8 Simple Ways to Sew Patches on a Letterman Jacket

how to sew patches on letterman jacket

8 Simple Ways to Sew Patches on a Letterman Jacket

The letterman jacket, a symbol of achievement and pride, has a rich history that dates back to the 19th century. Initially worn by Harvard University’s baseball team, these jackets have evolved into a widespread tradition across high schools and colleges in the United States. The customization of these jackets with patches signifies personal and team accomplishments, making each piece unique to its wearer. The art of sewing patches onto a letterman jacket not only adds aesthetic appeal but also immortalizes the wearer’s achievements.

Materials Needed for Sewing Patches

When it comes to customizing a letterman jacket with patches, the choice of materials plays a crucial role in the process. Here are the essential materials needed:

  • Types of Patches: There are mainly two types of patches used for letterman jackets – chenille and embroidered. Chenille patches are known for their fuzzy, velvet-like texture, often used for large letters and mascots. Embroidered patches, on the other hand, offer intricate designs with a flat surface, ideal for detailed logos and symbols. Understanding the differences between these patches is essential for selecting the right one for your jacket. For more on the history and types of patches, consider exploring the History of the Letterman Jacket.
  • Sewing Essentials: The basic tools required for sewing patches onto a letterman jacket include:
    • Needles: Choosing the right needle is critical for the durability of your patches. Thick, sturdy needles are recommended for penetrating the heavy fabric of the jacket. For guidance on selecting the appropriate needle for your project, visit Choosing the Right Sewing Needle.
    • Thread: The thread should be strong and match the color of the patch’s border or the jacket itself, ensuring a seamless look.
    • Scissors: A sharp pair of scissors is necessary for cutting threads and making precise adjustments to the patches before sewing.
    • Thimble: To protect your fingers while pushing the needle through thick fabric, a thimble is highly recommended.

Preparation Before Sewing

Before you begin the process of sewing, proper preparation is key to ensuring a successful customization. Here’s how to prepare:

  • Choosing the Right Patch Placement: Deciding where to place your patches is the first step. Consider the jacket’s design and the significance of each patch. Placement should balance the jacket’s aesthetics with the importance of each achievement. Common placements include the chest for school initials, the sleeves for sports or club symbols, and the back for large emblems or mascots.
  • Preparing the Jacket and Patch: Once the placement is decided, prepare the jacket by ironing it to remove any wrinkles. This ensures a smooth surface for sewing. Similarly, if your patches are foldable, iron them flat. Preparing both the jacket and the patch helps in achieving a clean, professional finish.

Advanced Techniques and Tips

Sewing patches onto a letterman jacket involves more than just basic stitching. Here are some advanced techniques and tips to enhance the durability and appearance of your patches:

  • Working with Difficult Fabrics: Letterman jackets are often made from wool or leather, materials that can be challenging to sew through. Using a thimble and a strong needle can make the process easier. Additionally, practicing on scrap pieces of similar fabric can help you get a feel for the material before you start on the actual jacket.
  • Ensuring Durability of the Patches: To make sure your patches stay in place and withstand wear and tear, use a backstitch or loop stitch for extra strength. These stitches create a more secure bond between the patch and the jacket, reducing the risk of the patch peeling off over time.

Incorporating these materials, preparation steps, and advanced techniques into your customization process will not only enhance the appearance of your letterman jacket but also ensure that it stands as a durable testament to your achievements. With the right approach, sewing patches onto a letterman jacket can be a rewarding project that adds personal value and pride to this iconic piece of apparel.

For those looking for an alternative to sewing, considering the use of fabric glue for temporary placement can be a viable option. While not as durable as sewing, fabric glue can hold patches in place for short periods or until permanent sewing can be done. For insights into when and how to use fabric glue versus sewing, Fabric Glue vs. Sewing offers a comprehensive comparison guide.

Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Patches on a Letterman Jacket

Customizing your letterman jacket with patches is a great way to showcase your achievements and interests. This guide will walk you through various methods to attach patches, from traditional sewing to modern alternatives like iron-on applications and fabric glue.

Method 1: Hand Sewing Patches

Hand sewing is a traditional and reliable method for attaching patches. It allows for precision and control, ensuring your patches are securely attached.

  • Step-by-Step Hand Sewing Technique:
    • Thread your needle with a strong, color-matched thread.
    • Start from the inside of the jacket to hide the knot.
    • Use a backstitch or loop stitch for durability.
    • Ensure the stitches are small and even for a clean look.
  • Tips for Neat Stitching:
    • Keep your stitches tight and close to the edge of the patch.
    • Use a thimble to protect your fingers and push the needle through tough fabric.
    • Regularly check the alignment of the patch to avoid skewing.

Method 2: Using a Sewing Machine

For those comfortable with a sewing machine, this method can save time and provide a strong attachment for your patches.

  • Setting Up Your Machine for Thick Fabrics:
    • Use a denim or leather needle, depending on your jacket’s material.
    • Adjust the machine tension and stitch length accordingly.
  • Machine Sewing Technique:
    • Place the patch on the jacket, securing it with pins or adhesive tape.
    • Start sewing from the top of the patch, removing pins as you go.
    • Use a zigzag stitch for better hold and aesthetic appeal.

Method 3: Iron-On Patches

Iron-on patches come with a pre-applied adhesive that melts under heat, attaching the patch to the fabric. This method is quick and easy but may not be as durable as sewing.

  • When to Use Iron-On Patches:
    • Ideal for temporary placement or fabrics that are difficult to sew through.
    • Not recommended for leather jackets.
  • Step-by-Step Iron-On Method:
    • Place the patch in the desired location.
    • Cover it with a thin cloth to protect the patch and jacket.
    • Press a hot iron over the patch for about 30 seconds to a minute, depending on the patch’s size.
    • Allow it to cool before moving the jacket.

Method 4: Using Fabric Glue for Temporary Placement

Fabric glue is an alternative for those who cannot sew or for temporary patch placement. It’s quick and easy but offers less durability than sewing.

  • Pros and Cons of Fabric Glue:
    • Pros: Quick application, no sewing skills required.
    • Cons: Not as durable, may leave residue if removed.
  • Application Tips:
    • Apply a thin layer of glue to the back of the patch.
    • Press firmly onto the jacket in the desired location.
    • Allow it to dry completely before wearing.

Advanced Techniques and Tips

Enhancing the durability and appearance of your patches goes beyond basic application methods. Here are some advanced tips:

  • Working with Difficult Fabrics: If you’re dealing with a leather letterman jacket, consider using a leather needle for hand sewing or a special foot for your sewing machine to prevent the fabric from sticking.
  • Ensuring Durability of the Patches: For patches that will be subjected to frequent wear and tear, consider reinforcing them with a small amount of fabric glue along the edges after sewing. This can help secure the patch further without affecting the jacket’s flexibility.

By following these detailed methods and tips, you can successfully customize your letterman jacket with patches, adding personal flair and showcasing your achievements. Whether you choose to hand sew, use a sewing machine, apply iron-on patches, or use fabric glue, each method has its advantages. The key is to select the one that best suits your skill level, the type of jacket, and the durability you need. With patience and practice, you’ll be able to create a letterman jacket that’s not only a symbol of your accomplishments but also a unique piece of personal fashion.

FAQs Section

How do you ensure patches stay on a letterman jacket?

To ensure patches stay securely attached to a letterman jacket, consider the following tips:

  • For Sewing: Use a backstitch or loop stitch for added durability. Ensure the thread is strong and matches the patch or jacket color.
  • For Iron-On Patches: Apply firm pressure with a hot iron for at least 30 seconds and allow the patch to cool completely before moving the jacket. Consider sewing the edges for extra security.
  • For Fabric Glue: Choose a high-quality fabric glue designed for the material of your jacket. Apply a thin, even layer and allow it to dry fully.

Can you remove and reposition a patch?

Yes, patches can be removed and repositioned, but the method depends on how they were initially attached:

  • Sewn Patches: Carefully use a seam ripper to remove the stitches. Note that this might leave small holes in the fabric.
  • Iron-On Patches: Gently heat the patch with an iron to soften the adhesive and carefully peel it off. This method may not work for all fabrics and adhesives.
  • Glued Patches: Use a fabric glue remover or gently heat the area with an iron. Be cautious as this might damage some fabrics.

Are there patches that should not be sewn?

Yes, some patches are designed specifically for iron-on application and may not be suitable for sewing due to their backing material. Additionally, sewing through certain types of patches, like those with thick plastic backings, can be difficult and might damage the patch or the jacket. Always check the patch manufacturer’s recommendations before proceeding.

How do you care for a letterman jacket with patches?

Caring for a letterman jacket with patches involves:

  • Washing: Hand wash or use a gentle cycle with cold water. Avoid bleach and harsh detergents.
  • Drying: Air dry the jacket. Avoid using a dryer as high heat can damage the patches and the jacket’s fabric.
  • Storage: Store the jacket in a cool, dry place on a wide hanger to maintain its shape.

Can iron-on patches be sewn for extra durability?

Yes, iron-on patches can be sewn on for extra durability. This is actually recommended for items that undergo frequent washing or heavy use. Sewing around the edges of an iron-on patch can help secure it in place, ensuring it stays attached over time.


Customizing your letterman jacket with patches is a fantastic way to showcase your achievements, interests, and personality. Whether you choose to hand sew, use a sewing machine, apply iron-on patches, or opt for fabric glue, each method offers its own set of benefits. By following the detailed steps and tips provided in this guide, you can ensure that your patches are not only aesthetically pleasing but also securely attached. Remember, the key to a successful customization project lies in careful preparation, choosing the right materials, and practicing patience throughout the process. With these considerations in mind, you’re well on your way to creating a letterman jacket that you’ll be proud to wear and display for years to come.