Feb 20, 2018 No. 11


Welcome to another edition of Patch Talk and some information about what patch companies call "iron-on" patches.

We do, on very rare occasions, sell CUSTOM patches with thermally fusible adhesive backing (aka "iron-on"). We do NOT sell STOCK patches with iron-on backing. Here's why you may want to avoid this unnecessary type of patch backing which is more trouble than it's worth for many patch buyers and end users.

1. Most families don't need iron-on ..
The fact that we've only had 11 orders for iron-on custom patches out of the last 12,000 orders is a very good indication that our customers prefer sew-on patches and iron-on is generally not needed.

2. Iron-on requires instructions.
There are many types of chemically unique iron-on materials used by patch manufactures and they genereally have different instructions for optimal adhesion. They all require carefully controlled time, temperature, and pressure during application; three parameters which people using home clothing irons often find difficult to meet. This means that customers who buy for groups should ensure that each family's patch is accompanied by instructions for use and such instruction are followed. Otherwise, the end users may have problems (melting fibers, scorching, poor adhesion, etc). This is a good reason to avoid iron-on when buying for a group.

3. Iron-on doesn't last.
Iron-on materials were originally manufactured to provide adhesion for applications where stitching was unattractive (mending, interfacings, etc). Such applications only required enough adhesion to last for the life of the garment. However, memorabilia (fun) patches should be made to last for the life of the user and beyond because, in aggregate, they often represent a chronicle of activities and a trove of cherished memories.

4. Iron-on requires special care.
Most iron-on patches require special care. Examples include the following of which some patch suppliers do not make the customer aware and some patch buyers do not make the end user aware. Another reason to avoid iron-on when buying for a group.

• Washing the garment prior to applying the patch to remove sizing or other materials filling the pores of the weave.

• Turning the garment inside-out when machine washing to help prevent random patch battering and bending which can weaken the adhesion.

• Drip dry to avoid the heat of automatic laundry dryers which can weaken the adhesion.

• Tacking the patch corners with a few stitches as needed to prevent peeling with age or abuse..

• Not suitable for use with plastics (vinyl), hides (leather), stretchy fabrics, etc.

All of these precautions can be avoided with sew-on patches.

5. Iron-on is troublesome.
This fact is easily revealed with a quick Google search. You'll find an enormous amount of complaints of adhesion problems. For comparison, do the same for "sew-on patches" and you find almost no information suggesting it is a less than ideal method of attaching a patch to fabric. Here are a few examples of people who experienced the problems related to iron-on patches. Pretty PrudentMom of 6Mama DramaRedditYahoo
Why not buy iron-on and let the end user sew them on
if that's their preference?

Sewing on a patch that has been made with iron-on backing can be difficult. Here's why.

• Thread color - Iron-on patch makers often have a variety of colors at the edge of the patch making it impossible for a sewer to find a thread that won't show after the patch has been sewn on the garment. That generally means the sewer will have to use "invisible" clear monofiliment thread which is springy and difficult to use.

• Extreme shapes - Iron-on patch makers often cut out the patches in unusual shapes to make them appear more creative.. This may create a problem for those who have to follow the curves and angles of the shape when sewing the patch to the garment.

• Stiffness - Because of the volume of adhesive material required for adhesion, Iron-on patches are stiff and do not bend and yield as well as patches with bare or plastic backs. This means iron-on is less flexible and tugs more at the garment during active use; one of the reasons iron-on may eventually peel with wear and tear.

• No border - Sew-on patches usually have a thick one color border which makes sewing the patch to the garment easy. However, many iron-on patches do not have such a border thereby increasing the difficulty of sewing the patch to the garment and forcing the stitches to interfere with the embroidered art.

• Thick backing - The adhesive on the back of an iron-on patch is thick because it must supply enough hot-melt adhesive to soak into the fabric and hold fast. That makes the patch difficult for hand sewers to punch through with their needle when sewing.
This clown patch picture shows the difference between a sew-on and an iron-on patch. The sew-on patch is obviously much easier to sew onto a garment with its nice thick single color border and minimal curves and angles.

Which would you rather have to sew on?
We cannot know what woman or man of the future may sit in quiet repose, perusing sash or vest, while reflecting on cherished memories of years past. We can, however, make our patches so they'll still be conjuring memories and nostalgia when those occasions arise.
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