Martial arts uniforms have different names in different martial arts, for example, in Taekwondo it is known as a “dobok”, and in Karate it is known as a “dogi”. Nonetheless, a kimono-style top with pants and a belt is commonly known as a “gi”. A gi is available in various colours and sizes.
Most martial arts schools have a patch of their own, which needs to be sewn on the gi.
Sewing a patch can be done by hand or by a sewing machine. The process of sewing is simple and it consists of three stages, namely before sewing, sewing and after sewing.
Sewing a patch by hand
Wash the gi
In an old gi, washing removes dirt and stains. In a new gi, washing allows for shrinkage of the cotton fabric, as most gi’s are made of cotton or a blend of cotton and polyester. New gi’s might also be starched to provide a stiff look. First time washing removes the starch and makes the gi soft and comfortable. Some gi’s are already pre-washed so there is no or very minimal shrinkage. Again, some gi’s do not use starch at all. In such gi’s washing may be overlooked; nonetheless, even if minimal shrinkage takes place, then the fabric beneath the sewn patch will shrink and pull the patch making it uneven. Thus, irrespective of whether the gi is new or old, it is an accepted best practice to always wash the gi prior to any sewing.
Iron the gi
Ironing removes any wrinkles, thus the patch will not sewn over the wrinkles. If it is sewn, then there will be no way to remove the wrinkles, excepting by taking off the sewn patch, ironing the gi, and then again sewing the patch. Thus, it is better to iron the gi before sewing, especially the area where the patch is to be sewn.
Pin the patch
Always ask the instructors where to place the patch, as martial art schools have designated areas for the placement of patches. The area where the patch is to be placed should be pinned with one or two pins. While fixing the pins, leave the edges of the patch free, so that they can be easily sewn. In order to place and pin the patch accurately, it is important to wear the gi, because as the body fills the gi, minor adjustments to the placement of the patch can be made. It is better if some other person pins the patch, while your are wearing the gi, else you can also look in the mirror and pin the patch yourself. Just be careful with the pins, so that you don’t poke yourself and get hurt. If you don’t have straight pins that tailors use, you can also use safety pins. You have to sew the edges of the patch by working around the pins. If you are worried about being poked by the pins, then you may use a fabric tape that can be ironed on the fabric. The adhesive on the fabric tape will stick on the gi and the patch, which has to be ironed, otherwise it will not stick. Be careful that while ironing the patch, it should not move at all, otherwise it will stick on the wrong place. If you don’t have expertise in ironing a patch with an adhesive fabric tape, it is recommended to use pins, either straight pins or safety pins.
Take a matching thread and a sewing needle
Once the patch is placed and pinned in the desired area, then take a thread which matches with the colour of the edge of the patch. If the edge is multi-coloured, then you may take a thread which matches with the colour of the gi. If an exact matching thread is not found, then try to find a darker shade thread rather than a lighter shade. A darker shade thread will blend more than a lighter shade thread. Take a thread about 15 inches, as a longer thread may get tangled while sewing. Pass one end of the thread through the eye of the needle and tie both the ends in a knot. If you are familiar with sewing, then you may pass one end of the thread in the eye of the needle, while keeping the other end in the spool. This will not make the thread tangled and you will not have to re-thread the needle for additional thread. While trying to pass the thread in the eye of the needle, you may use a needle threading tool. In the absence of any such tool, you have to rely on your eyesight and your hands. In such a case, it is helpful to twist the end of the thread and wet it by putting it in your mouth. The saliva of the mouth will bind the small strands of the thread and make it more straight, which will help in threading it through the eye of the needle.
Sewing is done on the edges of the patch. Take the threaded needle and poke it from the inside of the gi, so that it comes out through the edge of the patch on the outside of the gi. This way the knot at the end of the thread comes on the inside of the gi and does not show outside. Leave some space of about 5mm from where the needle was brought out, and poke it in through the edge of the patch and the gi, so that it comes out on the inside of the gi. Go on repeating this process until you reach the place from where you started. This way of sewing will create a straight stitch, also known as a running stitch. If you are an expert at sewing, you may try complicated stitches like an overcast stitch, especially for circular patches. However, it is generally recommended to sew in a straight stitch, as it is least visible, quickest and easiest. Sew slowly and carefully, so that the length of the stitches are all same, as this will give the patch a better look.
Sometimes the patch and the fabric of the gi may be too thick and a lot of pressure may be required to pass the needle through. In such a case, using a thimble can make the work easier and your fingers will also be protected.
When all the edges of the patch have been sewn, then in the inside of the gi, create a loop with the thread and pull the needle through that loop to create a knot. This knot will seal the stitch. Give the thread a tight pull as this will create a tight knot. After the knot, leave some very little thread of about 1cm long and cut the thread. Leaving a little thread ensures that the knot is not cut accidentally. Tuck that little thread under the patch, so that it is not visible. Now, the patch is sewn on the gi.
Remove all the pins
You have sewn the patch on the gi by working around the pins, so that the patch remained in place while sewing. Once the sewing is complete, remove all the pins.
Iron the patch
The inside of the gi and the top of the patch can be ironed, to remove any wrinkles caused due to sewing.
Wear the gi. Look in the mirror, so that you can know whether the patch is sewn in the correct place and how it looks. If you need any adjustments then the entire process has to start all over again; therefore, take care in all the steps and it will be perfectly sewn.
Sewing a patch by a sewing machine
Similar to sewing by hand, the gi needs to be washed and ironed. Thereafter, the gi has to be worn and the patch has to be placed on the desired area. An iron-on patch may be used, or an adhesive ironing tape may be use, or pins may be used to place the patch. Sometimes, straight pins can make a patch wavy for machine sewing. In such a case, the patch can be temporarily stapled on the fabric of the gi and the staples can be removed once the sewing is done.
Thread the sewing machine
Try to use a thread that matches with the colour of the edge of the patch or that matches with the colour of the gi. If no matching thread is found, then choose a darker shade rather than a lighter shade, as a darker shade will blend in better. Now, the thread has to wind around the bobbin and fill it. Generally, the bobbin is placed on a spindle, which can rotate by pressing the foot pedal in a manual sewing machine, or by a switch in case of an electric sewing machine. As the spindle rotates, the bobbin also rotates, which results in winding the thread around the bobbin. Refer to your sewing machine manual on how to do this. After the bobbin is filled with the thread, it has to be put in its place and the thread has to pass through the various parts of the machine. The machine should be adjusted so that the needle length is correct and a straight stitch is selected. Every machine has its own threading process, and you should refer the manual for doing this.
Position the gi on the machine
Be careful to place only one fabric of the gi, especially if the patch is to be sewn on a pant or on a sleeve or on a cuff; else, both the fabrics of the gi will be sewn shut. Refer the sewing machine manual on how to do this.
Sew with a straight/running stitch, on a low-speed setting so that the needle moves slowly and you have more control while sewing. Start sewing by either pressing the foot pedal or by pressing the start switch. While sewing, take care to rotate the patch and the gi together, as if they are one. Rotation may be done while the needle is inside or outside; however, if the needle is inside then a more consistent stitching pattern is made. Sew all over the edges of the patch, slowly and carefully. Once it is sewn, seal the stitch with a knot on the inside of the gi by hand, or by back-tracking on the sewing machine. Leave a little thread and cut it with a scissor.
Some machines use two threads, a top thread and a bottom thread. In such a case, the top thread can be matched to the colour of the edge of the patch, while the bottom thread can be matched to the colour of the gi.
This process is same as sewing by hand. If pins were used, then they should be removed, the patch should be ironed on both sides, and then the gi should be worn to check how the sewn patch looks.
Replacing a patch
Sometimes, a patch needs to be replaced because you have been promoted or the patch may have become discoloured. The new patch has to be put on the exact place where the old patch is. In such a case, the existing sewn patch needs to be removed by plucking out the threads from its edges. Using a seam ripper to do this makes the task easier and better. It is not recommended to use a razor, or a small knife, or the ends of a scissor, as this may cut the fabric of the gi or you may accidently cut yourself. Take a tweezer to pull out any loose threads. Once the old patch is removed, you may sew the new patch by hand or by a sewing machine.
Using an iron-on patch
Nowadays, some patches are manufactured with adhesive on the back of it, so that it can be simply ironed-on the fabric; thereby, eliminating the need of sewing. Generally the adhesive is strong and the patch remains in place for the entire life of the gi. However, depending upon the activities undertaken after wearing the gi, the adhesive of the ironed-on patch might loosen and over time, the patch may separate from the gi. Hence, it is recommended to sew even if an iron-on patch is used, as it provides additional bonding.
- Sew Anastasia. YouTube video. “How to Sew a Patch Onto Anything | Sew Anastasia”. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWlDFDmzNp0 [Accessed on 2 Aug 2022]
- Manx Scouts. YouTube video. “How to sew a badge onto your uniform.”. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tClY3tgB3Vw [Accessed on 2 Aug 2022]
- Fairy Queen Cosplay. YouTube video. “How To Machine-Sew a Patch”. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPNNFGSgofk [Accessed on 2 Aug 2022]
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- Lisa Mecham. YouTube video. “How To Sew On A Patch. Learn to Sew On A Patch By Hand, With A Sewing Machine, or Iron -On.”. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYdA1aBcUXM [Accessed on 2 Aug 2022]
- colleenchenry. YouTube video. “How to sew a patch”. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzL1AEXAd7Y [Accessed on 2 Aug 2022]