How To Make Embroidered Patches

Creating patches is a very popular and creative way to express your association with a particular group, company, institution, cause or ideology but certainly not limited to these. People have been using patches to identify themselves, their teams, staff and employees.

Patches are customized to display exclusive club memberships or even share political or religious beliefs or views, hence you can create custom patches to exercise freedom of expression and freedom of speech in a very trendy, adaptive, scalable and fashionable way. Embroidered patches can be customized for promotions, fund raising and charity events.

Embroidered patches are the more popular patch style among the different styles of patches that are customized by our customers. You can also read a comparison of the features of different styles of patches on our website. Your ability to design the perfect patch can get restricted with the style of patch you choose. So make sure you have the right style of patch in your mind before you start.

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What Are Embroidered Patches?

An embroidered patch is an embellishment that is made by stitching embroidery thread on a base fabric like a polyester twill or felt. The designs that are embroidered are often logos or symbols identifying groups, organizations, institutions and communities.

Embroidered patches may also feature artistic images and trendy icons. These kinds of patches are often used for customizing clothes and to display an association with a certain community, company, organization or team. Every patches have their own distinct features and additional options that can be applied to the patches.

The Process of Manufacturing Embroidered Patches

Manufacturing embroidered patches has come a long way from the hand-sewn method that was relied upon decades ago. In these modern times high-quality and custom embroidered patches are made using computer-controlled embroidery machines.

The Equipment

This high-tech equipment allows the custom patch makers like us to create a bulk quantity of embroidered patches at wholesale prices within a short amount of time. Most importantly, they allow for consistency and uniformity in design, quality and stitching for every single patch.

There are different types of embroidery machines available. For a business, it’s best to use high-end multi-needle, multi-head professional embroidery machines. These may have between 9 to 16 needles, to mount more threads and faster production.

Aside from embroidery machines, manufacturers also need a computer, a vector graphics program, and an embroidery digitizing software. These are used for designing and digitizing embroidered patches.

The Process

Regardless of the kind of embroidery machine or digitizing program used, the process of manufacturing custom made embroidered patches remains the same, . It always starts with creating the design and then digitizing it with the help of digitizing software, so the machine can read the instructions and embroider the patch accordingly.

Once the machine embroiders the design, the patches need to be finished. This means trimming the patch, removing any stabilizers, and attaching the chosen backing material. Lastly, the patches are neatly trimmed and packaged.

Designing the Artwork

Although many customers create their designs on paper the most preferred method is to use a graphics software like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw.

Vector graphics programs, like Illustrator and CorelDraw, are generally preferred as they allow designers to resize the designs while retaining clear resolution. However, raster-based programs such as Adobe Photoshop may still be used, the designer would have to deal with limited resolution or image quality.

Once you are done with brainstorming your design ideas and have finally created a design, the next step will be to digitize it.

Digitizing the Artwork

Digitizing is a set of embroidery instructions that are programmed with the help of an embroidery digitizing software to instruct the machine on the number, style and size of stitches. It contains every single instruction required for the machines to create an embroidered patch.

Every artwork needs to be digitized before being embroidered. Before digitizing your designs you also need to decide how much embroidered thread coverage is required. There are two main reasons why a digitizing file has to be made.

The first is so that the embroidery machines can read the files. JPEG and PNG files are not accepted or understood by the machines. Depending on the size of design and embroidery coverage a design can have about 1,000 to 100,000 stitches. Each and every single stitch has to be created in the digitizing software according to the artwork so that the machine can stitch on the pattern that has input in the digitizing file. There are different types of embroidery file formats available.

Certain commercial or professional embroidery machines can only read specific formats. As such, it is important to know what types of files an embroidery machine can read before converting or digitizing your artwork.

Here is a list of popular embroidery file types and the embroidery machines they are compatible with:

  • .KWK : for Brother
  • .DST for Tajima
  • .JEF: for Janome and MemoryCraft 10000
  • .ART: for Bernina
  • .DST: for Tajima, Eltac, and Brother
  • .EXP: for Melco
  • .DSB: for Barudan
  • .TAP: for Happy
  • .XXX: for Singer
  • .SEW: for MemoryCraft
  • .PES and .PEC: for Brother and Babylock

These embroidery machine file formats are all stitch-based. This leads us to the second main reason why vector designs must be digitized for embroidery machines.

The digitized file must specify the types of stitches, sizes, colors, and stitch directions for fills, outlines, overlaps and borders. These stitch-based files also tell the machine the stitching sequence within the design, rules for stitching, and other instructions.

Some popular embroidery digitizing software are Hatch by Wilcom (best for beginners) and the more professional ones that we prefer are Wilcom Embroidery Studio, Husqvarna Premier+ Embroidery Software, and Chroma Premier DIgitizing Software. There is also free digitizing software like Brother Embroidery Design Software and Embird.

How To Digitize a Custom Embroidered Patch Design

Different programs will likely have different actions and tools for digitizing artwork. However, the same work flow is followed:

  1. Upload or open the logo or chosen artwork in the digitizing software.
  2. Set the size of the design or logo according to the available space or client specifications.
  3. Choose the appropriate stitches for different parts of the design. Some programs can auto select parts of the artwork while others may require manual tracing or outline.
  4. Indicate the stitch direction for each part of the design. This creates the roadmap or sewing flow that the machine will follow. It also helps create varying textures and color shades.
  5. Select the embroidery thread colors. The total number of colors you can use for the embroidered patch will depend on the type of commercial embroidery machine you use.
  6. Save the digitized file.

Setting Up the Embroidery Machine

Once the artwork or logo is converted into the appropriate embroidery file format for your machine, it can be uploaded onto the machine firmware. This is easily done using a USB drive, memory card, or any file transfer device the embroidery machine accepts.

The first step in setting up the embroidery machine is to ensure the machine reads the file properly. Then, prepare and select the right needles, threads, orientation, and embroidery sequence. Depending on the machine and digitizing program, it is also possible to indicate the orientation and embroidery sequence on the file itself.

Make sure the embroidery machine has all the necessary thread colors to embroider the design and the threads are mounted on the appropriate needles. Refer to the digitized file and load the thread colors onto the machine.

After that, all that’s needed is to attach the embroidery hoops or frames with the fabric and stabilizer onto the embroidery machine. The hoops must be properly secured to prevent unwanted movements and problems during embroidery.

Creating Borders

There are two different types of borders used in creating custom-made embroidered patches. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the type of patch and its intended use. The available border options are laser cut stitched border and merrow border. The laser cut or hot cut stitched border can be done on the same embroidery machine for merrow broder you will need an overlock stitch machine.

Choosing the right border for custom embroidered patches not only completes its appearance but also ensures the patches are secure on the edges look clean and sharp and fray from the edges

Laser Cut / Hot Cut Borders

Laser-cut borders are also referred to as hot cut or satin stitch borders. These are the most commonly used type of border for embroidery patches. They are also much simpler to make than merrow borders.

For laser cut or hot cut borders, custom embroidered patch makers simply need to stitch the border directly onto the patch. Once the patch is embroidered and the stabilizer is removed, all that’s left is to cut around the patch as close as possible using a laser cutter.

This allows laser-cut borders to be thinner and less pronounced than merrow borders. Hot cut borders are preferable for patches with complex or unique shapes and angles.

Merrow Borders

Merrow or overlocked borders give patches a traditional or classic embroidered look. As its name suggests, this type of border has an overlock stitch wrapping around the edge of the patch.

This forms a thicker border that is usually around two to four millimeters wide. A merrow border prevents frayed edges and threads, thus improving the durability of the patch.

Merrow borders are often used on patches that are shaped like circles and squares. It is easier to create overlocked merrow borders on simpler shapes or shapes without a lot of sharp turns and angles.

Cutting and Trimming

Embroidered patches still need to be cut and trimmed. After removing the embroidery hoop or frame with the newly made patches, you can roughly cut out the designs and remove the stabilizer.

Once the stabilizer is removed, you can trim the patch right to its border. Make sure the workstation has proper lighting for a clean and close cut. Curved embroidery scissors, which have thicker blades, are great for cutting and trimming patches.

For satin stitched or hot cut borders, laser cutters are the best option. However, you can also use a hot knife in place of a laser cutter to trim the patch closely and further seal the edges. Lightly running a flame over the sides or edges of a close-cut satin stitched border also seals edges and gets rid of any stray threads.

Removing Stabilizers

These materials are placed underneath the fabric where the patches will be embroidered to ensure it remains firm, taut, and stable. They prevent puckering and wrinkled or lumpy patches.

There are three popular types of backings or stabilizers:

  • Tearaway backings: Affordable and specially designed to be torn in any direction. Using this type of backing can help minimize cutting mishaps and ruining the patch. These are best used for already stable fabrics.
  • Cutaway backings: This type of backing is perfect for delicate, stretch fabrics and for custom-made embroidered patches that have high stitch counts. Cutaway backing provides a stiff base both before and after embroidering the design.
  • Water-soluble stabilizer: Although it is a type of backing, water-soluble stabilizers are applied to the front of the fabric, rather than the back. These types of stabilizers are removed by running the patch through a stream of water. Additionally, they are often used together with tearaway backing and on high-profile fabrics.

Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions on how to remove the embroidery stabilizers. When using water-soluble stabilizers, it is important to dry the custom embroidered patch completely before putting any adhesive.

Apply Backings

Backings refer to the attachment options that are applied on the back of patches, after cutting and trimming the patches. Backings are used to attach the patch to clothes and other articles and objects. It is the final step in manufacturing embroidered patches.

One popular backing option is the iron-on backing. As the name denotes, this type of backing allows us to attach embroidered patches to any fabric or clothing without the need to sew it on by just using a heated iron over the patches to attach it. Other types of backing are velcro (hook and loop), magnetic, button loop, peel and stick, and plastic backing.

Make a Sample

It is important to do a test run for each newly digitized embroidery design. How the artwork looks on the screen may translate or look different once embroidered. Design simplification will also have to be considered as very complex and intricate designs cannot be translated into embroidery.

Before mass producing embroidered patches, we make sure to check how the design looks and whether there is anything that can be improved upon. More often than not, an embroidered patch requires tweaking to fully translate the digital design in to quality embroidered patches. Have a look at embroidered patch samples we have made in the past for our customers.

Place Your Order

At Ultra Patches we make sure that your designs are embroidered as accurately as possible, therefore we show samples for your approval before mass production. We follow all industry best practices to ensure that your designs are accurately translated in to beautiful looking embroidered patches. We handle design simplifications, digitizing and the whole manufacturing process for you.

If you want to make custom embroidered patches and have your design ready just fill out the price quote form on the website and our sales representative will contact you with a price quote or give us a call on 541-248-8831. We will be happy to help and guide through the whole process.