Direct Embroidery vs. Patch Embroidery

July 13, 2018

Direct Embroidery vs. Patch Embroidery

Embroidering a patch onto a shirt can be done in a number of ways. However, two of the most common ways are via direct embroidery and patch embroidery. What’s the difference? You’ve probably already seen both of these methods before, you just never knew what either was called.


Direct embroidery involves applying the embroidered logo on a piece of cloth directly onto your sleeve, cap, bag, jacket, and so on. The item is embedded onto the shirt and, in effect, becomes “part of” what it is embroidered onto. This also means that direct embroidery cannot be removed and placed on another piece of fabric without a time-consuming process which may damage the fabric.


Patch embroidery, as you’d expect, is different in so far as it is not directly embroidered on. Instead, it is placed on top of the fabric and then either ironed or sewn on. This means that patch embroideries can be removed from one shirt and placed on another! Not only that, but embroidered patches are also more stable since they are created on a substrate of a patch rather than a piece of cloth like a shirt. This allows patch embroidery to have finer detail than direct embroidery.


The Patchwork generally deals with patch embroideries because they have many advantages over direct embroideries. For example:


  • More versatile: patch embroideries can be applied to any form of clothing and can easily be applied which makes it very accessible to everyone.
  • Less costly: because of new computerized designs and sewing technologies, embroidered patches are easier to make nowadays. Plus, embroidered patches also allow for more details so you get more bang for your buck.
  • They’re collectibles: because they can be removed and sewn onto any other fabric, many embroideries have become collectibles and some are even considered rare valuables.
  • Customizable: embroidered patches can be made to be glow-in-the-dark, fire resistant, and even 3-dimensional using today’s computerized designs which would would be difficult to recreate via direct embroidery.
  • No fade: direct embroidery, because it is sewn directly onto the fabric, is subject to fading with each wash. On the other hand, patch embroideries withstand the cleaning thanks it being created on a substrate rather than directly onto the fabric.
  • It’s fashionable: In case you were wondering, patches are totally in now. Walk in any city, and you see patches sewn onto clothes quite commonly. Celebrities also rep their favorites all the time.


However, there are reasons why someone would choose direct embroidery over patch embroideries. For example, if you had an expensive golfing shift, you wouldn’t want to embroider a patch onto it. You would want direct embroidery because you don’t plan on removing the embroidered image. For branding situations, direct embroideries might be best since these images are not supposed to be removed. Thus, although embroidered patches have many benefits, it depends on the circumstances of what you want done. Brands often opt for direct embroideries if they’re trying to sell merchandise; however, if you’re a local band, you’d want patch embroideries because you want your image to circulate as much as possible.


In short – for most people, you’re going to want to go with patch embroideries. They’re versatile, detailed, relatively inexpensive, and will stay with you for a long time.

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The Patch-making Process at The Patchsmith
The Patch-making Process at The Patchsmith

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Here's how we make custom patches.

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