Custom Patch Embroidery

By Sue Gorton, Contributing Writer

March 31, 2017

The resurgence of embroidered patches is evident. While these perfectly edged pieces currently are in vogue, you may find that making custom patches can be rewarding, fun and easy to produce with your embroidery machine.

Whether it’s to get a foot in the door with a prospective customer, impress a current customer or to make one patch, the following techniques will work for most applications. These steps, similar to the appliqué process, can be used for one-offs or multiple runs, and can be adapted for patches of nearly any size or shape.

Here’s what you will need:
A design for the patch
Fabric (for this example, we are using faux leather)
Temporary spray adhesive and cutaway backing
Embroidery thread and hoop
12-gauge clear vinyl
Heat press or iron
Heat-sensitive adhesive
Fabric scissors and copy paper

The Process

Using embroidery design software, create a patch design. Add a “walk normal” stitch to the end of the design. This will form the custom patch’s shape, and sewing it last will alleviate most of the distortion during embroidery.  The outline can be any shape, but simple circles, squares or rectangles are easier to execute cleanly.

In general, the patch border should be at least ¾-inch to 1 inch larger than the dimensions of the design you want to put on the patch.

Step 1:
Hoop an appropriate stabilizer and patch fabric together. If you are making multiple patches, you can use a larger hoop and make more than one at a time. Embroider your design and an outline stitch in the hoop.

Step 2:
Remove the fabric from the hoop and, using quality scissors, cut out the design on the outline stitch to get the patch’s exact shape. Delete the patch design in the software so that only the outline stitch remains. Use the walk stitch for the appliqué placement stitch.

Create a zigzag stitch using the walk stitch as a guide. Then, create a satin-stitch border using the walk stitch. To simplify things, you can copy and paste the zigzag stitch and simply change it to a satin stitch. Three elements now should be included in your design. Tip:  You can copy and paste these elements so you get the precise shape for all three.

Step 3:
Hoop a piece of clear vinyl (12 gauge is used in this example). It will give you a free, clean edge for the patch’s satin-stitch outline. Some vinyl includes a woven backing, which will not work. The preferred vinyl resembles protective furniture covering, and usually can be found in a general fabric store’s upholstery section. Tip: For a more unified finish to the outline, consider matching the bobbin thread color to that of the top thread.

Step 4:
Load the appliqué outline design in the embroidery machine operating system and program the color sequence with an appliqué stop after the first color. This is the appliqué placement stitch. Next, embroider the placement stitch on the vinyl. The programmed stop after the first color will allow you to place the patch onto the vinyl. Use spray adhesive and ensure the fabric is smooth on top to keep it in place.

Step 5:
Next, sew the zigzag tack-down stitch to hold the patch in place. Then, sew the satin-stitch outline. These stitches usually are the same thread color. Once the patch is finished, remove it and peel the vinyl off the back.

Step 6:
Apply a layer of adhesive to the back of the patch using a heat press or a hot iron, and in accordance with the manufacturer’s heat and time recommendations. You may find it useful to sandwich the patch face down between a couple of sheets of plain paper.  The bottom sheet will allow the adhesive to be applied all the way to the edges without extra glue adhering to undesired surfaces.  The top sheet will prevent extra adhesive from getting on the hot platen surface.

Step 7:
Once the adhesive has been applied and slightly cools, peel the paper backing off. Peel the patch off the other sheet of paper, leaving the excess glue behind.

Step 8:
Clean up the patch’s edges by peeling off any bits of the leftover adhesive. Use a hot iron or heat press with a pressing cloth or something similar to attach the patch to a hat or garment. For products that cannot handle the heat from a heat press, the patches can be sewn.

Designing and creating unique patches and embroidered badges presents exciting opportunities to savvy decorators. With these quick and simple techniques, you will have the tools to take full advantage.

Sue Gorton is a member of the Melco Applications Team. For more information or to comment on this article, email Sue at sgorton@melco.com.