Having a hole in your backpack is no fun. It can happen sometimes, especially if your backpack is worn out because of how much you use it.
A quick fix for this type of issue is to sew a decorative patch onto your backpack to cover the hole. It’s a great way to extend the use of your old backpack.
Sewing a patch on your backpack is also a great way to customize your look if the backpack is too plain for your liking. It’s a really fun and easy project that can help you breathe new life into an old design.
So how do you sew a patch on a backpack? To sew a patch onto your backpack, place the patch where you want it, pin it on, and sew it in place. A running or whip stitch is ideal for hand-sewing. Straight or zigzag stitches are best for a sewing machine. Use a large sewing needle.
If you want more help to sew a patch on your backpack, read on! We’ll walk you through the process step by step and also explain which stitches and what thread types will best help you.
What to Prepare Before You Start
A backpack is a functional item that gets a lot of wear and tear, so you will want to be extra sure you choose the best materials and that your surface (i.e. your backpack) is well-prepared for this short project!
Make Sure Your Backpack is Clean
A backpack is one of those accessories that can go for months without being cleaned. Before starting your sewing project, you should make sure that your backpack is thoroughly cleaned so that it’s easier to work with and you won’t trap any dirt in the sewing area.
Cleaning a backpack is usually as easy as putting it in the washing machine on a delicate cycle.
If you don’t have a machine (or if you’re worried your bag may be too delicate), you wash it by hand in the tub or large kitchen sink. Worst case scenario, you can try wiping with a damp cloth and make sure that it’s thoroughly dry before sewing.
Choose Your Patch: Sew-On Vs Iron-On Patches
There are several types of patches that you can find at the craft stores, the most popular types are sew-on patches and iron-on patches.
It is quite easy to distinguish between the two. Iron-on patches usually have a thin layer of white glue at the back, while sew-on patches just look like embroidered fabric both at the front and the back.
While iron-on patches are the preferred type for many people because of how easy it is to attach the patch to a fabric (you simply just have to iron it on), there are so many reasons why sew-on patches are the superior type.
First of all, iron-on patches do not work with heat-sensitive materials like nylon. Since the glue on iron-on patches needs to be activated with the high heat of an iron, this heat can also affect the material you are working with. If you have a nylon backpack, using an iron can damage the material.
Iron-on patches are also less secure. Since the glue of iron-on patches is activated with heat, it may fall off quite quickly, especially in the heat or if you put it in the dryer. Depending on the type of fabric of your backpack, the glue may not be effective to hold the patch in place.
Because of these reasons, sewing a patch on your backpack is much more preferable. Although it may take longer for you to sew a patch on your backpack, you don’t have to worry about any maintenance while knowing that your work is secured for a long time.
If your backpack has an iron-on patch that is about to fall out, you can also reinforce the bond by sewing it back on.
Although iron-on patches have an extra layer of glue, they won’t be much thicker and can still be used as a sew-on patch. Or, you can use a couple of quick stitches at the top, bottom, and sides of an iron-patch just to reinforce and anchor your iron-on patch, which will take only a little extra time.
Choose Your Thread
Once you have chosen the design of your patch, the next step should be choosing the thread color that matches. If you are using an invisible stitch, it is best to match the thread with the patch, so that the result will be invisible. You can also try a transparent thread.
However, some people may enjoy a contrasting look for their patch, so choosing a thread that is a contrasting color with the patch is not a bad idea. If you are using a sewing machine or you are confident in your ability to create even-looking stitches, using a contrasting color thread will definitely make your patch pop more.
Other things you will need:
- Optional: A sewing machine. Having a sewing machine will make the sewing process much more painless, especially since we’re working with several layers of thick fabrics. If you are working with a sewing machine, make sure to use heavy-duty needles to help you work with these thick layers of fabric. If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can hand-sew instead.
- Needles: Backpacks and patches tend to have thick and stiff fabric, so you should use a larger sized needle that can penetrate these layers. Otherwise, you can break your sewing needles quite easily!
- Fabric pins to hold the patch in place.
Note: If you are looking for a beginner-friendly sewing machine, you can check out my favorite sewing machine for beginners here.
While you always want to make something your own, we recommend using one of these stitches for your backpack, based on their ease, durability, or look.
1. Running Stitch or Straight Stitch
The easiest way to sew a patch on a backpack is with a running stitch (if you are hand-sewing) or straight stitch (if you are using a sewing machine).
Both of these stitches will appear as a straight line on your patch, so you can use the same color thread or a contrasting color thread for a pop of color.
A straight stitch is a basic stitch that any standard sewing machine will have. Before you sew, you may want to test the stitch on a similarly thick piece of scrap fabric to make sure you have the correct stitch size and tension.
A running stitch is quite easy to do, since you just carry the thread from the wrong side to the ride side in a straight line, making sure that the space between each stitch is even for a uniform look.
However, a running stitch can become undone quite easily, breaking the thread in any single place can cause the entire patch to fall out. However, you can also go back to sew along your stitches a second time, filling in the spaces between with new stitches to make a solid line which helps reinforce your work.
2. Whip Stitch
A whip stitch is an invisible stitch where you pick up the fabric at the very edge of the patch and insert the needle to the fabric underneath, so the stitch will not show at all while the attachment is quite secure.
Since you are picking up fabric and inserting your needle through one layer at a time, this whip stitch will be a lot easier than the running stitch.
The whip stitch will look like a series of diagonal lines that connect the patch and the backpack. If you are using a whip stitch, it is best to use a thread color that blends in completely with your patch, so that the stitch will be invisible after you are finished sewing.
3. Zigzag Stitch (With Sewing Machine)
If you are using a sewing machine, a zigzag stitch is the most secure option that can help you attach the patch to your backpack. Similar to the straight stitch, you can opt for a thread color that blends in with the patch or a contrasting color to add a bit of spice.
A zigzag stitch will look like a series of zig-zags on both the right side and the wrong side. You can also use a double zigzag stitch, which will look like two parallel straight stitches on the right side and a series of zig-zags on the wrong side.
How To Sew a Patch on a Backpack By Hand
Now that you have all the materials you need, below is a step-by-step guide to help you sew a patch on a backpack.
Step 1: Place and Secure the Patch
Place the patch on the area where you’d like to attach it. Make sure to avoid any seams or padded areas, which can be difficult to sew, especially if you are sewing by hand.
Use several sewing pins around the patch to pin the patch in place, which will make the sewing process a lot easier.
If you are sewing or reinforcing an iron-on patch, you should skip the pins. Instead, you can iron on the patch to hold it in place and add some stitches later to secure the patch and make sure it won’t fall off with time.
This step will also help you decide whether the placement of the patch is visually interesting. If you are sewing several patches on your backpack at once, you should pin all the patches at once so that you can check how the finished result will look and switch the patches around if needed.
Step 2: Sew Carefully
Start sewing the patch in place, either by hand-sewing or with a sewing machine.
If you are hand-sewing using a running stitch or a whip stitch, make sure to work slowly so that your needle is able to penetrate the thick layers. This step will be a bit painful because the layers will be very thick, but don’t be discouraged – the result will be worth it.
Remove the sewing pins as you go.
If you are using a sewing machine, make sure to use a larger sewing needle, as smaller needles can break if you sew through these thick layers. Use a straight stitch or a zigzag stitch to sew the patch in place, removing the sewing pins as you go.
Step 3: Finish Off
Make knots (if you are hand sewing) or sew over the area a few times to secure the thread. Cut off all loose ends.
And voila! It’s that easy. You now have a fashionable, customized backpack!
Up Next: Best Mini Irons For Sewing