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The Chicago Embroidery Company

Questions & Answers

The Chicago Embroidery Company

Q: Will you help me with the patch design?

A: Yes, we can.  If you have an idea of what you want your patch to look like send us a sketch, photo, rough draft or even an existing patch.  Our artists will take your drawing and turn it into a patch design for your consideration.  There is no cost for this service.

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Q: Why can’t a patch have the same type of detail as a printed graphic?

A: Patches are made with a needle and thread so you have some limitations on how small the letters and other details can be made on an embroidered emblem.  We have made over 400,000,000 patches since World War II and have gotten pretty good at it, so if it can be made- we can make it.

Making a custom embroidered emblem is part art and part science.  We use the science of the physical limitations of a needle and thread and combine that with the art of creating the design that our machines and expert operators can make allowing us to create beautiful looking patches. 

Our quality is excellent.

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Q: How do I know what my patch will look like before you make it?

A: We will make a pre-production sample of your patch for your approval.  There is no cost for this service.

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Q: What’s the difference between a fully embroidered and a partially embroidered patch?

A: On a partially embroidered patch, the twill or other background material serves as one of the primary patch colors.  It is less expensive to produce and looks fine, especially for a basic design or a patch with only lettering or simple image.  

A fully embroidered patch has a 100 percent stitched surface, giving the emblem a richer, fuller appearance. Full embroidery is the highest level of quality and works best for more complicated, intricate designs, though it can also be used to make basic designs sparkle.

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Q: What are the different patch border options and why should I select one instead of the other?

A: Sometimes the design makes the choice for you.  A merrowed border is the classic patch design, looped stitching around the edge of a patch, giving it a slightly raised edge, and this is used in the majority of emblems we make.  However, merrowing only works for basic geometric shapes; circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, etc.

For patches with a more intricate design or an irregular edge shape (think of a family crest or royal coat of arms), an embroidered edge is used (sometimes also referred to as a laser-cut or wax edge) to prevent the backing material from unravelling.  The exception would be if a more expensive felt backing is used.

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Q: What choices do I have for coating the back of a patch? Why should I use one type over another?

A: For most of the patches we make, a plastic backing is used.  This helps stiffen the patch, giving larger patches some rigidity and helps hold stitching in place while slightly raising the profile of the threadwork and improving the appearance of the patch. 

We can also make your patches with a heat seal or iron-on backing.  Instead of sewing these patches on a shirt or bag, you can use the heat of an iron to attach the patch.  The coating melts slightly and bonds directly with the threads of the fabric, firmly adhering the patch to material.  NOTE: Tell us what surface the patches will be placed on; a nylon fabric may have a lower melting point than the iron-on backing and your item (and the patch) will be ruined.

A third choice gaining in popularity is placing a hooked Velcro backing on your patches.  This makes it easy to simply attach the patch on the fuzzy portion of Velcro that is sewn on to a uniform or other garment.  The U.S. military and other organizations are moving to Velcro-backed patches, making it quick and easy to attach, remove and transfer insignia and emblems.

We also offer sticky-backed patches with a pressure sensitive coating of adhesive.  This allows a patch to be peeled off and placed on a variety of fabrics or smooth surfaces like paper, books or windows; it even works on slightly curved backing.  Sticky patches can be easily removed and reapplied a number of times. NOTE: Sticky patches on items are not machine washable.

Finally, patches can be created with a mesh or even paper backing.  This is the least expensive and the least durable option, good only for patches that will be placed on such items as uniform shirts that are dry cleaned, not machine washed. 

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Q: What kind of color choices do I have for my patches?

A: The Chicago Embroidery Company offers customers more than 225 different colors of durable, color-fast rayon polyester threads, even metallic silver and gold threads and glow-in-the-dark options.

In addition, we offer nearly 100 different colors of twill backing materials and have just the right color for your patch.

We can match, or come pretty close, to most popular PMS colors.

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Q: Is there a minimum quantity order requirement?

A: There is no minimum order, we can make as many or as few patches as you need.  We’ve even handled jobs for just a single custom-made patch.  However, with artwork, sketch and set-up expenses, costs of digitizing the image and creating a pre-production sample – it’s much more economical to spread these expenses over many patches.  The pricing per unit can be dramatically reduced by increasing the number of patches ordered.  NOTE: We have no hidden fees; all of these production/set-up expenses are figured into the cost of your patches.

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Q: How big (or small) can my patch be?

A: Generally speaking, there is no minimum or maximum size for embroidered patches, but practical considerations come into play.  Lettering needs to be at least 3/16ths of an inch high, and larger letters are much more easily readable.  Block letters are more legible than script or italic fonts, especially on smaller patches.  Complex images and intricate designs look much better on a larger patch.  The biggest patches we make, usually for jerseys and the back of uniform shirts or jackets, are usually about 12 inches square, but patches up to 24 inches are possible with today’s advanced stitching machinery.

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Q: How can I reduce the cost of my patches?

Several tactics can help reduce the overall cost of your order.  First, order more than you think you need.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but larger orders have a smaller cost per patch and are less expensive than placing a second smaller order after you’ve exhausted your initial supply.  Our experience shows people really like a nicely designed embroidered emblem; once they see the finished product, everybody wants one more (or two or…)  A single large order is more economical than two smaller ones.

Second, look at the size of the patch.  A three-inch patch is less expensive than a four- or five-inch design.  You can order more small patches for the same amount you might spend on a larger sized emblem.

While not such a dramatic savings, look at how many colors are used. A six-color patch looks great, but can you get a similar effect by using four colors?  And don’t forget the backing material color.  A partially embroidered patch is less expensive than a fully-embroidered design, and depending on the complexity of your image, can look nearly as good while saving you $$$.

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Q: Are there other options besides an embroidered patch?

A: The patches described above are made by stitching thread on to fabric.  Another option we offer our customers is to create a woven label.  This uses different color threads to produce an image directly within the fabric.  Too expensive for small orders, but sometimes more economical for large jobs, woven labels are often used by garment manufacturers to brand their products.

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