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How to Sew Patches Over Holes in Clothes | The Best Way

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I come from a long line of lifelong quilters, and all of the women in my family know how to sew. In fact, my mother sewed for a living for several decades. Recently, I was asked to sew patches on my niece’s jeans so that she can get more wear out of them. They are name-brand jeans that are well made and still perfectly good, but they are getting holes in certain areas. So, here are the steps I made to apply the patches:

To sew patches so they last much longer, the steps are: (1) Prepare the area by cutting away any fabric that is worn and trim all loose threads; (2) Select a patch that is the most similar in color to the fabric you are mending, and that is at least an inch larger all around than the area you are patching; (3) Stitch around the entire outer edge of the patch to reinforce and make the patch more secure.

The rest of the article will go into the steps in detail and also cover using iron-on patches and various adhesives.

A woman is repairing ripped blue jeans

1. Prepare Fabric For Patching

If you are patching certain items of clothing such as jeans, jackets, or sweatshirts and the fabric is just a little worn, then no advance preparation is necessary. But, if the fabric is so worn that the threads are fraying and there is a hole in the fabric, then trim away the loose threads and cut out the frayed fabric so that there are no jagged edges.

If, however, you are simply adding a patch and not repairing a worn area, there is no advance preparation necessary except that the fabric should be clean and lint free.

2. Select a Patch

Here are a couple of things to look for when selecting a patch:

  1. Choose a patch that is as close a color match to the fabric you are patching as you can find, unless you are adding the patch to decorate as well as to repair a damaged area. In that case, choose a coordinating or contrasting color.
  2. Choose a patch that is large enough to cover the damaged area with at least an inch of coverage around the bad spot.

How Can I Make Homemade Patches?

To make homemade patches, here is a good method you can use for making denim patches for jeans or any garment made with denim fabric.

Homemade denim patches for jeans or a jeans jacket:

Materials Needed:

Discarded jeans and one of the following to secure edges:

  • Pinking shears
  • Fabric stabilizer
  • Bias tape
  • Thread

One of these items to attach the patch:

  • Adhesive
  • Thread for hand sewing
  • Thread for machine sewing
  • Fabric stabilizer

Directions:

  1. Take a pair of discarded jeans and cut a piece of fabric large enough to cover the area you are patching. 
  2. Secure the edges by either (1) cutting the patch with pinking shears, (2) attaching the patch to fabric stabilizer, (3) sewing bias tape to the edge of the patch, or (4) stitching around the edge of the patch with a single running stitch or a zig-zag stitch.
  3. Attach the patch to the area being patched by (1) gluing with an adhesive, (2) sewing the patch on by hand, (3) machine sewing the patch, or (4) using the fabric stabilizer to attach the patch to the clothing.
  4. Secure the patch if it was attached with an adhesive or the fabric stabilizer by sewing around the edge of the patch either by hand or by using a sewing machine.
Sailrite Sewing Machine
An American-Made Sailrite Sewing Machine

3. Sew on the Patch

A patch can be reinforced by several different methods. Those methods include:

  1. Sewing by hand,
  2. Sewing with a sewing machine, and
  3. Using a good all-purpose glue, especially on such items as shoes and backpacks that are not as easily ironed as clothing.

What is the Best Way to Sew On A Patch?

There are two ways to sew on a patch, by hand or by using a sewing machine. 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.

Hand Sewing

The best way to sew on a patch by hand is to use a simple embroidery back stitch. By using a strong quilting or dual-duty thread, this is one of the best ways to secure the 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. Here are the 3 best hand stitches to use when sewing on a patch:

  • 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.

Machine Sewing

With machine sewing, there are several stitches that can be used to attach a 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. The pattern on the patch will determine which stitch I think will look better on the patch, but the straight stitch is the strongest stitch of the three. Here is more information on the 3 stitches mentioned:

  1. 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.
  2. ZigZag Stitch The sewing machine zigzag stitch is a back and forth stitch that is used in several sewing applications like making buttonholes.
  3. 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.

How To Keep the Edges of A Patch From Fraying?

There are several things that you can do to keep the edges of a patch from fraying.  Here are a few of those ways:

  • Use a zig–zag stitch around the edge of the patch.
  • Trim the edges of the patch with pinking shears.
  • Use an interfacing underneath the patch.
  • Hand stitch around the perimeter of the patch with a hemming stitch.
  • Use a serger to secure the patch.
  • Use bias tape to hem the patch before attaching. This is especially useful when using homemade patches.

Adhesive Types

Can You Hot Glue Iron-On Patches?

You can use hot glue to attach patches, but the patches attached with hot glue will last longer when washed in cold, cool, or warm water. Washing in hot water will cause the hot glue to lose its bond with the fabric the patch is attached to. And, remember to line dry the garment. The heat of a clothes dryer will cause the patches to come off more quickly.

Is Liquid Stitch Good For Patches?

Liquid stitch is a good permanent waterproof adhesive made to repair minor rips, cuts, and tears, large or small, in almost any kind of material. When used on washable fabrics, they can even be machine washed and dried and the liquid stitch will hold. 

Liquid stitch holds securely and is a good adhesive to use for attaching patches to almost any article of clothing, backpack, shoes, or any other object that you would attach a patch on.

Is Gorilla Glue Good For Patches?

Gorilla glue is an excellent glue to use when attaching patches and other decorative items to any fabric.

Not only is gorilla glue good to use when attaching patches, but it is a great method of repairing hems that have come unsewn.

Here are a few important facts about gorilla glue:

  • Gorilla glue is a multi-purpose glue that has as its base methylene diphenyl diisocyanate, or MDI, which causes it to expand as it dries, filling in any crevices and forming a more stable bond.
  • Gorilla glue can be used on almost any surface, including fabric.
  • Since gorilla glue is waterproof, washing will not disturb its bond, which will allow its hold to remain secure longer than other adhesives.
  • Gorilla glue comes in a version that is made specifically for fabric.
  • Gorilla glue is clear and will not show when it dries.
  • Gorilla glue is washer and dryer safe.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind if using gorilla glue on fabric:

  • Do a test spot in an area on the fabric that is not visible before using to see how it will work on your particular fabric.
  • Regular gorilla glue doesn’t work well on fabric, so remember to use the formula made specifically for fabrics.
  • Gorilla glue dries very quickly so be sure to get your patch or embellishment in the right place as soon as you can because it will be very difficult to adjust the placement later. 

Attaching an Iron-On Patch

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

The proper way to attach an iron-on patch is simply by following the package directions which will be similar to these instructions:

  1. After you have prepared the area you are patching, lay the item you are patching flat on an ironing board and straighten the fabric so that there are no creases. If you do not have an ironing board, you can use a sheet or towel folded on any hard surface such as a table, kitchen counter, or the floor.
  2. Place the patch in the exact area that you want to patch or reinforce.
  3. Cover the patch and the area surrounding the patch with a piece of fabric such as a bath cloth or pillowcase to protect the patch and the garment from the heat of the iron.
  4. Preheat your iron to its highest setting.
  5. Place the iron on the patch and apply pressure to the iron for 30 seconds, or the length of time indicated in the package directions.
  6. Turn the item inside out and cover the patch with the cloth and press again for 30 seconds while applying pressure to the iron.
  7. Allow the fabric to cool completely. 
  8. Check the patch to make sure it is firmly attached.

Is It Better To Sew Or Iron On A Patch?

It is better, and the patch will last longer if two methods are used to attach the patch. Either iron on and sew, or glue and sew. By using two different methods, you can be sure that your patch will last the maximum time that is possible.

If a patch is made with an iron-on backing, 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, 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.

Do Iron-on Patches Come Off In the Wash?

Iron-on patches do tend to come off in the wash. But, there are a few things you can do to extend the life of your patches. They are:

  • Reinforce the patches by sewing as well as ironing on. This is the best thing you can do to keep your patches in place for the longest period of time.
  • Wash the garments with patches in cool or cold water, not in hot as hot water tends to loosen the bond of the iron on patches.
  • Line dry the garments with patches and avoid putting anything with patches in the dryer.

Can You Iron On A Patch Twice?

When you are first attaching an iron-on patch and it doesn’t appear that there is a good bond between the fabric and the patch, you can try following the directions for ironing a second time to see if the bond appears stronger.

But, if you iron on a patch and it comes off after being washed, there will not be enough of the adhesive left on the back of the patch to form a good bond and unfortunately it will not work a second time. If you want to reattach a patch that has come off, the best method is to use an all purpose adhesive to hold the patch in place and reinforce this bond by sewing either by hand or by machine.

Can You Use Iron-On Patches On All Fabrics?

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.

Vinyl and leather are two other surfaces that cannot withstand the high heat necessary to use iron-on patches. Attaching patches to vinyl and leather with a good adhesive is the best way to add embellishments to those fabrics.

The best way to attach patches to more delicate fabrics is to use a strong adhesive that does not require heat to activate and then to reinforce the patch with sewing.

How Long Do Iron-On Patches Last?

Iron-on patches usually last through 25 washes according to patch manufacturers. Without reinforcement, though, I believe this estimate is a bit too high. But, by sewing the patches on in addition to the iron-on adhesive, the patches should last twice as long. It is certainly worth the effort it will take to reinforce by adding stitching to the patches.

How Do You Secure Patches That Either Will Not Stick or That Come Off?

If you have iron-on patches that just refuse to stick and keep coming off, I recommend you get a good adhesive like one of those mentioned in this article and stick the patch on and then use either hand stitching or machine stitching to reinforce the hold.

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

Final Thoughts

My first experience with patches was for my sons’ jeans when they were young and wearing out the knees of their pants. Then, I graduated to adding patches onto handmade gifts such as shirts and knitted caps and scarves. It wasn’t long before I had to put that knowledge of sewing on patches that I had learned over the years to good use when I had cub scouts and boy scouts in the house and there were many patches that had to be added to uniforms.

So, whatever purpose leads you to applying patches, just keep in mind that whether the patches are iron on or not, they last longer when reinforced by stitching.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss How to Sew Iron-on Patches (So They Last Much Longer).

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