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I can remember when my kids were growing up.  I would sew patches on their Awana and Civil Air Patrol uniforms. But patches can be fun, too! You can find so many cute patches to decorate your jeans, jackets, vests, shirts and even backpacks.

Many of these patches are iron-on. But you may be wondering if just ironing them on will work. So you may be wondering if you can sew on iron-on patches.  Yes, iron-on patches can be sewn on any fabric. Sewing on the patch is highly recommended if you are attaching patches to fabrics which are heat sensitive.  Or if you will be laundering them frequently. Just be sure to use a heavier needle. 

Sewing on a patch takes a little more time and a wee bit more sewing skill than just ironing on a patch. But not much. If you know how to iron and use a sewing machine, you can sew on a patch. There’s really not much to it.

There are some things you should consider if you want to sew on an iron-on patch. Let’s take a closer look.

Prepare Your Fabric

If your fabric can be ironed, Iron your fabric where the patch will be placed. This makes sure that you get rid of any wrinkles.

But don’t iron if you’re using a fabric that is sensitive to heat such as nylon, metallic fabric or leather.

Spread the garment or item smoothly on a flat surface such as an ironing board.

Get Your Patch Ready

  • Choose where you want to attach the patch. Make sure the patch is straight and exactly where you want it. I suggest that you use something on the garment or project to line it up. Such as a shoulder seam, a front button placket or the lower edge of an armhole. But if you are doing the patch to be fun or whimsical, just put the patch wherever it gives you the look that you are going for.
  • Secure the patch with a pin. Try on the garment or take a look at your project from a distance and make sure all looks right.
  • Iron on the patch. What? I thought we were going to sew on the patch. Yes, we are. But if a patch is first ironed on it stands a better chance of staying put. I need to warn you though that you should only choose to iron it on if your garment or project fabric is meant to be ironed. For instance, I wouldn’t use an iron on nylon, metallic fabric, leather or a waxy canvas. An iron will damage these materials.

To iron on the patch, use a warm iron without steam. But first, put a pressing cloth or sheet of paper over the patch. This will protect the patch and fabric from getting scorched. If the iron covers the whole patch, leave your iron on top of the patch for about 30 seconds. If the patch is larger, you can move your iron in small, slow circles for 30 seconds.

Choose Your Thread

You will need to consider both the strength and color of the thread.

Strength: My recommendation is that you use a stronger thread such as quilters thread. This will give your patch more stability. Your patch should then be able to withstand more wear and more washings.

Color: Color is all about your preference. I try to match the color of the border or the background depending on where I plan to sew the patch. Or you can even use an invisible thread.

A Larger Needle Is Important

You will need a larger needle for sewing the patch than what you would use for sewing just the material. A larger needle will make it easier to sew through the thicker layer of the patch. Also, a smaller needle may break when sewing on an iron-on patch. I have heard of people almost getting hit in the eye when their needle breaks. So let’s be safe and use a large enough needle.

Which Needle Size Is Best?

I would suggest that you use either a 14, 16, or 18 size needle. But it all depends on the weight of the fabric you will be attaching the patch to.

On the needle package, the size may be listed as 90/14, 100/16 or 110/18. The first number is the European size. While the second number is the American size.

Size 90/14 is recommended for fabrics such as broadcloth, flannel, cotton, knits, jersey, sweatshirt material. So if your patch is going on a shirt or sweatshirt, 90/14 would be a great choice.

Size 100/16 needles are made for heavier weight materials like corduroy, canvas or denim. This might be a good choice if you will be putting the patch on a lightweight denim or corduroy jacket or jeans.

Size 110/18 needles are best for very heavy fabrics such as heavy denim, heavy canvas, or leather.

If you are sewing on leather, you may want to check out a special needle made for leather that has a wedge point.

Which Stitch Will You Use?

Patches are usually stitched on the border or just to the inside of the border.

 If you want to stitch on the border, I suggest that you use a zig-zag stitch that is wide enough to catch the border and part of the fabric.

If you choose to stitch in the patch background, you will need to use a straight stitch as you sew around the patch as close to the inside edge of the border as you can. I find that it helps to use a zipper foot for this stitching.

Can Patches Be Washed?

Yes, both sew-on and iron-on patches can be washed as long as the garment or item is washable. Otherwise, you may choose to have it drycleaned.

Before washing, be sure to turn your garment inside out. This will help to protect the patch. Wash in cool water.  Dry on low heat or hang to dry. If I iron-on a patch, I prefer to hang my garments to dry. I’m afraid that the heat from the dryer may be too hard on the patch.

An iron-on patch can go through the wash for an average of about 25 times. So double-check the patch periodically to make sure that the edges are still secure. If the patch starts coming off, it will only take a couple minutes to sew it on.

What’s The Best Way to Sew A Patch Onto Leather?

Sewing with leather is pretty hard work but very rewarding. You can use a sewing machine or sew on the patch by hand.

Using a regular sewing machine for sewing a patch onto leather could be tricky. Be sure to choose an 18 or 20 size needle. They are for heavier fabric such as leather. Your regular machine may not be able to handle the thickness even with the larger needles. But it all depends on the weight of the leather.

If your machine can handle the thickness, it’s best to use a free walking machine attachment for working with leather.  Otherwise, you may end up stretching your leather if you use a regular sewing foot.

Another tip is not to backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitching. Backstitching may cause needles to break. But instead just stitch over your beginning stitches when you make it all the way around the patch.

The best machine for you to use would be a heavy duty walking foot sewing machine. But these machines can be rather pricey.

Even though leather is difficult to sew by hand, it may be your best solution. All you will need is a sharp needle, thread, and double-sided tape.

Tips For Handsewing A Patch Onto Leather

  • If you are sewing onto a lined leather jacket or vest, decide whether you want to sew through just the leather or all the thicknesses. If you choose to sew through just the leather, you will need to undo the nearest seam in the lining. Be sure to open up the seam wide enough so that you can maneuver your hand easily while sewing.
  • Put a strip of double-sided tape to the back of the patch. Make sure the tape isn’t near the edges of the patch. If the tape is under the border of your patch, the sewing needle may become sticky from the tape. This will make the stitching more difficult. Now place the patch where you want it to be sewn on.
  • Select the sharpest thin sewing needle that you have. There are special leather needles that are thick with a wedged point. But they are usually harder to use when you’re sewing on a patch. Go for the sharpest.
  • Select your thread. It’s fine to use regular polyester thread of a matching color.
  • Cut off a strand of thread about 24″ long. Thread your needle and pull the threaded end of the thread to match the other end in length. Tie a knot on the end.
  • Start sewing on the patch by coming up from the back side judging where the patch is. Make sure that you are coming up into the border of the patch. Then go back down and back up. Keep repeating until you have gone all the way around the edge of the patch.
  • Make sure you end up sewing with your needle going down to the back side. Cut your thread leaving enough room to tie a knot.
  • If you opened up a seam, sew the seam make up.
  • Enjoy your patch!