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How to Sew Iron-on Patches (So They Last Much Longer)

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Patches seem to be the thing today. They are no longer just a way to mend your clothing, or to celebrate your membership in or your support of a certain organization, group, or institution. Patches are now a fashion statement. Unfortunately, they never seem to stay on long when ironed on.

Sewing on patches with a sewing machine is the best option but it can also be done by hand. The best way to sew on the patch is to use an embroidery back stitch. It is recommended that you use a strong quilting thread or a dual-duty thread. This will help extend the life of the patch even further.

Please read on for more details on how to sew on patches correctly.

Is It Better To Sew Or Iron On Patches?

Iron on patches are more secure if attached by needle and thread. If they are attached by using the iron-on backing, they cannot be easily moved if there is a need to put them on a different piece of clothing or another item. Also, sewn-on patches can also be moved more easily if you so desire.

If a patch is made with an iron-on backing and it is being used to repair clothing that has been damaged, it should be attached by using the iron-on method and then reinforced by sewing, either by hand or with a sewing machine. If a patch is not iron-on but is being used to repair something that has been damaged, I would recommend first using a good adhesive to attach the patch, and then it should be reinforced with sewing, by hand, or with a sewing machine.

If, however, the patch is decorative, whether iron-on or not, and might possibly need to be moved to a different item of clothing or another object, then I recommend sewing the patch to make the attachment more secure and to give you the option to remove it at some point and attach it to another item or object.

What Is The Best Way To Attach Patches To Items Of Clothing?

Blue jeans with patches with needle thread and a thimble laying on the jeans

There are two ways to sew on a patch, by hand or by using a sewing machine. The best way to attach iron-on or any other patches is with a needle and thread and the use of one of several different hand or sewing machine stitches. The best way for you is the option that is available to you. If you have a sewing machine, then the sewing machine method will be your best option. If you do not have a sewing machine or access to one, then sewing on a patch by hand is your best option. 

Both hand sewing and machine sewing will greatly extend the life of a patch, and the pattern on the patch will determine which stitch will look better on the patch.

Here are a few of the best stitches to use and a description of those stitches:

Hand Stitches

The best way, in my opinion, to sew on a patch or to reinforce an iron-on patch by hand is to use a simple embroidery back stitch. By using a strong quilting thread, a dual duty thread, or even embroidery thread, this is one of the best ways to sew on or reinforce an iron-on patch. But, the running stitch and the hemming stitch are also good hand stitches to use when sewing on a patch.

If using hand sewing, the job will be easier if you secure the fabric surrounding the patch in an embroidery hoop with the patch in the center. If not ironing on the patch, be sure to secure it with pins so that the patch will not shift while you are sewing.

Running Stitch

The running stitch is your basic hand stitch. It refers to a series of stitches, one after the other in as straight a line as you can make it and the stitches as uniform or the same size as you can make them. The hand stitch looks rather like a series of dashes on a document, like this: – – – – – – – – – – – – -.

Backstitch

The backstitch is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, hand stitches, and is one of the basic embroidery stitches. There are variations of the backstitch, but the basic embroidery stitch that I learned many years ago involves a stitch that, instead of sewing forward, each stitch begins a stitch length from the first stitch and ends at the end of the stitch before it.

Hemming Stitch

To work the hemming stitch, follow these steps:

  1. Thread the needle and tie a knot in the tail end of the thread.
  2. Starting on the underside of the fabric, push the needle through the fabric at the edge of the fabric and take a diagonal stitch about ¼ inch to the right and bring the needle out directly below that stitch to the edge of the fabric and loop the thread around the needle and pull the thread through.
  3. Then, continue making the diagonal stitches.
  4. Try to keep the stitches as even as possible from the edge and between stitches.

In this video, I show how to sew a patch on when a backstick won’t work:

https://youtu.be/6fXriTeo5AY

Machine Stitches

With machine sewing, there are several stitches that can be used to reinforce an iron-on patch. They include a straight stitch, a blind hem stitch, and a zig-zag stitch. I have used all three of these stitches when reinforcing patches. Here, again, the pattern on the patch will determine which stitch will look better, but the straight stitch is the strongest stitch to use.

Blind Hem Stitch

The blind hem stitch on a sewing machine is a way to join two pieces of fabric together so that the thread is invisible or almost invisible. Blind stitches hide the thread between two pieces of fabric.

ZigZag Stitch

The sewing machine zigzag stitch is a back and forth stitch that is used in several sewing applications like making buttonholes.

Straight Stitch

The straight stitch is the regular stitch that a sewing machine makes, and is a continuous line of identical stitches, one after the other.

What Is The Strongest Hand Stitch?

The strongest hand stitch is the embroidery backstitch that is described above. The backstitch is designed to reinforce each stitch as it is made.

What Is The Strongest Machine Stitch?

The strongest machine stitch is a straight stitch which is very hard to tear and is made by layering the thread. The only way to make a straight stitch stronger is by stitching over the first row of stitches and by using a strong, durable thread.

Can You Use Patches On All Fabrics?

Various types and fabrics of kids clothes hanging on a rack

Unfortunately, iron-on patches cannot be used on all fabrics. Delicate fabrics such as nylon, rayon, and polyester will not withstand the heat necessary when ironing on the patch and the fabric will be damaged. If you use a lower heat setting for those fabrics, the iron-on surface will not attach securely to the fabric and the patch will not last very long without coming off.

However, if you do not use the iron-on capability for attaching patches, patches can be attached to all fabrics by sewing. The type of fabric that you are attaching the patch to will determine the size of the needle and the thread. A larger needle and coarser thread will be needed for cotton, denim, or burlap. But, a small needle and fine thread can be used on delicate fabrics such as satin and silk without damaging the fabric.

Vinyl and leather are two other surfaces that cannot withstand the high heat necessary to use iron-on patches and sewing can damage both vinyl and leather, though leather can certainly be sewn. Attaching patches to vinyl and leather with a good adhesive is the best way to add embellishments to those fabrics.

Kinds of Patches

There are four main types of patches. They are:

  • Embroidery Patches Embroidery patches are easily made, affordable, durable, and can be made with an unlimited number of colors and designs.
  • Leather Patches Leather patches are more expensive but also more versatile and have much more eye appeal.
  • Printed Patches Printed patches are more cost-effective, easy and fast to make, and allow you to create an infinite number of designs.
  • Woven Patches Woven patches give you the capability of using more detailed designs.

How to Make Art Patches for Any Item of Clothing, Backpack, Shoes, or Other Objects

Inkjet Transfer Paper.

Material needed:

Directions:

  • Take a picture of anything you want to turn into a patch.
  • Using a computer, resize the artwork as needed.
  • Print the picture onto inkjet photo transfer paper.
  • Place the fusible interfacing onto the back of the heavy fabric with the adhesive coating of the fusible interfacing against the fabric.
  • Attach the fusible interfacing onto the fabric by ironing. Follow package directions for specific details about the ironing process for the fusible interfacing.
  • Place the photo transfer paper onto the front of your heavy fabric.
  • Transfer the picture onto the front of your heavy fabric by ironing.  Follow package directions for specific details about the ironing process for the photo transfer paper.
  • Allow the fabric to cool completely.
  • Cut the patch to size.
  • Peel off the paper backing of the fusible interfacing and attach the patch to any surface you choose.

Final Stitch

Military father with American flag patch on arm sitting with son who is giving a thumbs up

There are all types of art patches available today to give you the look you want. And, with the directions listed above, it is quite easy to make your own art patches using your own photographs, if you wish to do so. But, it is also quite simple to make homemade embroidered patches with either hand embroidery using iron-on or original patterns or machine embroidery by using an attachment that comes with many of the new sewing machines that do the embroidery work for you. 

The sewing machine that I use is easy to operate and does regular sewing as well as quilting and embroidery and does a fantastic job with all three functions. And there are many other machines available that are either multi-function or specific to one function. 

So, depending on the type of patches that you are interested in, there are many options available to you.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss How to Sew Patches Over Holes in Clothes | The Best Way.

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