Whenever I need to personalize a project, one approach I like to use is to make a custom patch with a t-shirt and heat transfer vinyl.
I’m calling this a “patch ” because it’s a simple square that I’m going to design, secure, and then sew onto a different piece of fabric to personalize it.
I think of it like one of those iron-on embroidered patches you can purchase in various craft stores.
Some people may also call it an applique, but that sounds too fancy (at least to me) for a square of jersey knit fabric and some HTV.
Plus, I consider an applique a specific design that has been cut out of fabric. They are usually letters, objects, or animals whose shape is very clear.
What Should I Put On The Patch?
The beauty of this project is that with a little heat transfer vinyl and a Silhouette Cameo or Cricut, you can create virtually any design that suits your fancy.
The square shape acts like a frame so it’s easy to place pretty much anything in the middle of it.
Since this patch is being used to customize a different project, the design has to be something the recipient really likes. Things to consider are:
– The logo of the person’s favorite sports team. You can easily find MLB, MLS, NBA, and NFL logos online and convert them to a cut file.
– A sporty silhouette. This could be a basketball player making a jump shot. A soccer player kicking the ball. A figure skater spinning, or someone doing a karate kick. Once again, there are a lot of possibilities.
– A cute animal. The animal could be real or magical, because let’s face it, unicorns are usually a big hit.
Make A Custom Patch For Your Project
This project should take 30 minutes or less to make if you’ve already selected the your design and have your files, materials, and tools ready.
Materials & Tools
One of the best thing about this project is that you can use scraps from previous projects. Here are the specifics for what you’ll need to make a custom patch:
– 100% cotton t-shirt.
This is the perfect time to use the top of the t-shirt you cut off when you made t-shirt yarn. You can use any color t-shirt you want for your patch. I am using white for my project because it will make the overall design really pop.
– Heat transfer vinyl.
As I mentioned, you only need scraps for project. When it comes to HTV brands, I prefer to use Siser EasyWeed. I learned my lesson the hard way that you get what you pay for with less expensive brands.
– 805 Pellon Wonder-Under.
If you haven’t used Pellon Wonder-Under before, this will be a fun new resource for future projects. It fuses two pieces of fabric together and the generic names are “fusible web” or “fusible interfacing”.
– Silhouette Cameo or Cricut.
– Design file for the patch.
An internet search offers a whole host of ideas depending on the recipient of your gift.
I like to make it easy for you though! So, if you’re looking for some fun ideas, I offer sporty, sassy, and inspirational SVG designs in my Whimsical Walney shop.
Steps To Make A Custom Patch
Step 1: Trim the t-shirt to create a single layer of t-shirt material.
To prepare your piece of t-shirt material you need to take off the parts you won’t be using.
It’s easiest to start by cutting off the sleeves. Then, open up the shirt and cut off half of the shirt near the collar. Take one of the pieces and cut off the collar to form the single layer.
The above picture includes the castoffs of the trimming. The single layer piece is pictured below.
I wanted to show you the remaining pieces first instead of the final piece, so you can see the material you still have left for future projects.
Just like this project used the top of the shirt you didn’t need after making t-shirt yarn, you will be able to use these pieces at some point. 100% cotton jersey knit is a very versatile crafting material.
Step 2: Cut the t-shirt patch to size.
The size of the patch depends on your project, of course.
For the purpose of this specific custom patch, I cut a 6″ x 6″ piece from the t-shirt. I will be sewing this onto a piece of fabric that measures 8.5″ x 11.
Stay tuned because this t-shirt patch will be making another guest appearance on the blog in the future!
Step 3: Cut Wonder-Under to size and apply to the t-shirt patch.
Cut your Pellon Wonder-Under the exact same size as your t-shirt patch. This ensures that the jersey knit won’t shift while you’re sewing it down to the other piece of fabric.
Follow the manufacturers instructions to apply the fusible web to your t-shirt piece.
If the instructions somehow got tossed into the bin, here are my version:
– Set the iron to its “linen” setting and let it get to temperature.
– Place the rough side of the Wonder-Under face down on the t-shirt piece. (Always double check this before starting to iron because the waxy side face up protects your iron from being ruined by the sticky stuff.)
– Set the patch right side down onto the ironing surface.
– Affix the Wonder-Under onto the t-shirt piece by placing the iron straight down onto a section of the fusible web. You don’t want to iron in a back-and-forth motion until you know the whole Wonder-Under piece is stuck to the fabric.
– Continue to set the iron down on each section of the fusible web until you’ve covered the whole piece.
– Turn the t-shirt piece over, right side facing up. Iron it gently using a back-and-forth motion. This is just an extra little step to make sure the two pieces are fused together well.
– DO NOT remove the waxy paper backing. You’ll do that in a later step.
Please note: In the picture above, I wanted to show you what the it looks like once its ironed onto the t-shirt. So, in this case, the Wonder-Under doesn’t quite meet the edges so you can see the contrast.
Once you’ve finished, set this aside to get started on creating the HTV design.
Step Four: Prepare and cut your design.
Prepare your design for cutting using the Sihouette Cameo or Cricut design software.
If you’re new to cutting heat transfer vinyl and your machine’s software, it’s good to double check your cut settings for the type of HTV you’re using. Without the right cuts, it’s difficult to weed.
I used smooth heat transfer vinyl for this patch, but a custom patch would also look really cool with flocked or glitter HTV depending on your recipient.
Step Five: Weed your heat transfer vinyl design.
I included this as a separate step in order to include some pictures and talk about some tips and tricks I’ve learned after working with HTV for a little while.
Mind you, these tips are specific to the way I like to do things. Your mileage may vary…
Tips and Tricks When Working With Heat Transfer Vinyl
– Double and triple check your cut settings.
If you machine has presets, it’s still smart to double check the media you selected and the associated settings. Good cuts make for much easier weeding.
– Use the right weeding tools.
This is another place where using something that is “just OK” (like the HTV itself) isn’t worth it. You will spend more time fighting to get it right than enjoying the final outcome.
I typically use just a weeding hook and my hands when weeding my designs. I own a weeding spatula, but somehow haven’t found a need for it very often.
The only other thing I might have nearby is a pair of tweezers. It makes it much easier to pull and remove the itty bitty pieces.
– Try to limit touching the HTV application sheet .
This was one of the most frustrating things for me when I first started using HTV. I knew that every time I touched the sticky part of the sheet, my fingerprint remained. And these fingerprints made the seal on the transfer sheet less effective when placing it onto the fabric.
So, I would only hold it by the edges while weeding as best I could. Sometimes, though, a design needed some small pieces to be weeded in the middle of a bigger piece.
And I very well couldn’t set my whole arm down onto the sticky application side in order to get the right tension.
It’s when I started making freezer paper stencils that I had my, “well duh!” moment.
The waxy (aka shiny) side of the freezer paper is the perfect thing to place over the HTV application sheet when you have a hard-to-reach place.
So now, I use freezer paper all the time. I even tear off little pieces to use on the edges for the smaller designs (the third picture above).
Freezer paper ensures that the sticky stuff stays where it should and also gives you better a hold when you have to pull the HTV away from the sheet.
Step 6: Place your HTV onto the custom patch and iron.
My design had to be applied in two parts. (Shout out to all the Houston Texans fans out there!)
While you can use a heat press for this, I typically just use an iron for something of this size. You still need to use the non-stick cover sheet (aka teflon sheet) over the application sheet to make sure the heat transfers properly.
If you don’t have a non-stick cover sheet, you can use parchment paper in a pinch.
I wouldn’t recommend using parchment paper regularly, though, if you plan on doing a lot with HTV. Better to buy a pressing sheet. They aren’t an expensive tool. In fact, you can get a 3-pack for less than $10 on Amazon.
When working with a multi-part design, it’s OK to have the transfer application sheet overlap the already applied HTV.
Make sure to use your cover sheet (teflon or parchment paper) used as a layer of protection when you’re ironing each part of your design.
Step 7: Remove the fusible web backing on the back of the patch.
Now that the design has been applied to the patch, it’s time to apply the patch to your fabric.
And you can finally remove the backing of the fusible web from the patch.
If you haven’t worked with fusible web before, sometimes the backing comes off really easily. Catching the corner to start pulling the backing away from the fabric, however, can sometimes pose a challenge.
If the fusible interfacing you purchased had been on the shelf for a while, it also tends not to release as easily. It will still work, but can be more difficult to remove than ‘fresher’ pieces.
Step 8: Place then iron the patch onto the destination fabric.
When you’re working with the patch, the back of the patch will be tacky, but it won’t stick to anything until heat is applied.
So, you can play around with the placement of the patch as much as you want.
To protect the design, you’ll want to use the cover sheet again any time the iron touches it.
Step 9: Using a straight or zigzag stitch, sew the patch onto the fabric to secure it permanently.
Ironing the patch onto the fabric secures the placement for sewing. So, your final step is to sew the patch onto your piece of fabric. With the t-shirt material, you can use a straight stitch or a zigzag stitch.
I recommend using a zigzag stitch so that the edges don’t curl. Although curling edges could be a neat design element if done well.
Custom Patches Always Add A Personal Touch
It’s always fun to make something that includes a personal touch – whether it’s a gift or something you’re making for yourself.
When you make a custom patch from an old t-shirt and HTV scraps is a straightforward and easy way to make a variety of designs quickly and inexpensively.
So, what will you create today?
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