The Difference Between iron on Patches And Sew on Patches

Patches have become a staple in the world of fashion and DIY craft, which allows individuals to express their creativity, repair garments, or simply add a unique touch to their belongings. From denim jackets to backpacks, patches can transform everyday items into personalized statements. In attaching these patches, there are two main methods to consider: iron on and sew on.

Choosing the right type of patch can significantly impact the look, durability, and ease of application. Iron-on patches are known for their convenience and quick application process, while sew-on patches are popular for their longevity and versatility. This blog will dive into the differences between iron-on and sew on patches and explore their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision for your next project. 

Iron on Patches

What Are Iron on Patches?

Iron on patches are a type of patch that can be attached to fabric using heat. They come with a special adhesive backing that melts when heated, allowing the patch to bond securely to the fabric. This method eliminates the need for sewing, making it a convenient option for quick and easy application.

Iron on patches are typically made from materials such as cotton, polyester, or a blend of both. The front side of the patch features the design, which can be embroidered, printed, or woven. The back side of the patch is coated with a layer of heat-activated adhesive. This adhesive is often a thin layer of thermoplastic polymer, which melts under the heat of an iron and solidifies upon cooling, creating a bond between the patch and the fabric.

Advantages of iron on patches:

  1. Ease of Use: Iron on patches are straightforward and easy to apply, even for beginners.
  2. Quick Application: The process is fast, typically taking only a few minutes from start to finish.
  3. No Need for Sewing Skills: No sewing equipment or skills are required, making it accessible for anyone.

Disadvantages of iron on patches:

  1. Potential for Adhesive to Weaken Over Time: The adhesive bond may weaken with repeated washing and wear, potentially leading to the patch peeling off.
  2. Limited to Materials That Can Withstand Heat: Iron on patches are not suitable for fabrics that are sensitive to heat, such as silk or certain synthetics.
  3. May Require Re-application: In some cases, the adhesive bond may not be permanent, and re-application or reinforcement with stitching may be necessary to ensure the patch stays in place.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Apply an Iron-on Patch

  1. Prepare the Fabric: Ensure the fabric is clean, dry, and flat. Lay the garment on a hard, heat-resistant surface, like an ironing board.
  2. Position the Patch: Place the iron on patch in the desired location on the fabric. Ensure it is properly aligned and positioned as you want it to appear.
  3. Cover with Cloth: Place a thin cloth or a piece of parchment paper over the patch. This acts as a barrier to protect both the patch and the fabric from direct heat.
  4. Heat the Iron: Set your iron to the appropriate temperature for the fabric (usually a medium to high setting, without steam). Refer to the patch’s instructions for specific temperature guidelines.
  5. Apply Heat: Press the iron firmly over the cloth-covered patch for 20-30 seconds. Apply even pressure and avoid moving the iron to ensure the adhesive melts evenly.
  6. Check Adhesion: Lift the iron and carefully check if the edges of the patch are sticking. If needed, apply more heat for an additional 10-15 seconds.
  7. Cool and Secure: Allow the patch to cool completely, ensuring the adhesive has fully set. Once cool, check the edges to ensure they are securely attached.

Sew on patch vs iron on patch

Sew on Patches

What Are Sew on Patches?

Sew on patches are fabric embellishments that are attached to clothing or accessories by stitching them in place. Unlike iron-on patches, sew on patches do not have an adhesive backing and require needle and thread for application. This method provides a more secure and durable attachment, suitable for a wide range of fabrics and uses.

Sew on patches are typically made from durable materials such as cotton, polyester, or a blend of both. The front side of the patch features the design, which can be embroidered, printed, or woven. The back side is usually a simple fabric backing, often made from the same material as the front, without any adhesive layer. This allows for flexibility in stitching and ensures that the patch can be securely sewn onto various types of fabric.

Advantages of sew on patches:

  1. Durability and Longevity: Sew-on patches provide a strong and long-lasting attachment that can withstand repeated washing and heavy use.
  2. Can Be Applied to Any Fabric Type: Suitable for a wide range of fabrics, including those that cannot tolerate heat, such as silk or certain synthetics.
  3. More Secure Attachment: The stitching ensures that the patch is firmly secured, reducing the risk of it coming loose over time.

Disadvantages of sew on patches:

  1. Requires Sewing Skills: Basic sewing skills are necessary, whether hand-sewing or using a sewing machine.
  2. More Time-Consuming to Apply: The sewing process is more labor-intensive compared to ironing on a patch.
  3. May Require Additional Tools: Needles, thread, pins, and possibly a sewing machine are needed to apply sew-on patches, which may not be readily available to everyone.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Sew on a Patch

1.  Prepare the Fabric: Ensure the fabric is clean, dry, and flat. Lay the garment on a flat surface.

2. Position the Patch: Place the sew on patch in the desired location on the fabric. Pin it in place to prevent shifting while sewing.

3. Thread the Needle: Choose a thread color that matches the edge of the patch or the fabric. Thread your needle and tie a knot at the end of the thread.

4. Start Sewing:

  • Hand-Sewing: Begin by inserting the needle from the underside of the fabric, coming up through the edge of the patch. Make small, even stitches around the perimeter of the patch, approximately 1/8 to 1/4 inch apart. Secure the thread with a knot on the underside of the fabric when finished.
  • Machine-Sewing: Set up your sewing machine with the appropriate thread and needle. Use a straight or zigzag stitch to sew around the edge of the patch. Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end to secure the thread.

5. Check and Finish: Once the patch is securely sewn in place, trim any excess thread. Inspect the stitches to ensure they are even and secure.

The Difference Between Iron on and Sew on Patches

Iron-on patches and sew-on patches are popular for adding flair or making repairs to clothing and accessories, but they differ significantly in terms of application, durability, and suitability. Here’s a breakdown of their key differences:

1. Attachment Method:

  • Iron on Patches: These patches have a heat-activated adhesive backing. They are applied using an iron, which melts the adhesive and bonds the patch to the fabric.
  • Sew on Patches: These patches are attached using needle and thread. They do not have an adhesive backing and require stitching around the edges to secure them to the fabric.

2. Materials and Composition:

  • Iron on Patches: Typically made from cotton, polyester, or blends, with a thermoplastic adhesive on the back.
  • Sew on Patches: Made from similar materials but has a simple fabric backing without adhesive.

3. Application Process:

  • Iron on Patches:
    • Quick and easy.
    • Requires an iron and a protective cloth.
    • Heat the patch and press it onto the fabric for 20-30 seconds.
  • Sew on Patches:
    • More time-consuming and labor-intensive.
    • Requires basic sewing skills and tools (needle, thread, possibly a sewing machine).
    • Can be hand-sewn or machine-sewn for a secure attachment.

4. Durability:

  • Iron on Patches: Moderately durable but the adhesive can weaken over time, especially with repeated washing and wear.
  • Sew on Patches: Highly durable. The stitching provides a strong, long-lasting bond that can withstand frequent washing and heavy use.

5. Fabric Compatibility:

  • Iron on Patches: Best suited for heat-tolerant fabrics like cotton, denim, and polyester blends. Not suitable for delicate fabrics like silk or synthetic materials that can be damaged by heat.
  • Sew on Patches: Can be applied to any fabric type, including delicate and textured materials.

6. Tools and Skills Required:

  • Iron on Patches: Minimal tools (iron, protective cloth) and no sewing skills required.
  • Sew-  Patches: Requires sewing tools (needle, thread, pins, sewing machine) and basic sewing skills.

7. Appearance and Finish:

  • Iron on Patches: Provide a smooth, clean finish without visible stitches. Ideal for a polished look.
  • Sew on Patches: Allow for customizable stitching. Can blend in with matching thread or stand out with decorative stitching.

8. Reapplication and Maintenance:

  • Iron on Patches: May require reapplication if the adhesive weakens. Care instructions typically include washing inside out and avoiding high heat in dryers.
  • Sew on Patches: Rarely need reapplication. Very low maintenance once sewn on securely.


When choosing between iron on and sew on patches, consider the type of fabric you are working with, the intended use of the patch, your sewing skills, and the desired look and finish. By weighing these factors, you can select the patch type that best meets your needs and ensures a successful and satisfying project.

No matter which method you choose, patches offer a fun and practical way to express your style, repair your garments, and create unique designs. With the right approach and a bit of creativity, you can make the most of both iron-on and sew-on patches, adding a personal touch to everything from everyday wear to special keepsakes.

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