Making and Applying Embroidery Patches

What’s cuter than an embroidered lunch box?

What do you do when you want to add embroidery to something that cannot be sewn on or will not fit in a hoop? With this solution from Evy Hawkins, you can create a machine-embroidered patch and then apply it permanently and professionally to a variety of different surfaces. Originally featured in issue #132 of Sew Beautiful, this creative method works on suitcases, leather totes, straw purses, wooden boxes, glass containers, plastic bins … even lunch boxes!

What you’ll need:

  • Chosen machine embroidery design with smooth, simple lines
  • Very Firm cut-away stabilizer by Pellon or Vilene D0102 wash-away or for a sheer cutaway, use Sheerstitch *Patches can be created by using two layers of silk organza instead of heavy cut-away stabilizer. The organza color should closely match the color of the item to be decorated.
  • Applique fabric, backed with Wonder Under or Steam a Seam 2 fusible web
  • 90/12 embroidery needle
  • Embroidery thread
  • Permanent glue (see “Which glue to use?” below)
  • Very sharp, small scissors with curved blades
  • Clover Mini-iron
TIP: Apply a bit of rickrack, tiny pom-poms or other edging to the perimeter of the patch by gluing in place before applying the patch.

Before you begin:

  • Embroidery designs that have smooth, simple lines work well for patches.
  • Decide on the position of the patch before beginning to be sure the chosen design will fit.
  • It is not necessary to always have a blank canvas – busy prints can showcase embroidery patches very nicely.
  • Patches adhere best to items that have smooth, flat surfaces.
  • Backing appliqué fabrics with fusible webbing and fusing the appliqué to the patch base creates a sturdy, professional patch.


1. Hoop a piece of sturdy cut-away stabilizer in appropriately sized hoop; stitch out first outline stitch of embroidery design.

2. Place appliqué fabric over outline stitching, fusible side down; stitch second outline.

3. Remove hoop from machine (but do not remove stabilizer from hoop), place it on a hard, flat surface and carefully trim away excess appliqué fabric. Trim very close to stitching line, but take care not to cut into it.

4. Place hoop on a heat-protected, hard, flat surface and fuse embroidery to stabilizer using a Clover Mini-iron. Return hoop to machine and finish stitching design. NOTE: For framed embroidery designs, choose an appliqué frame that will easily contain the chosen embroidery motif. Follow same steps listed above, stitching frame first. Should extra stabilizer be necessary to support embroidery design, slide a piece of regular tear-away stabilizer under hoop. Remove excess stabilizer before proceeding.

5. Remove stabilizer from hoop. Carefully cut away excess stabilizer. You will notice that the needle has created tiny holes in the stabilizer all around the appliqué, right next to the satin stitch outline. Cut directly on top of those holes. TIP: If you accidentally cut a stitch or two, it will be OK; stitching will eventually have glue behind it, which will prevent unraveling. If you cut more than a couple of stitches, use a drop of seam sealant to secure thread.

6. Following manufacturer’s directions as listed on glue package, apply a layer of glue to wrong side of patch. Firmly apply patch to item. A thin coat of glue usually works best and helps keep glue from oozing out around patch. Allow item to dry completely before use.

Learn more of Evy’s amazing embroidery techniques in her online course, Unique & Creative: Endless Embroidery Projects, now available on demand!