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Police officers, firefighters, EMT and military, all have one thing in common. They ALL wear patches on their daily uniforms!
I know it’s not the first thing that comes to your mind. But, if you remember what their uniform looks like, you can recall seeing a patch on either their left chest, right shoulder, or back.
By now, you can probably come to the conclusion that patches are used to symbolize something.
For these four professions, patches symbolize authority and public order, but it extends beyond that.
Patches can also be used for fun and have become a trendy add on item for leather jackets, denim vests and much more.
If you’re already embroidering other custom items and have been thinking about adding patches to your business, we’re here to tell you how easy it is to make them.
So, let’s get started and show you step by step how a custom patch is made.
By the end of the article, you’ll understand how to make embroidered patches for yourself or for others.
Everything starts with an idea. So, it only makes sense that this is the very first step in this process.
You’ll need to come up with a good, strong concept, theme, or idea for the patch. Even more so if you’re going to sell it.
If we know one thing, it’s that people tend to base their buying decisions off of aesthetic.
Visually attractive designs get more eyeballs and bring in serious buyers. Whether they open their wallets depends on whether they like the design.
With that being said, it pays off to take the time to come up with a good idea for the design if you want it to be original.
If you’re used to designing things, this may come quickly or easy to you. However, if you’re struggling coming up with ideas, one option can be to find premade designs online.
There are websites where people offer to buy or license their designs and there are usually hundreds of designs to choose from. You just have to choose the one you like best.
Another popular option is to use ColDesi Graphics. If you have a basic concept that you want to turn into a design, the professionals at ColDesi Graphics can help bring it to life.
In addition, they digitize your artwork as well which actually brings us to our next step.
If your design has just come out of Photoshop, Illustrator, or any other graphics application, your embroidery machine won’t be able to read that.
Your next step is to digitize that design. You can think about digitizing as a set of instructions that come along with your design file.
So, when you load it up in your embroidery machine, the machine can read the instructions and understand how to sow out the design.
Not everyone knows how to do digitize and not everyone knows that something like that is even required before sewing out.
That’s where ColDesi Graphics comes into play again. What they’ll do is convert designs into production-ready files that can be loaded into your embroidery machine.
Keep in mind, not every brand of embroidery machines accepts the same file formats. For the Avancé line of commercial embroidery machines at ColDesi, DST files are compatible.
Make sure to double check what type of file format your machine accepts.
After digitizing your design, it’s time to shop for patch material.
You have your digitized design ready for your embroidery machine but what will you sew on to create these custom patches?
On our online supply division store, Colman and Company, there are various base fabrics for you to choose from. They come in different sizes colors, and even textures.
The two main materials that are most commonly used for patches are Patch Twill and Patch Material.
Let’s take a look at the differences between these two materials and which one will work best for your custom patches.
Patch Twill is an applique material made of 100% polyester and comes in rolls.
If you look at Patch Twill up closely, you’ll see a pattern (or a tileable texture) that runs continuously across the material.
It is perfect throughout, there are no frayed edges, loose stitches, or any other imperfections.
The great thing about it is that you can start using it right away, without any preparation, unlike with Patch Material.
You just unroll it, cut it to the size you need with scissors and that’s it — It’s ready to go!
What makes it so easy to use is a special layer of HeatSpun that’s already applied to the back of the material at the time of manufacturing.
You can think of it as a thin layer of glue. Later in the article, you’ll understand why this layer is so important.
Patch Material comes folded up in a bag. Just by feeling it, you can immediately tell the difference.
One thing you’ll notice is that it’s a little bit thinner and lighter than the Patch Twill.
You may also notice that there is no glue on the backside which makes it soft and stretchy but not very easy to hoop.
That’s why it’s recommended to layer it together with Heat Spun to help stabilize the material.
Now that you know the differences between Patch Twill and Patch Material, you can make an informed decision on what will work best for your business.
Let’s move on to step 4.
So far, you have chosen your design, prepared it for the embroidery machine and cut the patch material to the desired width and height.
You’re almost ready to start sewing but first, you need to hoop your base fabric.
This step requires hoops, which typically come with an embroidery machine.
However, if you’re an Avancé embroidery machine owner, we recommend the premium Allied Gridlock Hoops. Because of the built-in gridlines and adjustment screws, we consider these hoops to be an upgrade.
The hooping process can be very simple. All you have to do is mount the fabric in the embroidery hoop, making sure that it’s lined up correctly.
What it’s going to do is stretch out the fabric making it tighter and easier to embroider on.
Depending on which patch fabric you have decided to use, this may add a few extra steps in this process.
If you decided to use Patch Material, you’ll need Heat Spun.
Heat Spun helps to stabilize the material and prevent it from slipping and sliding through the hoop.
Keep in mind, adding Heat Spun to the Patch Material needs to take place BEFORE you start to hoop. You’ll need a heat press to add the Heat Spun layer to the back of your Patch Material.
Once it’s out of the heat press and pulled apart, the Patch Material will now have the glue layer it needs. However, you’ll notice that the Patch Material will still feel lightweight.
We recommend using some embroidery backing to help with this issue as well. Backing will give your Patch Material extra stabilization and it’s easy to put on!
You can either apply the backing to the back of your patch as is or use Tempo Spray to adhere it. Now it’s ready to be hooped.
If you’re using Patch Twill you won’t have to worry about any of the extra steps and you can just move on to hooping.
When this is done and you’ve hooped your patch, you’re ready to put it on your embroidery machine and load your design.
After performing a trace and everything looks good to go, it’s time to start the embroidery job.
Once the patches are complete, you’ll need to apply a layer of heat seal to them which we’ll get into next.
When you take the patch off your embroidery machine and flip it over, you’ll see stitches and thread hanging from it.
Thankfully, there’s a material that will seal all of your thread in the back into place, known as Heat Seal.
Regardless if you’re using Patch Material or Patch Twill, both of these fabrics will need heat seal.
It will not only hide the imperfections but also make the surface smooth to the touch and create a nice edge around your patch so it’s easier to cut around.
First, cut the heat seal to match the size of your patch. Then, take a standard finishing sheet and place it on the bottom platen of your heat press.
After that is done, place your patch face down on the finishing sheet. Next, add the heat seal material on top and fold the other half of the finishing sheet on top so the patch and heat seal are “sandwiched” in between.
Now’s the time to send it under your heat press and close it for about 10 to 20 seconds.
During that time, the heat seal glue will melt and adhere to the patch. And when it cools off, the next step will be to cut out the patch.
The last step is to cut out the patch from the excess material that’s surrounding it. You will need to use a Hot Knife to do this.
Once the hot knife is warmed up, it’s ready to be used.
The technique is very simple and straightforward. First, make sure you do it on a piece of a glass surface. Glass withstands high temperatures — nothing will burn or go through it, not even a hot knife.
Next, you’ll use the hot knife to trace around the edges of the patch in a smooth motion.
You’ll notice the patch separating from the excess material. However, the cut may not be perfect and there may still be a little bit of material surrounding it.
Don’t worry, there’s a technique that cleans up those imperfections. Using just the barrel of the hot knife, you can melt the rough, leftover material that’s still around the border of the patch.
Because of the heat seal applied to the back of the patch, now it’s ready to be heat applied to whatever garment you choose, whether it’s a hat, jacket or bag.
The applications are endless!
With the right materials and equipment, making custom patches can be a fun and profitable item to offer your customers.
Plus, we offer Patch Kits to help get you started. The great thing about these kits is that they come with all of the accessories we’ve talked about in this article and they can be used with ANY embroidery machine.
If you’d like to learn more about making custom patches or how to get started in the embroidery business, call (877) 793-3278 or visit coldesi.com and live chat with one of our pros.
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