately shaped, small, or decorative types of patches, it does come with some tradeoffs as well. Obviously, it takes more time. Plus, even your smallest and most precise hand stitches will not provide the strength of machine stitching.
Perhaps most importantly, you may need to learn how to make decorative stitches by hand to try this method. Popular stitches used for sewing on patches by hand include a running stitch, a blanket stitch, and a catch stitch.
You will want to decide where to place your patch or badge and secure it with pins before trying any hand stitching techniques.
A running stitch is one of the easiest and quickest kinds of stitches you can use when hand sewing. It will work best on patched with simple shapes, like rectangles or circles.
- Thread your needle and tie a knot at the end of the thread. You can choose embroidery floss or cotton or polyester spool thread. You can also use a matching thread or a thread in a contrasting color if you would like your stitching to show up more.
- Start sewing from the inside of the fabric, drawing the needle up to the surface. This way, your knot will sit on the inside of the patch instead of showing up on the outside.
- Make a stitch by pushing the needle back through the fabric so that it comes out on the reverse side. You can make these stitches as large or small as you would like. Ideally, you want each stitch on the top and bottom of the fabric to have the same length.
- Continue bringing the needle up and down, making similar-sized straight stitches on both the top of the fabric and the reverse side of the fabric.
- When you have stitched all of the way around the patch or badge, take the needle back to the inside of the material and tie off a knot to hold your stitching in place.
Using a blanket stitch creates a neat, decorative edge around a patch. This works well on both small and large, intricate and simple patches or badges. It also works on appliques or fabric patches.
- Thread your needle and knot the end of the thread. You often want your decorative blanket to catch the eye, so you may want to choose a color of thread that contrasts nicely with the color of the patch. You may also want to use embroidery floss for this technique.
- Draw the needle up from the inside of the fabric about half an inch inside the edge of the patch so that the knot catches on the inside. You want the needle and thread to come out just outside the edge of the patch.
- Now, place the needle tip on the applique or patch inside the edge. Depending on how big you want the blanket stitch to get, you can make this stitch anywhere from a quarter-inch to half-inch in length.
- Draw the needle and thread through the patch and the fabric, but continue to push the tip of the needle so that it comes back out beside your original thread onto the top of the fabric. You will have made a loop of thread from the fabric, through the patch, and back out to the top of the fabric! You should now have a small stitch that lies vertically to the edge of the patch.
- Get ready for the slightly tricky part of this stitch: next, you will need to wrap the thread around the tip of the needle and then pull the needle and thread all the way the loop this creates.
- From here, you simply repeat this stitch by moving along the edge of the patch, pushing the needle down through the patch and back up through the fabric at equal distances. Make sure you create the thread loop with every stitch.
- When finished, you will have a neat row of vertical stitches reaching into the patch and parallel stitches along the edge of the patch.
A catch stitch, also sometimes called a cat stitch, herringbone stitch, or a large cross stitch, creates a type of zigzag over the edge of a patch, badge, or applique. This is a very decorative stitch that you can make as bold or delicate as you like.
- Knot the end of your thread and bring the needle from the inside of the fabric and through both the fabric and the patch until the thread pulls taut.
- Next, working from right to left, move the needle about a quarter-inch to the right and scoop up a tiny amount of the fabric outside the edge of the patch and slide the needle and thread all the way through. This will create a diagonal stitch from inside the patch to the fabric and a small stitch on the inside of the material. It will also leave the needle and thread-free on the outside of the material.
- Now move the needle another quarter inch to the right, but this time you will scoop up a tiny stitch inside the edge of the patch, still moving from right to left. Draw the needle and thread all the way through once more. You should not have an upside-down V shape over the edge of the patch.
- Repeat this process, creating V-shaped stitches around the edge of the patch.
- Once you have sewn around the entire perimeter, knot off your thread on the inside of the fabric.
If you want more of an X shape and less of a V shape to this stitch, you can make your parallel stitch larger instead of catching just a few threads. This will enhance the portion of the stitch where the threads cross over each other.
If you want a messy, whimsical style, you can also vary the lengths of your stitches to make alternating larger and smaller X or V shapes with your stitches. Most of the time, you will want to use regular stitching around the edge, though.
4. By Hand Appliqued Patch
You can find quite complex, layered applique techniques, often used by quilters or advanced sewers. That said, the fundamentals of applique don’t take long to master. Once you know how to do this, you can apply artsy patches anywhere you like on your clothing, bags, or hats!
- Cut out your patch in a fun, contrasting color to the fabric of your garment or bag. You will need to add a small allowance of about a quarter-inch around the outer edge of your shape, as the edge will get turned under. You may want to begin with a simple design that does not have sharply curved edges, as straight or slightly curved edges will be easier to sew.
- If you can, pin the patch into place. If you need to cover a hole, pinning may not work. In this case, use a rough tacking stitch to hold the patch in place, and then remove the tacking after you finish sewing on the patch.
- Thread your needle and tie a knot at the end of the thread. For this type of patch, you will want a thread that closely matches the fabric of the patch so that your stitches do not show.
- Draw the needle up from underneath, leaving the knot on the inside of the garment.
- Next, use your thumb to turn under the outer edge of your patch, just a quarter-inch or so. This will create a smooth finished edge on the outside of the patch. You will want to continue turning under as you go, keeping the edge smooth. You may find it easiest to fold with the edge of your needle or with a tiny knitting needle or stick.
- Bring your needle through the folded-over edge so that needle and thread both pull taut on the top of the patch.
- Make a small perpendicular stitch by bringing the needle back down into the fabric just past the folded edge. This will firmly attach the folded edge to the garment beneath.
- Next, bring the needle back up but slide it a tiny distance between the garment fabric and the folded edge of the patch before coming back up through the edge of the patch. You will want about ten or twelve of these tiny stitches per inch along the edge of your shape, so make this space quite small!
- Repeat your perpendicular stitch.
- Continue folding over the edge and applying this stitching pattern around the perimeter of the patch.
5. By Hand Set-In Patch
Also called reverse applique, this method allows you to create a cool contrast in shape and color by cutting out the shape from the existing garment and then applying the patch to the inside of the fabric behind the cut-out hole.
You will generally want to use a decorative hand stitch for this technique, but you can also use a fancy machine stitch to sew around the edge of the inset patch.
- Cut out the shape you want in your jacket, jeans, or item. For instance, if you want your finished patch to have a heart shape, cut a neatly edge heart out of your garment.
- Apply your patching material to the inside of the hole. You may want to use strips of iron-on hem tape around the edge of the fabric. Alternatively, you can simply pin the patch in place with sewing pins.
- Since this patch is intended to look attractive, you probably want to select a decorative hand or machine stitch to sew around the edge of the hole. Stitches like a blanket stitch or a herringbone stitch will work well. Make sure your stitching overlaps the cut edge of the fabric in your garment to keep it from unraveling or looking messy.
- In some cases, if you do not think the fabric in the inset area will remain sturdy enough, you may want to consider ironing on a square of interfacing on the backside of the patch so that the interfacing overlaps the patch and the garment and gives them an additional sturdy backing and seal.
6. Over a Hole By Hand
You can sew a patch over a hole in your clothing by hand using several different methods, depending on whether or not you want the finished patching to look visible or not.
- You can always use a needle and thread to darn the hole almost invisibly. To darn by hand, you simply sew stitches that cross the width of the hole horizontally until you cannot sew the hole. Then you sew stitch vertically up and down the hole, crossing over the horizontal stitches.
- If you want to celebrate your repair job, try using a colorful applique to hide the hole. You can make a fabric shape in any style you want, from a cutesy heart or flower to a tough-looking skull ad crossbones!
- If you want to apply a patch that matches your garment, such as putting a denim patch on a jean jacket, you can use tiny hand stitches in a running stitch or blanket stitch pattern to hold the matching patch in place over the hole.
7. Darning with Machine
Darning uses many threads stitched or woven together to fill in a hole in a garment, creating a unique type of patch and repairing damaged clothing. You can darn by hand, but using a machine makes this process quick and easy.
You can use decorative darning, especially if you like to embroidery by hand. But the great thing about darning with a sewing machine is that you can make these repairs almost invisible with just a bit of practice!
Some sewing machines offer a built-in darning stitch. However, this feature usually only appears on expensive computerized machines. If you have a slightly less sophisticated machine, you will want to set your machine to a straight stitch instead. Make sure you install a buttonhole maker in place of the usual presser foot if you use an official darning stitch.
- Set up your sewing machine using thread that matches the color of the garment.
- Cut out a small section of a fusible interface and use an iron to press this in place on the reverse side of the hole.
- If your machine has a darning stitch, simply select this option and sew a set of darning stitches over the hole and through the interfacing. For a large hole, you may have to sew several rows of layered darning stitches.
- If your machine does not have a darning stitch option, you will want to stitch a series of straight lines from above the hole to below the hole until you have closely covered the space with vertical stitches. Then sew back over this at a slight diagonal, creating another series of lines across the hole but this time on a diagonal.
- When you finish, you should not see the interfacing through the hole, as your stitches will have entirely covered up the open space!
8. On a Military Uniform, Shirt or Jacket Sleeve
You have to use a little extra care when sewing a patch on a military uniform, shirt, or jacket sleeve to make sure you adhere to all the necessary regulations.
- You will likely need to place the embroidered badge in one specific spot on the uniform. Make sure you follow the proper procedure for this placement.
- You may also need to follow certain rules in the type of thread you use. In most cases, you will want to use a thread that closely matches the embroidered edge of the badge so that your stitching does not show.
- Likewise, you will want to use an unobtrusive stitch for this process. If you can use a sewing machine, you will want to use only a straight stitch or a simple zigzag stitch to attach the military badge. If you need to sew by hand, stick to a running stitch or a blanket stitch using a matching thread that will now show up.
- One other difficulty of attaching an embroidered badge to your military uniform is that you may need to place the badge in an area that you cannot easily access with your sewing machine, such as on a sleeve. In this case, simply use very neat hand stitches around the edge of the badge to hold it in place.
9. On Jeans
You can sew a patch on jeans using any of the methods described in this article. For example, an inset patch looks cool if you have a hole in the knee of your jeans. Or, if you want an invisible fix, use a matching blue thread and neatly darn the hole in your jeans to make it disappear.
Another method that can look fabulous on jeans is called a sashiko patch. In this technique, you apply your patch fabric to the inside of the hole, just as you would for the inset patch method. But instead of simply sewing around the edge of the patch, you use neat, tiny rows of stitches to sew horizontal and vertical rows over the whole patch.
This lovely Japanese art form creates a unique patch on your jeans!
10. On a Hat
If you can fit your hat under the needle in your sewing machine, the best way to attach a patch to a hat is to sew it in place with machine stitching. Hats often have curving shapes, and ironing or stitching by hand may not keep the patch in place on that curve, as well as machine stitching.
That said, sometimes, you will not find it easy to fit a three-dimensional object like a hat over the needle plate of your machine. In this case, use a neat, simple hand stitching technique like a blanket stitch to hold the badge on the hat.
11. On a Backpack
Because of the unique shape of a backpack, you will likely need to attach patches by hand.
- If you simply want to hide a hole in your backpack, try using the hand darning method described earlier in this section. Or you can use the inset patch method, but use a matching material instead of a contrasting color for the patch!
- If you want to attach an embroidered badge to your backpack, such as a commemorative patch from a concert or event, you can use a simple hand sewing stitch such as a blanket stitch to hold the badge in place.
- If you want to spruce up your bag with a fresh new design, try adding an applique patch! You can use any shape or color you want.
What is the Best Way To Sew On a Patch?
The best way to sew on a patch varies based on whether or not you want your sewing to look decorative or appear invisible. It also depends on how much time you want to put into the process.
For a quick, sturdy method, try using a sewing machine. You can use neat machine stitches to apply military patches, Girl Scout Badges, or even to darn a hole in your favorite jeans.
For a more fun type of patch, you can use hand-sewing stitches such as a catch stitch to sew on an applique patch or to use a contrasting color around the edge of an embroidered badge.
So, what is the best stitch for sewing on a patch? It depends on the patching method you decide to use!
Is it Better to Sew or Iron on a Patch?
Whether or not it is better to sew or iron on a patch usually depends on the type of patch and how permanently you need it to stay in place.
Most of the time, sewing provides a sturdier attachment. This is especially true on a curved surface such as a hat or backpack, as the edges of the badge may peel away if you just iron it into place.
Ironing can also damage some types of material. You should always read the care instructions on a garment before applying high heat to it, as you could accidentally melt a hole in your jacket or backpack otherwise!
To sum up: ironing often provides a great way to hold a patch in place as you sew it down more permanently. But in general, sewing offers a better method for attaching a patch to clothing.
Where Can You Find Patches for Clothes?
You can find pretty much any type of patch you may want from craft supply sellers such as Etsy or stores like Hobby Lobby or Joann Fabric.
- For simple denim patches or fabric for appliques, try a sewing store like Joann Fabric. You can browse the fabric aisles in person and select a material that matches your garment.
- If you want embroidered badges, you may find better luck searching Etsy. You can find everything from tiny ice cream cone badges to enormous twelve-inch dragons or skulls to decorate the back of a jacket from various Etsy sellers.
- Of course, in many cases, patches awarded for accomplishments or to commemorate an event will come from specialized organizations. For instance, your military badges will come from the military. If you want to collect an embroidered patch from every state park you visit during the summer, you will probably need to buy the badges at the gift shop of each park.
Whether you need to attach a badge to a uniform or hide a hole in a pair of jeans, you can easily learn how to sew on a patch. The best ways to sew on a patch include using a sewing machine or sewing by hand. You can use invisible darning stitches or decorative hand stitches like a blanket stitch or a herringbone stitch.
You can use these techniques to sew on many different kinds of patches, including inset patches, appliques, embroidered badges, and matching fabric to cover holes. In some cases, you may want to adhere the patch with an iron-on adhesive before sewing.
Have you ever sewed a patch onto a garment? What method did you use? Leave a comment below to let us know!