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Everything You Need to Know About Using Patches and Emblems

Everything You Need to Know About Using Patches and Emblems

Anne Dorfman |

Embark on a creative journey in your t-shirt shop! Get ready to delve into patches and emblems, where innovation meets design. Our primer includes insider tips to incorporating patches into your apparel and accessories, transforming ordinary items into eye-catching wearable art or promotional pieces. When you offer custom patches to your customers, you give them the opportunity to express their personalities or their brands to the world.

A Quick Background on Patches and Emblems

Embroidered patches have a rich history, tracing back to ancient China in the 3rd century BC when they were initially crafted for decorative purposes. Over time, these patches evolved into symbols of identification for soldiers and various groups. During the Middle Ages, they denoted social status and religious affiliations, while in the 1800s, patches became expressions of patriotism and support for the military. Businesses also used patches as promotional tools for their products and services.

In recent years, the resurgence of embroidered patches can be attributed to the thriving DIY movement and our growing fondness for vintage fashion. Today, patches continue to capture people’s imagination, bridging the past with the present. Embroidered patches add a unique fashion or branding customization to shirts, jackets, and other garments and accessories – and they last the test of time with proper care. By adding a high-quality patch to a garment, you can identify employees, sports team members, club members, military service people and beyond. Patches also help market a company or group, team build and raise morale. You can even create patches with a person’s name on it to further personalize it for employee recognition.

One other thing to know is that an emblem is a type of patch. Think of Harley-Davidson’s recognizable crest or Starbucks’ immediately recognizable mermaid emblem. An emblem logo is a font inside a symbol or icon, often a go-to choice for schools, organizations, government agencies, first responders and all types of companies, especially clothing and automotive brands. No matter what type of design you choose, an embroidered patch presents a professional image of an organization and increases brand awareness and loyalty. In fact, some studies show that custom patches increase brand recognition by up to 57 percent!

Top Types of Patches and Emblems

You’ll encounter four top types of patches that you can adhere to clothing, jackets and other accessories, like bags. Let’s do a quick rundown:

Embroidered patches: For high-contrast, multicolor, long-lasting designs, stitched patches are your best option. They’re embroidered using vibrant threads against a strong fabric backing to make your design or logo stand out. You can order them from a vendor who’ll create them using your artwork. An embroidered patch reduces stitch count and puckering from large designs. You can then sew them onto your garments or bags!

Heat-pressed patches: Iron-on or heat-pressed patches are easy to apply to materials like cotton, canvas, polyester or denim. You can purchase larger quantities of stock designs and quickly add them to shirts or bags. Heat-pressed patches are a great option for creating retail looks where you apply multiple patches to different locations on an item. Keep in mind that sewn-on patches offer greater durability, flexibility and easier removal.

Woven patches: Woven patches feature a finer weave than standard embroidered patches, as they’re crafted using a jacquard-type loom. This intricate weave makes them ideal for designs with small details or tiny lettering, ensuring excellent clarity and visibility. A woven patch’s design, color and texture depends on the type of yarn used, so you can review what your vendor offers. You can attach woven patches to a garment or accessory with thread.

Custom emblems: Custom emblems are unique symbols crafted with specific colors, shapes and meaningful symbols, representing organizations or individuals. They serve various purposes like branding, school or team identification, and military insignia. The creation process involves a collaboration between you and a graphic designer, tailoring the design to your vision by incorporating text, imagery and distinctive styling. You can get these created as embroidered patches, wovens and more.

How to Choose the Right Supplier

Like most t-shirt shop owners who want to put stock or custom patches on clothing, hats or bags, you’ll most likely order them from reputable suppliers that can produce quality patches on time and within your budget. If you’re totally new to ordering patches or emblems, here are four steps to get started:

1. Research potential suppliers. Whether you do a simple Google search or ask for recommendations in a Facebook group, start by compiling a short list of vendors to investigate. Then, create a spreadsheet where you can track information such as how many years a company’s been producing patches, the types of patches they offer, their pricing and turnaround times.

2. Evaluate the quality of a vendor’s patches. You might review online samples, photos or videos you can magnify and scrutinize up close. Some vendors will send you free or low-cost patch samples that you can touch and try attaching to a blank yourself. Explore online reviews regarding the patch quality and seek feedback from other decorators about their experiences with different manufacturers’ products.

3. Compare patch pricing and turnaround times. Patch quality is only part of the puzzle. You need to find a reliable company that creates patches at reasonable rates and within a reasonable time frame. It’s not a great idea to go with the lowest-priced vendor and then find out it takes them three months to produce your order. It’s also smart to ask for a pricing breakdown, since there might be additional costs tacked on later, like quotations, patch artwork setup, pre-production samples, backing or delivery fees.

Tips for Placing an Order With Your Supplier

It’s important to understand the ordering process for custom patches, since it can take more time than you think. 

Understand minimum order quantities. Ask if there’s a minimum amount of patches the vendor expects you to order. Flexibility is key, especially when you may need the option to place orders in varying quantities per your customers’ orders.

Request proofs and samples: If you’re creating a custom patch for your brand or for a client, you’ll want to see your product before you approve the final production run. This is an important step if you’re producing a very large order to sell in your own shop or to turn over to a client. Typically, a virtual sample will be provided for your review, ensuring accuracy in spelling and colors. However, for a more comprehensive assessment, you might consider requesting an actual patch sample from the vendor. This way, you can thoroughly inspect the quality before providing the final approval. You may even need to see multiple samples if you request changes. Build in time for this part of the process to your timelines. 


Thoroughly understand your deadlines and production timelines: In other words, don’t wait till the last minute to place an order for patches, whether they’re stock or custom. It’s important to build in extra time for artwork edits, receiving and reviewing proofs, and any unforeseen obstacles. Get your timing in writing from the vendor and then stay in constant communication about your order status.

Applying Patches and Emblems to Apparel and Accessories

When you’re ready to apply patches and emblems to a polo shirt or bag, there are many ways to do so. Of course,  depending on the type of patch you use and the fabric you’re adhering it to, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Here are the most common ways you’ll attach a patch to a garment or bag:

  • Heat-applied: Using a heat source like an iron or heat press is the quickest and easiest way to apply a patch with a sticky back that activates when you heat it up.
  • Velcro: While not a permanent way to attach a patch, this is a practical way to allow fashionistas to change up their patches to match their style.
  • Fabric glue: If you want to attach lightweight patches to delicate or synthetic fabrics that don’t take heat well, this is your best and safest option. 

Hand or machine sew: This is the most permanent and durable method to attaching your patch or emblem to a garment or tote. Perfect for both fashion and commercial applications!

Caring for Patches and Emblems

When you sell garments or accessories with patches, it’s important to invest in high-quality and durable emblems that won’t fray or peel over time. You want the patches you sell to keep their color and level of detail even after being worn and laundered many times. Choose the items you attach the patches to carefully, so they also last the test of time.

Share care instructions like these with your clients on your website and print them out when you ship their order:

1. Sort your clothes: When you’re ready to launder clothing with iron-on or embroidered patches, group them by color and fabric type so you don’t risk color bleeding or fading.

2. Select your detergent: Choose a mild detergent for delicate fabrics to protect the patch materials and any adhesive backing.

3. Wash your patches correctly: When you launder embroidered or woven patches, first follow the care instructions on the clothing tag. In general, washing garments with patches in cold water on a gentle cycle is the best idea. Hot water or a high-speed cycle can damage or loosen the fabric. Don’t use bleach or fabric softeners, since they can weaken or harm the patches or clothing fabric.

4. Dry your patches without harming them: Turn your apparel inside out and consider using a dryer bag or pillowcase to protect your garments as much as possible. Use the lowest or delicate drying cycle, and then remove the apparel as quickly as you can. If you’re not sure about the patches’ durability, air dry the garments or items flat.

Taking care of your hoodie or denim jacket with a patch between washes will keep your garment and patch stay in great shape. Here are things you can do to keep your embroidered or iron-on patch in the best condition possible:

1. Spot-check your patches: Inspect your emblems to make sure they’re not coming off or fraying, so you can fix them.

2. Repair your patches right away: If you see any fraying or loose threads, touch them up with a small amount of fabric glue.

3. Store your items correctly: Experts recommend hanging shirts or jackets with patches, since folding them can damage them.

4. Remove patches gently: If you need to remove or replace an iron-on patch, using a hair dryer on low can help you to loosen the adhesive to remove it. 

How to Market Your Patch Prowess

There are a few ways you can let people know that your shop now sells patches, whether they’re stock, customized or personalized, on garments and other items:

1. Integrate patches into your online content and marketing: When it comes to promoting your merchandise, your content is the perfect platform! You can casually showcase your products by wearing them in your videos, talking about them on social media, or even incorporating them into your creative content like contests.

If you're using Shopify or another online selling platform, it gets even easier. You can integrate your store with your audience, whether they're hanging out on Instagram, YouTube or TikTok. On Instagram, tag your merch in posts and stories, and try setting up your own Instagram Shop. Share product links in video descriptions or cards on YouTube and include a call to action at the end of your videos. Don’t forget to create a link in bio to link to specific product category pages, if you’re running a special promotion!

2. Bring your patches out in public: Wear your patched jackets and tote your emblemed bags when you’re out and about to build brand awareness about your customized or personalized patches. Ask your family, friends and employees to do the same. You can even create custom heat-applied patches and give them out at events, or as giveaways to prospects and clients!

3. Show your retail and commercial customers what you can do: Your buyers will be excited that they can order hoodies or bags with cool patches or emblems. Likewise, commercial customers from companies to schools will love that they can order custom or personalized patches or emblems from you. However, you’ve got to get the word out, so don’t be shy about sending emails or even samples to your customers. Plus, if you have a website or blog, embed your patched products prominently there too.

Try Your Patches Potential On For Size

The world of patches and emblems offers endless creative opportunities and more sales for your t-shirt shop. Embroidered patches and custom emblems enhance the appeal of ordinary tees and accessories. To succeed, research and choose reliable suppliers, understand the application methods, and educate your customers about proper care. Plus, effective marketing strategies, both online and offline, can help showcase your patch expertise and expand your business. Embrace this creative journey, and watch your t-shirt shop redefine personalized fashion, one patch at a time!

Shop Threadsy for Patch-Ready Garments and Accessories

Ordering custom embroidered patches is really budget-friendly, and it adds such a cool personal touch to your wares. It's one of the best ways to make your items stand out and feel totally unique! Threadsy is a great online destination for buying bulk t-shirts, hoodies and totes at wholesale prices. If you’ve been shopping for blank t-shirts for patches or emblems from a big box retailer, it’s time to stop. Threadsy offers generous discounts for customers who purchase t-shirts, hoodies and other garments in larger quantities. Our bulk discount program starts at $110, and the savings up to 15% automatically appear in your cart when you bundle your items. You’ll also enjoy free shipping on orders $50 or higher, with always-fast delivery.