Emblems of Thread

by on March 10, 2016

A History of Custom Embroidered Patches

custom patches

In the heat and chaos, blood and mud of military campaigns, it is often difficult to distinguish between sergeants and privates. To make sure everyone knew who calls the shots, armies all over the world have developed visible markings of rank. These have included distinct styles of armor, suit, medals and, in some cultures, tattoos.

In the 1800s, the British were involved in numerous military campaigns, including those waged against the French, Indians, Persians, Afghans, Maori and Zulus. During this period, they also added one more item to the military suit: custom embroidered patches.

The use of patches soon spread to the United States. By the Second World War, most armies all over the world were using embroidered patches to denote rank.When you see an embroidery patches, you immediately look for  patches4less.com

Even non-military people found beauty and symbolism in these small, decorative pieces of cloth. When the hobby of hiking started to rise in popularity in Europe, people sewed patches of the places they had visited on their backpacks and clothes.  These ordinary people wore patches like badges of honor, telling others at a glance all the places they have traveled. This practice is much like how the people of today collect keychains,refrigerator magnets, and t-shirts as souvenirs.

In the early 1800s, however, they were still not as popular as they are now and the designs were relatively simple, especially if many copies had to be made. This was because custom embroidered patches were still mostly handmade at the time, painstakingly embroidered by wives, mothers and sisters of soldiers. That changed very soon when Joshua Hellman invented an embroidery machine in 1828. Many other inventors built upon his ideas, including Isaak Grumble who invented the Stiffly embroidery machine in 1863. These early machines were still operated by hand and therefore labor-intensive. However, this allowed for multiple copies to be created simultaneously.

The increasingly available embroidery machines slowly made them more accessible and, at the same time, complex. By the 1900s, custom embroidered patches were used not only by the military and backpackers. Scout programs began to use them in the form of badges to be earned. Even now, girl and boy scouts ramp up on accomplishments just to fill their sashes
with these embroidered medals of honor. They were also soon used by sports teams in their uniforms and caps, using their team’s signature colors and symbols. Yet other patches were used to commemorate significant events. Among them were space programs, who used patches for each mission. The first such patch was donned by Valentina Tereshkova in the 1963 Rostock Mission by the Soviet Union. The United States followed suit in the 1965 Gemini 5 mission with the famous “8 days or bust” patch.

As computers became smaller and more available, embroidery machines also became more efficient. Today, designers need only to layout a single design on a computerized embroidery machine before it does nearly all the work for them. These modern innovations also allowed for a finer level of detail and better levels of customization than before.

Digitalization has not made hand embroidery a lost art either, the crafters of today still like to make their own handmade embroidered patches. These can sometimes be more detailed than machine embroidery, but only come in limited editions as large batches are not possible.

Custom embroidered patches are now more accessible and easier to make than ever. Yet, they still have managed to retain their original value as emblems of rank, camaraderie and achievement. The next time that you see one, think about its long, rich history and what it means to the person wearing it. And if you have anything worth celebrating, or bragging about, maybe you should think about getting one made for yourself.