Patch It Up!
June 30, 2013
When I was a kid, my mom had the most amazing stash of patches in her sewing box. From time to time, she'd use them to patch up holes my siblings and I would wear in our clothes, but mostly, I think she kept them on hand to keep me busy while she worked. I'd rifle through those patches for hours, ever entranced by the tiny tableaux rendered in appliqué and embroidery.
Nowadays, I think of patches as embellishments more than colorful repair tools. And I love to make my own. Here are a few ways to create your own custom patches using just small bits of fabric remnants (total stash buster!) and a bit of Heat'n Bond.
The easiest way to make a patch is to just use a segment of a print fabric that frames up nicely. If I'm using a cotton print, I first fuse it to a backing of twill or other medium-weight fabric to give it added stability.
To select a design, I cut a 3-inch diameter circle in a piece of paper, and use that circle as a frame to line up a fabric design. Then I use a fine point permanent marker to outline my circle, and cut.
To finish the patch, I first stitch along the edge with a stay stitch, then I satin stitch around the outer edge of the circle. Voila! Instant patch.
To add a little sparkle, a few hot-fix rhinestones do the trick nicely.
For appliqué patches, I first start by sizing out my designs in a photo editor, and then printing out my sheet. (This is also the sheet I use to cut my circle template for selecting a design from patterned fabric.)
The next step is tracing my design elements backwards onto the paper side of my Heat'n Bond.
(Tracing tip: If you're having trouble seeing the reverse image of your design through the layers to trace, you can make an instant light box out of your smartphone or tablet by taking a photo of a blank white piece of paper, then previewing that photo on your screen and laying the tracing layers over it. The light of the white screen shines through to make tracing much easier.)
Then, I iron my traced design Heat'n Bond onto my fabric.
After I let it cool for a few minutes, I cut out my pieces. Working in the small scale of these patches, curves and interior corners can be a little tricky, but it just takes a little patience. Do you recognize the design I'm working on here? It's the letters for the Eta Hiss Hiss sorority from "Monsters University" -- there's actually a brief sewing sequence in the movie!
To line up my letters to iron them onto their outline layer, I used a scrap of paper with a straight edge, then carefully ironed them into place.
After the letters were fused, I applied a layer of Heat'n Bond to the back of the outline fabric.
Then I trimmed the outline fabric close to the design of the letters. Since you're working in small scale, you want to be careful, but you can eyeball this part.
Next up, I ironed my outlined letter applique to the background fabric of my patch. As with the cotton prints in the earlier patches, I fused this remnant of suiting to a medium-weight fabric for stability.
Next up comes the stitching. This requires some patience as you work your way around the shapes -- no need to rush. I just try to experiement a little beforehand to find the zig-zag width and stitch length that works best for the project at hand. For this one, my Brother was set to a 1.5 width and a 0.5 length.
Tip: As you work your way into corners, you might want to narrow the stitch width as you go. It helps prevent stitches running off the applique. The more you practice, the better you'll get!
Once the stitching on individual letters is done, the outline fabric gets a run of stitching, and then I cut the circle for the patch out, centering the letters. For this one, I centered it from the lighter back side to make marking easier than it would have been on the black front.
Then, satin stitching around the edges, and it's done. Ready to pledge Eta Hiss Hiss!
I also created an Oogie Boogie patch using the same applique method:
I'm a runner, and am OBSESSED with a really fun app called "Zombies, Run!" that sets your training within an imagined zombie apocalypse scenario. I wanted to make a patch out of their logo to add to a track jacket, and for this one, I used T-shirt scraps. I didn't stitch around the edges of the applique elements here, just left it after I fused the design in place. This is easier, of course, and is a fun way to make patches with kids, but you'll have to be careful with washing and keep an eye on your design to make sure the pieces don't peel up with continued use and laundering.
If you want to make iron-on patches, just apply a layer of Heat'n Bond to the back and peel off the paper just before you finish the edges with a satin stich. I actually prefer to sew my patches in place, because it's easy to remove and reuse them if I want to. I put them on jackets, bags, hats -- wherever seems right.
Creating these little pieces of design is a great way to experiment with ideas and techniques. If you have an embroidery machine, you can go crazy making mini-art. You can also play with hand embroidery, use fancy thread (I just used all-purpose for these), or add buttons or ribbon. -- let your creativity flow!
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