These days, everyone has seen custom sew on patches. However, have you ever thought about how custom sew on patches began? Custom patches tell a tale of decoration, the Industrial Revolution, even political movements, all in a few inches of cloth!
Embroidery is nothing new. It's a cherished art form that has been a staple for thousands of years. Embroidered tapestries were once valued by kings and queens worldwide. In the beginning, all embroidery had to be hand-stitched. This made for a slow, painstaking process done by artisans.
For that reason, it was expensive and quite rare. Only the wealthiest could afford embroidered garments. Even small works such as patches took many hours to complete. When given as gifts, they became treasured keepsakes.
From Kings to Commoners!
In the early 1800s, French inventor Joshua Heilmann created what has come to be recognized as the first embroidery machine. With a few refinements, this hand-powered machine changed embroidery forever. The next advancement came when Swiss inventor Isaak Grobli created what’s known as the schiffli embroidery machine.
This revolutionary improvement significantly increased the rate of embroidery production. As machine embroidery grew, the cost of production fell. Custom sew on patches rapidly became more affordable.
The early 20th century brought automation to embroidery, using programmable machines. These early machines used paper tape to tell the machine what to embroider. With mass production, more attainable embroidered patches became more popular. They've been a standard element of military uniforms since World War I.
The greater availability of patches made it feasible to use them to identify employees, especially in service businesses. Many chose to wear them on jackets as social statements, or as indicators of belonging to specific groups.
The last quarter of the 20th century revolutionized embroidery production once again. Microprocessors fell in price, which means it became possible to create computer-controlled, high-speed embroidery machines. With a fully digitized pattern, the machines could produce embroidered products, including patches at a rate that was only dreamed about a few years earlier.
With the digital revolution came consistency. The computer-controlled machines made it easy to reproduce a single design of custom sew on patches dozens, hundreds, even thousands of times. Digital design also made it possible for producers to offer greater variety and flexibility in embroidered patch sizes and shapes.
Nearly any shape and style are now just a few keystrokes away from production. Today's custom embroidered patches are a far cry from ancient hand embroidery. Today's patches are more colorful, more creative, and longer-lasting.
However, a few things didn't change. Embroidered patches are appreciated as miniature works of art around the world. Some folks even choose to collect them as part of their travels. It's possible today to say just about anything you want on custom sew on patches.
From making a political statement to telling a joke, or even showing that you belong to a certain group; you can do it with a patch. From the artisans of thousands of years ago to the computerized automated servants of today, the thread of creativity connects us all!
Hello, I'm Jesse Daugherty, a music enthusiast, sports aficionado, and an avid supporter of the arts. I'm a writer and content creator. For the past 5 years, I've shared my knowledge of custom patches and other promotional products, exploring their designs, meaning, and purpose.