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EmberMike

Where to start with a sewing machine for badges

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I've hand-sewn badges onto my uniforms since I was a kid, and I still do it by hand today on mine and my son's uniforms. But I think I've finally had enough with the hand-sewing. It's just too time-consuming. I'd really like to get a sewing machine and figure out how to use it, but I have no idea where to begin. Especially since we're talking about badges here. I'm not even sure if a basic sewing machine can handle pushing a needle through a thick badge. 

 

Any tips on where to start with learning how to sew badges by machine? Or any suggestions for a machine that's cut out for this kind of task? 

 

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I have been using a sears Kenmore basic sewing machine and it works great.  Biggest thing it to use new needles.  the patches and the backing on the patches dull the needles very quickly.

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My wife uses brother machines, pretty basic ones are cheap and reliable.  I would ask someone that already does it in your troop or pack, and they will teach you.

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I have a simple, basic Singer machine. I have sewn on over 150 Girl Scout patches (2 active high seniors vests needed to be updated for an international jamboree) and 2 full new BSA shirts with in the last couple of months. Some tricks I have found.

 

1. Use a needle designed for denim/jeans/heavy duty. These needles tend to be stouter than a normal needle and stand up well to the demand of patches and badges. I broke 4 needles before my quilter Mom told me about jean needles.

 

2. I found that I wasn't very good at all the crazy angles of fun patches so I use the clear/invisible thread on the top side of badge/patch. That way if I miss a turn or veer off course a bit it doesn't show or shows very little than with colored threads. Also, this technique saves you having to match a zillion thread colors.  Use a colored or white thread in the bobbin so that you can see to remove a patch if it doesn't turn out the way you want it to. 

 

3. Get a machine that has a 'free arm'. That means part of the base of the machine comes off, makes it easier to maneuver the garment or material in all the weird ways needed to sew on patches/badges.

 

4. Set your machine up where you have lots of table clearance around it.  By this I mean, a table like an empty dining room table. Shirts take lots of spinning around to sew on insignia. Working in tight spaces equals frustration.

 

5. Take your time. Expect to rip things off a few times when you start. I also found it easier to sew individual number together than to sew them one after the other. 

 

6. Finally, pin everything in place, don't try to free sew a project. For somethings like the bling ring around the world crest I found it easier to sew the crest then the ring. I also found it was easier to use scotch tape to hold some things in place then peel the tape away when done. I did this when sewing numbers together and sewing the bling ring around the world crest. Pins can sometimes distort the shape of the patch.

 

Good luck, happy sewing. 

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I use a basic singer machine

I found that cheap thread is no good.  Had lots of birds nest formed on the back side when using some "whatever I had lying around from wife's old sewing kit" (she is not a sewer so it was just some cheap stuff she got in a kit....)

and my suggestion is to make sure to get a good seam ripper.

Sometimes I have had a dickens of a time, even after pinning the patch or stapling it in place, having it move during the sewing for a crooked end result.  I got better but still have to re-do them once in a while....

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Thanks, everyone. Some great tips in here, much appreciated. 

 

I've been browsing Amazon for a basic machine, trying to spend $100 or less. Still not sure what I'm going to get, but at least I have a better idea now of what kinds of features to look for. 

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I'll second most of what bsaggcmom said.

 

But rather than pinning (or stapling) patches, I'd recommend a temporary fabric adhesive. I use a product by Odif called "505 spray and fix" designed for "sewing applique & quilt craft". You spray it on the back side of your patch and then place it how/where you want it. It sticks weak enough to reposition if needed but strong enough to hold in place while sewing. And it washes out with the first washing.

 

Also, keeping the stitch per inch setting (longer stitches) on your machine lower (less than 10?) makes it easier to remove the seams later.

 

If you're particularly OCD about your unit numbers get the thinest non-fusible interfacing fabric you can find and sew your unit numbers to that first, then trim the interfacing as close to the numbers as possible. You now effectively have a single unit patch to sew onto your shirt. This works particularly well if you're not using the fabric adhesive.

 

As for machines, most basic machines should do OK. Given that most of the sewing I tend to do ends up being heavier fabrics, when my old (my grandmother got it right before I was born) Singer finally gave up the ghost, I replaced it with a Janome (New Home) brand HD-3000 machine. This is one the heavier duty, non-commerical, machines that I'm aware of. I've repaired the loop (two layers of thick web strap) on my dog's leash with much fuss. I've yet to try leather, but people claim it can be done, with the right needle, of course.

 

And finally, if you want to retain full use of all your shirt pockets, you'll still end up with some hand sewing.

 

Good luck!

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bsaggcmom and WonderBoy pretty much covered it.  I'm just here to second Janome as a good choice of machine.  My old machine was a $2,000 Janome that had all the bells and whistles.  I used it nearly every day for almost 20 years (fashion background).  It finally died, and Janome didn't make the replacement part for it anymore.  I decided against a top of the line machine for my next purchase, and bought a very basic Janome.  Love it every bit as much as the first one.  I'd look at the 2206 as a starter machine.

 

For the patches with a stitched edge - like most council patches or POR patches - I use a straight stitch just inside the threads on the patch.  For the patches with a fabric edge - like our troop number patches - I use a zig-zag stitch that covers the edge of the patch.  The backing on the patches will usually keep the fabric from fraying, but I like the added protection of the zig-zag, particularly if you wash the uniform a lot.

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I have my eye on my late mother-in-laws 1951 Kenmore machine with all the bells and whistles. Built like a tank. She was a home econ teacher and I know she took those things seriously. My wife prefers her newer plastic Singer as it is just easier to maintain. I will need special permission to touch that Kenmore. 

 

I lament the loss of a industrial sewing machine my Dad picked up (he was a real DIY-er). You could sew sails with it. 

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Try to find a used machine that is over twenty years old. The newer machines have more plastic and cheap metal parts and have issues with heavier material. I can do most stuff with a modern machine. When I am sewing gear bags or canvas material i pull out my old treadal powered sewing machine.

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I must be the only person that uses Velcro. I use adhesive Velcro for all patches these days. No sewing and much easier for 1st year scouts as they progress to 1st Class.

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 Just remember the newer machines have plastic casings, and nylon gears.  If one is going to sew patches, go with the leather/heavy duty needles and older metal geared machines.  My machine is an all metal "Universal" machine from the 1950's.  Works like a charm but still needs the heavy duty needles.

 

If one is looking to do it right, get a machine quilting free-motion (darning) feature (special foot attachment).  One does not need to turn the shirt or sash to do the job.

 

I have all these things, but none of them do as good a job as a careful hand-sewing.

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Back in 2005, I attended my first Jamboree.  Came home with mucho patches, emblems, traded, bought, awarded, gifted....

Wife gave new red wool Jacshirt for anniversary gift (birthday was too far off).  I collected the patches I wanted  on the jacket, some more from days and events past, safety pinned them all in their respective places, and (realizing wonderwife was not about to help me sew them on),  took the pinned up jacket to the drycleaners, who also had a tailoring business.  She charged me $95. , which I considered a bargain for all the neat, tight sewing.  Thread matched the patches.  I think she liked Scouts.

 

Side rant:   I understand the idea of plasticizing the back of patches. It keeps them stiff and flat, but MAN,   you just cannot stitch thru that stuff .... I even sewed some of my (boy) Scout patches on myself, back in the day, but not today !

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Back in 2005, I attended my first Jamboree.  Came home with mucho patches, emblems, traded, bought, awarded, gifted....

Wife gave new red wool Jacshirt for anniversary gift (birthday was too far off).  I collected the patches I wanted  on the jacket, some more from days and events past, safety pinned them all in their respective places, and (realizing wonderwife was not about to help me sew them on),  took the pinned up jacket to the drycleaners, who also had a tailoring business.  She charged me $95. , which I considered a bargain for all the neat, tight sewing.  Thread matched the patches.  I think she liked Scouts.

 

Side rant:   I understand the idea of plasticizing the back of patches. It keeps them stiff and flat, but MAN,   you just cannot stitch thru that stuff .... I even sewed some of my (boy) Scout patches on myself, back in the day, but not today !

 

I don't sew the plastic backing, I snag the embroidered edge and pull it back under the plastic backing.  No stitches show if done right.

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I purchased a Black Friday special two years ago; a Singer from Target.  Paid less than $80 for it.  Using a blue jean needle, that machine can handle the patches.  I also use it to replace zippers in coats and fixed coverall's.  Otherwise I don't sew.  I also use clear thread; but don't get the cheap stuff!  (The expensive stuff is still less than $5.)

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