How to make a patch jacket

Wait, what is a patch jacket

It’s a jacket with patches on it. Usually denim and usually assembled by the wearer. They are kinda in fashion at the moment as you can get patches at H&M or whole premade jackets from Gucci. I’ve also seen jeans covered in band patches at gigs.

Making one can be fun and a way of expressing yourself. It can be a way to signal fandom or interests to strangers. I had an antifascist mistake my Norfolk flag for an AnarchoCapitalist flag in low lighting. That could have been uncool.

Getting your patches

I’ve gotten patches from alt clothing shops, etsy, gigs, gift shops, amazon1It’s bad and I don’t buy from there anymore, and a stall at Pride. I have a list of cool etsy shops at the bottom.

How much does a patch jacket cost?

Mine is slowly becoming the most expensive thing I own. The jacket itself was £20. In a few years I am going to wish I spent more on it. My patches ranged from £2 to £10 with a few that didn’t make it on in the end.

I have 14 patches on my jacket at time of writing. A very rough guess would be £60 over three years.

What kind of patches are good for a jacket?

I didn’t want patches for bands I don’t listen to so started looking on etsy using my interests as key words. Terms like UFO, Alien, Skeleton, Manga, Comic, Occult, Flowers, Octopus…

There’s such a variety for every taste. Etsy is great for unique designs from independent creators. You can find so many feminist and pop culture designs. Lots of cats and skeletons and cacti and brand knock-offs. Amazon has more mass produced stuff and official things and a selection of patches for Nazi Satanist groups.

Think about how many you want and where you will put them on the jacket before you buy. Consider a large patch for the back. These are called back patches (if you can believe).

You can also make your own patches. Stenciling white paint onto black fabric is traditional.

Things that are not patches

Studs, pins, and fabric scraps can also be added to your jacket. There are more studs available than the little square points. You can also get circle based spikes and little stars. Do you want ribbons? Do you want chains? Do you want thin gold brocade?

Planning the jacket

Ask yourself how busy and how cohesive you want your arrangement. Think about what clothes you will wear with it. I have a patch on the inside that I don’t want seen by my grandparents. Do you need to stay PG? I have a pride pin that can be removed for family gatherings.

I’ve taken inspiration from both vintage punk jackets and scout uniforms in my placement. My Mum’s old painted leather jacket from her punk days has a large design on the back and text along the back of the shoulders. My brothers old cub scout uniform had circular patches down one arm and some geographic signifiers down the other so I had imitated that.

Once you have everything you want lay it out on the jacket to see how it works. You can pin them on and try it out. See how it looks on you and work out how the fabric moves under them. Is movement restricted? Will pockets or seams get in the way. Just play around with it. If you are thinking about adding more patches later: leave enough space. I am glad I did.

Attaching the patches on the jacket

You could just attach the patches with safety pins but I have found they slowly come off. Sewing is the most durable.

Some patches are iron on. They have fabric glue on the back for easy attachment though I find they start to come loose so need stitching for reinforcement. Some are not iron on and when you iron them flat the ink gets on the iron and your Dad gets angry.

Hand or machine sewing?

Some patches will be too elaborate for most people to neatly machine sew around. How much time you spend hand sewing is up to you. Just remember that you may as well do a good job when you have a needle in hand rather than go back in future.

Pin the patch in place, if not ironed, and sew around the edges. You can also use loose wide stitches in a contrasting colour to hold it in place, simply remove that thread when you are done.

The closer you match the thread colour to the area you are sewing over the less it shows up. I cheat when using a lighter thread on black by colouring it with a marker when done.

When machining either use a zigzag stitch over zigzag border or a straight stitch inside the edge. Some patches, like flags, don’t have a border. Just pick a close colour and be as neat as you can.

Patches are thick so be careful. Don’t use a flimsy needle and go slow. When hand sewing try to go through the space between colours as there is less resistance.

Attaching fabric patches

These are much thinner and can fray at the edges. A zigzag stitch over the edge will protect it as will folding the raw edges under the patch and sewing down.

For the large back patch I started by running a straight stitch round the edge before going slower with a wide zigzag stitch.

On the smaller patches I tried to keep the straight lines close to the edge where the zigzag would both hide them and protect the edge.

Sewing patches on pockets and sleeves

I used to have an iron on patch over one breast pocket but it started to peel so I pulled it off. This tooth patch is smaller and was still half peeled off from a few hours wear. It didn’t take that long to stitch round the edges. It was still coming up a bit around the side so I sewed over the edge. As I used a dark blue thread it doesn’t show up on the denim and I can use a black marker to conceal it on the black fabric.

Another place you can’t use a machine is too far down the arms. You can scrunch the denim so far but it’s not that hard to hand sew down a sleeve. Go round with a big rough straight stitch to hold the patch flush to the jacket then sew neatly.

What to wear with a patch jacket?

Depending on what you make the jacket can be quite the statement piece. Convention suggests pairing it with less extravagant items and not more blue denim. It’s lightweight but still provides some insulation so layering makes it good for most weather.

Blue denim doesn’t make me feel very punk-rock but it does feel pop-punk.

Fixing a patch jacket

I’d replaced my jacket’s label with a fabric patch and not attached it as well as I could, as I didn’t want the thread showing on the outside too much. I should have folded the raw edges under to stop it unraveling and coming loose.

I unpicked the old stitches and sewed the edges under and hand sewed the patch back on.

This jacket gets worn a lot so needs to be durable. If the denim tears… I’ll have to cover the rip with a patch?

Some cool Etsy shops for Jacket gear:

UK Shops

Manchester patches/pins/stickers – ExtremeLargeness

Norwich B&W fabric nature/goth/medical patches – ToothXNail – Made my octopus back patch

Norwich B&W fabric nature/metal/occult patches – MantidSnip – Got a great shirt and that occult eyeball fabric patch here

Norwich queer feminist patches on patterned fabric and B&W – TheOysterKnife – Got a couple of text ones here and a great zine

London vegan/animal rights B&W fabric patches – Animal Allies Clothing

USA – Wish I could afford shipping

Hand stitched patches – RockLobsterHaha

Spooky patches – BandOfWierdos

Myth/science/vintage patches – GerriTullis

The coolest pins but also monster porn – CoeyAndShy

Russian – I need it

Skeltons & naked ladies & bondage patches – 69ThingsToDo – I want the lily one

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