Using Patches in a T-shirt Quilt
“We are putting together T-shirts for a quilt. We travel extensively. My husband buys a patch in each country, at each lodge or each place we visit. These are like the patches you sew onto a vest or jacket. Can these be added to a quilt?”
Patches can be used in T-shirt quilts. They can be placed on their own block or they can be added to another T-shirt blocks. You can have a quilt made only with patches or your can intermix blocks with patches with T-shirt blocks. There is a per patch fee to cover the cost of sewing them onto a piece of fabric.
A Brief, Unofficial, History of Patches
Patches were traditionally used to distinguish military rank and units. NASA also used patches to differentiate rank and missions. Scouting type organizations used patches as rewards for accomplishing various tasks. These were then sewn on uniforms as badges of honor or bragging rights.
Before the advent of getting a T-shirt for events, patches were either given out or sold at various events. In the early 1970’s I was a swimmer. At every swim meet I would purchase a patch from the team hosting the meet. I had them sewn on my warm-ups as proof that I was an accomplished, if not just a well-traveled, swimmer. By the end of the 1970’s T-shirts began to replace patches as the preferred method of affirming that you attended a particular event.
Today you can still collect patches. It’s a less expensive and less bulky way to memorialize an event or place visited than purchasing a T-shirt. Most of the patches we see are from travels, scouting and the military. But, depending on what activities you do, you might end up with more patches than T-shirts!
Use Patches In A Quilt
Scouting Patches – These can be used in a quilt on the item they are already sewn to. For example, we can take the actual sash and sew it onto a block. In situations like this, we don’t have to remove the patches.
Travel Patches – Most of the travel patches we have received have never been sewn onto anything. They come loose. We then will sew them onto a blank block of fabric.
Military Patches – We have received these sewn onto uniforms and other loose. If we have unused BDU or other appropriate military fabric, we can sew loose patches on to the correct fabric. For example, when a person’s rank or unit changes, new patches are sewn onto existing uniforms and the old patches are saved. We can use extra uniform fabric to sew these old patches onto. If not, we can sew the patches onto blank material.
Patches on Other Clothing – There are some clothing items, such as leather from a coat, that are not appropriate for a quilt. We will remove patches from this type of material and sewn them onto a block of blank T-shirt material.
Iron-on Vs. Sew-on Patches
Most patches today come with an iron on glue on the back of the patch. All you need to do is iron on the patch and you are good. We have found that this iron on glue tends to be either not sticky enough or permanently binds the patch to the fabric. Because of this diversity of staying power, we will always sew the patch onto fabric. We don’t just iron them on.
Removing An Iron-on Patch
When we remove an iron-on patch from a piece of inappropriate fabric, sometimes the patch will just need a little tug to be removed. Other times we will have to cut around the patch and leave the original fabric attached to the patch. If this is the case, we cut very carefully around the patch to ensure that none of the underlying fabric is visible.
If you have patches that help tell the story you are telling with your quilt, you should not hesitate to add them into the quilt.
To learn more about having a T-shirt quilt made from your T-shirts, we invite you to download our T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide.
It’s a great place to begin learning about T-shirt quilts.