Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sewing Scout Patches Tips and Tricks

*** In light of current national BSA decisions, I thought I would take a moment and share my feelings on the decision the national executive committee will possibly be making this Wednesday regarding the future of scouting.  I LOVE scouting, and I LOVE the boys.  I loved growing up with a scout leader as a father and that my brothers were avid scouters, to the point that I wished I could be a scout too.  (Too bad I didn't know about Venturing then!!!)  I love that my husband has served as a scout leader, that my boys are working towards their Eagle scout rank, and that my daughters want to be Venture scouts.  For a great post by a friend about a girl's perspective on boy scouts, read this.

As a deeply involved volunteer (I have two unit positions, two district positions, and two council positions), it hurts that BSA is thinking about making a decision that will have a huge impact on the future of scouting.  I can't see how scouting will ever be the same, with the same strong values and ideals that are currently inherent in scouting.  From the Great Salt Lake Council office,“We would ask all of our Scouts, Scouters, and parents to join us in prayer for our national leaders as they wrestle with this sensitive issue.  Scouting is for youth first and foremost. We hope Scouting will keep its focus on providing quality programs and instilling values in young people.”

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program that you all came here for. ****

Any scouters out there know that sewing on patches isn't always thrilling, but hey, we want to look snazzy, right? So it must be done. There is always the patch glue, but that looks terrible if you ever have to take patches off.

I had to add some patches on to my sons' shirts, and got to try out some patch tips I'd been given. They are so fabulous, I have to share.

TIP 1: When sewing unit number patches, sew them together first, and THEN sew them to the shirt.


This saves you from sewing 3 separate small patches. Bigger patches are way easier, plus then you don't have to keep trying to get them all lined up. This could work for the knot patches as well.



TIP 2: TAPE!

I noticed some tape sticking to a patch on one of the roundtable staff's shirt a couple months ago and asked her about it. She said she uses tape instead of pins when she's trying to put on smaller patches. I tried this out when I had to sew a couple arrow points on Sammy's shirt. First I taped over the whole arrow point and sewed right over the tape. This was fine, but the tape kept breaking apart while I was trying to peel it off. Then I tried keeping part of the patch untaped, sewed that part, and then peeled off the tape to finish. I liked that much better.



Both were excellent helps that made the whole patch sewing experience a lot happier with less unpicking. Try them out sometime!

** I've noticed I've had a lot of traffic from this. If you try them out, let me know what you think! Since writing this I tried the tape on merit badges as well and it also worked beatifully, much better than trying to pin them on.

82 comments:

  1. I have so many patches to sew on my son's scout uniform. He's got so many merit badges and none of them are on his shirt.

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    1. Use Merit Badge Magic to put the merit badges on your son's sash. And, make sure he has the 36" sash and not the 30" sash since the shorter sash gets outgrown in just a few years. Enjoy!

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    2. I would like to see a picture of the Cubmasters uniform with all the patches sewn on so I can do my husbands.

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    3. I would like to see a picture of the Cubmasters uniform with all the patches sewn on so I can do my husbands.

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    4. While Merit Badge Magic can help, I do not recommend using it. You can never sew the patches on after that. The glue is too strong and won't allow the needle and thread (by hand or machine) through. It also makes it too hard to move something if needed. It leaves an awful residue behind and makes the uniform look awful

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  2. I haven't had to sew merit badge patches yet, but my oldest just graduted from cubs (that was his tan shirt the numbers were going on) and he's already earned some. I'll have I think 4 to sew after his first court of honor. I think the tape would work with those, just start along the top with the bottom taped. But I haven't tried it to say for sure.

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  3. I have tried to sew on these patches by hand and it is a killer on the fingers. We don't have a sewing machine so we had to plead and beg to have a lady in our ward help us out. She zipped them on very quickly. Of course, she is a veteran merit badge sew'er on'er.

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    1. If sewing is rough on the fingers, get some Badge Magic at your local Scout Shop. http://www.badgemagic.com/

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    2. I sew on badges for several scouts. I have found Badge Magic to be a mess. It does not come off the way they say it will and makes a mess of the shirt when the badge is later removed. If you ever have to move something, sewn badges are much easier. I actually have one badge in front of me waiting to be sewn on because the badge magic came off.

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    3. Yep, never, EVER use badge magic unless you don't care about ruining the shirt, having the sticky bleed out and through, and don't care what the shirt looks like.

      DO try this for those thicker, sturdier patches: keep a hot iron on hand, warm the patches with the iron, hand sew your stitches until the patch cools, reheat with iron, repeat until done. The warmed up patch is much softer and less stiff and allows the needle to slide through like butter!

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    4. The key to badge magic is to cut slightly smaller than the border of the patch. This will eliminate any flowing outside the patch...as I have seen before. I do not use the pre-shaped badge magic...I cut my own. I have been using it for years with no problems...so I guess its a personal preference.

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    5. Jeremy, your tip to warm the patches first is BRILLIANT!!! Worked like a charm, and I'm no longer dreading sewing on the rest of these merit badges! Thanks :D

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  4. Just had to report, works great for merit badges too!

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  5. These are excellent tips! I'm getting ready to sew patches on my husband's uniform...it's my first time... What stitch did you use to sew the numbers together? Is that a zig zag? Do you just get thread to match the patches? I've heard of invisible/clear thread...any thoughts on that?

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    1. I always use the clear nylon thread. It seems to hold up well and you don't have to change thread for every patch. I have been through 3 cub scouts and 2 boy scouts -- so I've done my share of patch sewing.

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  6. Hi Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by, and glad you found them useful!

    Yes, I used a zig zag stitch to sew the number patches together first.

    I've heard of people using clear thread but I've never tried it. I try to have the same color (red isn't too hard) or close enough to it (blue with purple isn't too horrible). :)

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  7. Thank you so much for these WONDERFUL tips. I wish I'd had them years ago.

    I've tried the invisible thread, and it's difficult to work with. It's nylon, very slippery, and (duh) hard to see. The finished shirt looks nice, but not nice enough to compensate for the frustration factor.

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    1. Do you know if that thread would work on a sewing machine?

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  8. It worked!! Thank you, thank you! Why did I put off sewing these badges on in the first place? Knowledge is king! I'm a believer!

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  9. Okay this is an old post, but I have a tip! When sewing patches on the sleeves, rip out the entire underarm seam so you can spread the sleeve flat. Ahhhh. Then stitch the underarm back up. I've done this on my son's shirt, mine, and my husband's and we have the straightest patches around.

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    1. this should be its own pin on pintrest so smart!

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  10. Clear thread is the bomb! Use clear thread on the top.. be careful of the weight you use! Don't use the super thin it will break constantly. I use the mid weight not shiny thread. Then I use whatever matches the patch the best for my bobbin thread. Clear thread does not work in the bobbin!!!! Don't try it you will regret it! Cost me a bundle to get it pulled out of my machine.

    For BSA Rank patches I don't bother sewing those on.. I use the badge magic tapey gluey sheets for those because they change ranks quickly and if you sew them on you also have to remove them every time they earn a new rank. (big pain) With Badge Magic I can rip them off and stick on a new one. Hope this helps!!

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    1. I am glad I found this before I tried. I have about 10 patches to sew on (from last year and this year)and I find it daunting to do it by hand. I will try it with top thread being nylon and bobbin the color of the patch.

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  11. A note on badge colors for BSA.. I've found you can use these colors for about 90% of all the BSA Merit badges.. Coast and Clark 8050, Gutermann 766 & 774

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  12. Part III cause I have no mind.. lol

    If you are having trouble with the sash falling off simply tack a snap on the underside of the sash and under the collar on the shoulder. This hides the snap when they are not using it and keeps the sash from falling off when they do wear it. It was simply 1 snap as close to the collar as possible to hide it when not in use.

    My son was thrilled with this!! And I taught HIM how to sew the snap on himself. Took 2 min.

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  13. Great blog post! Your trick for unit numerals is also very effective for the Centennial, and Jamboree Rings and the World Scout Jamboree Rocker that go around the World Crest. In all cases they use different colors, but I found the dark thread works the best.

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  14. Couple of things, Jessica, that is great idea (opening the sleeves up)!

    What sort of thread do you use? I have a pile of girl scout patches and cub scout patches to do for not only my kids but some others as well. I have terrible problems with the thread starting to fray and then developing pills which promptly keeps it from going through the needle properly and then it fails to stitch properly.

    Have spent more time on 4 daisy patches than I did on a costume I sewed for my daughter yesterday. Grrrr!

    My original thought had been to use a darning plate on my machine (1946 singer 66) and just freehand around the edges since some of the fun patches have not-so-fun to sew borders. Maybe I need a different needle...

    Love the tip of combining the unit numbers first. Will be doing that soon.

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  15. I appreciate all the comments.

    While I do not want to have to take apart a sleeve and do construction sewing, the tip to sew the numbers together was great!

    The tip to use a snap at the neck, under the collar, was fantastic!

    I have tried the nylon sew-through thread. Maybe what I used was too thin. The thread broke while I sewed (used it in the bobbin also!) and was quick to break on the uniform.

    Can someone tell me what Badge Magic (glue sheets?) is? I have used 505 Adhesive Spray, but it gums and discolors the shirt which shows when you change a patch.

    I use Isacord thread to match the badge in both the bobbin and the upper thread. I've tried Gutermann - it works great also!

    I look forward to more posts. Can someone recommend length and stitch width (zigzag).

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  16. Great tips! Thanks Marni. I'll be sharing those on my FB page soon. And if you want details on how to enter to win that Beginning Boy Scout book, the contest details are now on my blog. Take care!

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  17. Any advice on sewing the position patch onto the pocket of the shirt sleeve?? (that's where they go on the new uniforms)

    Also, as an FYI - tell your packs & troops that they can order a 2, 3, or 4 digit unit number patch from the Scout Store! Ours is a 3 number and its actually cheaper to buy the single patch than the three numbers. You have to order a dozen at a time (I think) but SO worth it!

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  18. I use clear thread on top and in bobbin. I also tape all of the patches rather than pin them. Works great!

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  19. I found you through Pinterest and talk about a "Light bulb" moment! I have Been sewing for years and sewing scout patches for the past 5 and never thought of sewing the numbers together first! Love the tape idea too.

    Thanks so much!
    Paulette from
    http://back2basicsmom.blogspot.com/

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  20. I found you on Pintrest also. This is perfect timing for me. My son is moving up to Webelos and has out grown his blue so will get a new tan shirt and I will have all those little patches. THANK YOU!!!

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  21. The trick to hand-sewing the patches is to not even TRY to go through the plastic backing. Use a single thread [i.e. don't knot the ends together, just knot one end] and go through the border around the patch but not through the backing fabric itself. It's easier to demonstrate than describe, but it saves fingers like crazy. I have, and know well how to use, a sewing machine, but merit badges and a fair fraction of the patches have gone on all of our Scouting shirts by hand. I just find it simpler. And, it's a good example/skill to learn for the boys.

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  22. I have used clear thread on the top spool. Then I don't have to change colors for each patch. Glad I found you thanks to Pintrest.

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  23. I am excited to add the tape trick to my project. I have a hubby, myself and 2 cubs that need shirts with 2 more cubs on the way, so I'll be recycling shirts and patches quite a bit.

    After I spent way too much time unpicking some patches recently, I realized zig-zagging them on so tightly the first time wasn't necessary. Now, I use large stitch lengths. I haven't had any problems with them coming off-and even it they do-it sure beats the time I spent unpicking and stitching the last time!!
    Thank you for this post.

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  24. Sewing the numbers together is brilliant. My son's numbers are crooked. Son #2 might have a better looking shirt now.

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  25. The best badge tip I ever got was to use Badge Magic. Our local Girl Scout council office carries it. It's a sheet of double sided tape with pre-scored edges for standard badges (like troop numbers, American flag, council name, etc.) For non-standard badges (fun patches) it's just a matter of tracing the badge onto the sheet, cutting it out, peeling of the tape and applying the badge. It's fantastic stuff, even surviving being washed twice.

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    1. I thought so too, until I had to take patches off and/or replace them. The gunk from badge magic won't come off. I've even tried dry cleaning, which I was told would do the trick.
      After more than four years of badge magic and soliciting help from fellow leaders and my mother-in-law, I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and figure out how to sew them on. It took some practice, but once I got the hang of it (I have four of us in uniforms), I am a believer that it is actually better (and easier?) to sew on the patches.

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    2. I thought so too, until I had to take patches off and/or replace them. The gunk from badge magic won't come off. I've even tried dry cleaning, which I was told would do the trick.
      After more than four years of badge magic and soliciting help from fellow leaders and my mother-in-law, I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and figure out how to sew them on. It took some practice, but once I got the hang of it (I have four of us in uniforms), I am a believer that it is actually better (and easier?) to sew on the patches.

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    3. check the badge magic website, FAQ section. they have information about removing the adhesive. i just tried and it works. they recommend Goo gone or Goof off.

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  26. If you feel up to hand sewing, some of the patches come with little loops on the backside that make it much easier to loop through and sew to the shirt.
    My numbers are always crooked too. NO LONGER! Thanks!

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  27. I always use the clear thread in the top and something to match the shirt in the bobbin. I have never had any trouble, they always come out great...have been sewing on patches for over 30 years now. Just remember , don't put the clear thread in the bobbin. Your tips are great...wish I would hve had them years ago!

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  28. The current BSA Square Knots are terrible! What I do is line them all up and trim those to the size of the smallest -- then, I sew them together before adding them to the uniform. But doing the trimming is a key step to keeping them looking neat.

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  29. Stapling patches prior to sewing is fantastic: staples don't buckle as pins do. Remove with a dull knife. I use Nylon thread on top, complimentary color in bobbin. Hand-sew rank and office badges on shirts as they change often and don't need to be as permanent. Knots and any unfinished edge: Fray-Chek is your friend! $2 or so at Wal-Mart. If you are confident in your abilities, approach your Council to get on the list at Scout Store for sewing. Must use appropriate thread, placement, etc, but it's a good way to contribute.

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  30. I sew lots of patches for people in my pack and troop. I use temporary spray adhesive to keep those little patches on while I sew around them. I also use a basting stitch on the rank advancements that change so quickly. That way they come off quick and easy.

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  31. When I sew on patches for people, I use the invisible thread on the top and a matching, to the shirt color, thread in the bobbin. I never have to change thread no matter what the color of the patch! I also use a narrow zig zag stitch. Hope this helps someone. Have a great day!

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  32. Unpicking the sleeve seam is the best tip! Just did it to sew patches on my den leader shirt and it worked like a charm. No sore fingers and nice neat stitching. Thanks!!

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  33. I sew a lot of Girl Scout patches and I use elmer's glue to hold them in place. it helps with the shifting.
    Does anyone have a trick to lining things up nicely on the sast. The curve gets me every time.
    I love the number trick and I may take her's off and try again.
    Also, I sewed the soft velcro to her shirt at the shoulder and the rough side to her sash to hold it in place. Her sash is the envy of the other mom's b/c it never slips.

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  34. Thanks for posting this. I have been using tape for years on patches. The other tip is to use invisible thread so it doesn't matter what color the patch is!

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  35. As a scout leader I've always made small patches bigger if possible by sewing patches together first. Its the best! I will also use fusing or no-sew. Several scout leaders I know use velcro for certain patches that may or may not be traded out pretty frequently (think patrol emblem or position patches), also pockets are great for velcro.

    As far as merit badges...let the boys experience the sewing on their own. I know an Eagle Scout whose mom refused to sew anything for him his entire scout career (other than his 1st uniform shirt when he turned 11)...and he is one of those boys who you really wish was the same age as your daughter.

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  36. My tip is when you are buying the sash for merit badges, get the larger size. When your child grows out of the smaller one you won't have to change all those badges oer.

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  37. I made the smaller sash mistake too. I have to try all the sewing machine tips since I have to get more shirts ready for Jambo next year.
    Am I the only one that realized a couple years into Boy Scouts that the Eagle merit badges are usually placed on the upper center line of the sash?? Of course, more sewing badges again!

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  38. Do you mean the required merit badges? I don't think that's a "usually," I think that some just do that because it looks nice. My boys both want theirs in the order they earned them. If they receive several at once, they lay them out for me.

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  39. I use a simple glue stick to fix badges in place prior to sewing. It washes right out.

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  40. Perfect timing for me to see this on Pinterest! My three girls just joined the girl scouts!

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  41. Found this on Pinterest. Oh, how I could have used this so many years ago. It seems so simple I feel stupid! Now that my last (5th) son is getting his Eagle Award in a couple months, maybe I'll have at least one of the boys that look sharp! - THANKS!

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  42. It might sound weird, but I actually miss sewing these on. I used to put them on for my local scouts and moved. Now I am a SAHM. I hope to get involved with the scouts here sometime, because I know that they have a hard time find someone who can sew them on. Yes sewing them on by hand is a killer!

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  43. I have sewn numerous patches on my grandson's scout shirts & vests. My best solution was to spray the back of the patches with the adhesive used for attaching embroidery stabilizer. But the tip about sewing the troop numbers together before attaching to the shirt - made it really quick.

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  44. Great tips! Also -- I didn't know about the invisible thread! I will have to look for that. I sew on my daughters' Girl Scout patches. The glue semi-works, but the patches eventually fall off. So, I use bobbin threat to match the Girl Scout Vest and thread that matches the patch on top. But, to make life easier, I only put a few stitches in to hold them in place, since the glue should semi work. With the troop numbers, I iron them on first, and then do a row of stitches on top of the patches, and a row on the bottom.

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  45. Thank you for these great tips! With four boys, I have A LOT Of patch sewing my my future. This will make the task so much easier!

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  46. You can also use a glue stick instead of tape. Then the glue washes away later.

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  47. My son grew out of his sash right before receiving his Eagle. I ran down to the Scout shop and got the longer sash. After taking off the merit badges, I placed them in order, Eagle badges first, then the rest in order received.
    This time I used a HOT GLUE gun, to place them on the sash, then I machined sewed them in place. You do not have to worry about any picking any tape off, the hot glue just stays under the patch.

    If you do not get them straight they peel off. Peel off the dried glue and try again. If they do not peel off, put a towel OVER and UNDER the sash, then place a warm iron on top, that will soften the glue and it will peel off.

    KB

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  48. I use a glue stick to glue them on first, let it dry for a few minutes and the badges are so much easier to sew on then trying to use pins.

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  49. Glue on with E6000 glue (Walmart crafts) and no sewing needed :)

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  50. Thanks. Just started seeing the numbers in husband's volunteer shirt yesterday. I had trouble with my numbers & realized I needed to see his together 1st, but the tape tip WILL DO MIRACLES ! Thx.

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  51. When applying patches that will need to be changed in a few months, I use velcro under the patch. When my scout's job changes I just add a new piece of velcro to the new patch, and press it to tjhe older velcro already sewn in the shirt. I also usually use transparent thread, which saves time when sewing on multiple patches.

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  52. Thank you for the idea of sewing the number patches together first! Genius!!! I seriously don't know why I never thought of that. I'm a seamstress and avid scouter.

    I've given an open invitation to all my boys, past and present, that I will sew any of there patches on so I sew quite a few.

    I've used the tape in the past, especially for the Arrow Points but sure appreciate you sharing more tips.

    Thanks again!

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  53. Sew the strips of knots together before sewing them on adult uniforms.
    To position the purple World Crest correctly mark the center between the shoulder seam and the top of the pocket, center above the button.
    When applying an OA pocket flap be sure to sew the sides to the pocket flap as well as the top to save the shirt from tearing.
    Use caution if you are going to use iron- on sticky for Jamboree patches as often the patches are not the same size a regular troop patches.

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  54. Omygosh!! Great idea on the pack/troop numbers. I have twins in scouts, & I can't seem to understand how I couldn't figure out something so simple as that. Will keep in mind the other tips as patches come along.
    Thanks a bunch!!!

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  55. Omygosh!! Great idea on the pack/troop numbers. I have twins in scouts, & I can't seem to understand how I couldn't figure out something so simple as that. Will keep in mind the other tips as patches come along.
    Thanks a bunch!!!

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  56. Hi there! glad to drop by your page and found these very interesting and informative stuff. Thanks for sharing, keep it up!

    - scout patches

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  57. Sewing the numbers together is a great idea. I had a "duh!" moment there.

    I use the clear thread on top and similar shirt color thread in the bobbin. Usually a fun color in the bobbin on the girl scout vests. Using the clear thread helps hide the sewing methods you're using. It doesn't have to be perfect. It hides a lot. Instead of circles, i sew more like octagons with small straight lines, so the fabric doesn't move underneath. For cub shirts, I sew the rank pocket closed but make sure they have one useful pocket. I hand sew rank badges on boy scout shirt pockets in order to keep it accessible. Same for position of leadership if it has a pocket. I've done velcro on POL patches for others too. I've sewn a buttonhole on a few sashes to help hold the MB sash. I need to figure out how a friend had temporarily modified the large sash to shorten it for a small scout until he grew into it. Badge magic and iron-on doesn't work. They ruin the shirt if you put the badge in the wrong place and try to move it. I've attempted to try to get most of some heavy goop and the dust it collected off with an iron and wax paper. It helped get the goop off, but the discoloration was still there.

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  58. I have tried the same with a thread of green color. I did not change thread for each patch. After completion the whole work looks superb.
    Badges Australia

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  59. I am looking few tips for buying magnetic badges & got some useful tips from this post.Thanks for sharing this post.

    magnetic badges & staff badges

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  60. Love the idea of sewing the oatches together first! Also, I use glue dots for positioning the patches. Doesn't mess the shirt up. Don't run your needle thru it though... I will be trying the tape next round! Thanks!

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  61. Here's my trick for those of you leery about the sewing machine. I use Velcro for the patrol patch, the rank patch and the leadership position patch. These patches change so often, I couldn't see myself sewing them so frequently (however now I may have a better time after reading your posts!). The beauty is that once you've sewn the bottom Velcro on to the shirt (I use the soft part there), all you have to do is stick the Velcro to the patch when they get a new one. I have two sons, so they will be interchangeable.

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  62. So glad I found this! Spent all day yesterday trying to sew patches onto my husband's new shirt (sewing the square knots together is genius), my new shirt and merit badges onto my son's sash. I am so not a seamstress Ha!
    The tip I got from the boy who has the most merit badges in our troop is to sew them right straight across the entire row of merit badges. I just did it and it looks great, the husband is concerned that they might get caught on something so he suggested sewing 3 rows across all the rows of badges so that is what I did. I used the glue stick idea to hold them all on. Thank you to whoever posted THAT tip!
    Am off tonight to get medium weight invisible thread to do the rest tomorrow morning so they will be done to welcome the crossovers into the troop in the afternoon and an Eagle Court of Honor in the evening (my husband is the Scoutmaster). I got the "fine" weight and I am sick of it breaking so often.

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  63. Thanks for the great tips for sewing on badges! I've been sewing-phobic for my first three sons' shirts and sashes, using Badge Magic until they reached Eagle, and then removing all the patches and having someone else sew things on for the ceremony. So here is my Badge Magic trick for you: it comes off completely when the shirt is professionally dry cleaned! All the patches and badges will fall off in the process, so be sure to tell the cleaner to collect them all and return them to you. NOTE: It has to be regular dry cleaner's for it to dissolve; the newer organic/natural kind doesn't work. But both the shirt and badges/patches come out looking brand new!

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  64. Wow, lots of good info in article and nearly as much in the comments. You can tell there are a lot of moms here who have sew/attached their fair share of patches!

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  65. I use a small strip of double sided tape on the back of the patch and then place it on the uniform with a little pressure. Make sure the strip falls a little short of the edges or the needle will get gummed up. If I have several patches that will be adjacent to each other, I tape them together first and then sew them as a group. I have a Cadette Girl Scout and a Life Boy Scout and so have sewn tons of patches.

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  66. Staple the patches on with a big Swingline stapler, then remove the staples after they are sewn.

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