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What is an Embroidered Patch?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 17, 2024
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An embroidered patch is a decorative item that bears a design rendered in threads. In many cases, these patches are designed to attach to a garment by being heated with an iron, fusing the patch to the fabric of the garment. It is also common to see patches that are sewn onto fabric items. Patches are often used instead of embroidering directly onto a garment for practical reasons. It is possible to find embroidered patches in many designs, and custom patches can be ordered as well.

The basic design of an embroidered patch involves a somewhat stiff base embroidered with a design, typically covering the entire patch with threads. While it is certainly possible to do otherwise, the overwhelming majority of patches have an embroidered edge that creates a border for the entire embroidered patch. Different patches use different materials, but these items are usually thicker than lightweight fabric but still thin enough to be flexible.

One major difference between patches is the way in which they attach to garments and other fabric objects. Many patches attach to fabric using a heat-sensitive adhesive, which is activated using an iron or other heat source. These patches are usually not removable because the glue is bonded to both the fabric and the patch after activation. Other patches are sewn onto fabric items, which can make it possible to remove the patch when necessary.

Embroidered patch designs are quite varied, but it is common for this type of item to be used to designate an affiliation with a group or an accomplishment. For example, many schools, medical associations, and clubs have embroidered patches given only to members. This allows these organizations to attach membership information to many different kinds of garments and items.

Accomplishments can also be designated by patches, as is the case with many scouting organizations for children. An embroidered patch is typically related to a specific accomplishment, such as learning an activity. Patches of this sort are then applied to a uniform item, and other members typically recognize the accomplishments implied by each patch.

While many corporations purchase large batches of embroidered patches for business purposes or for the uniforms of employees, it is also possible to design and purchase smaller batches of custom patches for clubs, family events, or any other purpose. There is often a minimum number of patches that must be ordered, but it is sometimes possible to find a company that will produce a very small number of patches for special purposes. These patches can then be attached to almost any fabric item, just like patches purchased in a store.

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Discussion Comments

By golf07 — On May 17, 2011

I am not a seamstress and would think the iron on embroidered patches would be a lot easier to apply, but don't think they would be as durable as those that are sewn in place.

We also have embroidered biker patches, but my first recollection of these patches is from my boy scout days. It was quite an honor to earn those patches and have them applied to your vest.

By John57 — On May 16, 2011

We belong to a motorcycle club and have many different embroidered motorcycle patches on our vests. I like to hire a lady who knows how to sew well to sew them on our vests for us. It looks so much more professional. If I had to do it, it would probably have crooked stitches and not stay in place very well.

It always surprises me how many people really stop and read the patches and often ask what they stand for. They can be great conversation starters.

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