Patches and brooches are fun to make and a colourful way to express yourself or your feelings. They can be made from just about anything, be sewn or pinned on a bag, on a cushion or worn proudly on your chest.
The only thing that makes a brooch different from a pin is that one can be pinned to something whereas the other is generally sewn, either as a standalone statement or as a personalised way to mend a garment. Limited only by your imagination, these can be flat, colourful shapes, a three-dimensional item representing something you love, or they can portray a message with words that might be humorous or honest. This tutorial covers the basics of all three scenarios, giving you the know-how to create a patch or a brooch for yourself, or a personalised gift for family and friends.
What You’ll Need
Felt is a great material as it’s soft and easy to work with while being thick enough to be self-supporting once pinned to a vertical surface. You’ll need two different coloured pieces of felt; one piece (7 cm x 13 cm) for the base of the patch and a smaller green piece (4 cm x 4 cm) for the leaves and berry sepal.
To make the berry, you’ll need some wool fleece – we used red and light yellow, but you can use one colour if you prefer, you’ll need a felting brush (any brush with soft bristles will work), a felting needle, as well as few different colours of embroidery thread for the seeds, flowers and words. You’ll also need some paper for your template, a pair of scissors, a pencil or chalk, a sewing needle and a precision knife. Lastly, if you’re making a brooch, you’ll need a backing pin.
Before you head to a craft supplier, be sure to check your local op shops; there’s often a well-stocked craft section that will save you money if you don’t have things you can use already at home.
Prepare And Cut
Start by drawing a template onto a piece of paper to make sure you’re happy with the design size and how it all sits together. You’ll need an outline of the patch itself, an outline of the four-sided sepal which will form the berry top, as well as an outline of the leaves. A ring slightly smaller than your outline can be used to ensure your letters remain equidistant with the outside edge.
Once you’re happy, cut out your felt as per your templates. You’ll need two circular cutouts of your base, as well as your leaf and sepal from your green-coloured piece of felt. Align your lettering template on the top piece of base felt and mark the words using pencil or chalk. Now measure the distance between the holes on the outside edges of the pin’s backing plate and mark them on what will be the backing piece of the base felt. Cut the holes out using your precision knife.
Making The Berry
To make the berry, take a piece of your red fleece and gently pull to separate (do not cut it) until you have the amount you need. Start by rolling it into a little cocoon, as shown on the pictures, and once you’re happy with the shape, secure with a needle by piercing your cocoon in a few places all the way around.
If you’re using two colours, separate a really small amount of the light-yellow fleece and attach it with the needle to the top and bottom parts of your berry using the same technique. Take some time to work the felting needle around all the sides to shape the berry. Do not pierce the berry all the way through – work with your needle at an angle to just secure the fibres.
To shape the bottom of the berry, gently squeeze it with your fingers and pierce with the needle a few times. The berry is felted when there are no loose fibres and it feels squishy, but not too hard.
You can trim loose fibres with scissors by snipping them off, though you don’t have to. The most stubborn fibres can also be tamed by using the wet-felting technique, which is just a bit of warm water, soap and squishing it in your hands. Make sure the berry keeps its shape. If you’re using water, be sure to dry your berry in a towel afterwards until it’s reasonably dry.
To embroider the ‘seeds’ onto the berry, you will need your yellow thread. If you’re using the one that consists of six strands (sometimes called embroidery floss), separate two of them. Working from the top, create small stitches all around the berry, bearing in mind the number of seeds generally increases towards the base of the fruit.
To finish off, pull the thread through the berry to the top, make a small loop and a knot as shown, and snip off the ends of the thread. The top part of your berry will be covered by a sepal, so it’s okay if your knot isn’t neat and tidy. To attach the sepal, tie a knot in two strands of green embroidery thread which will be hidden on the underside of your sepal, and stitch it to the top of your berry. Stitch and pull a cross shape over the top to form four leaves.
Making The Front
Locate your front base piece with the markings for letters and start embroidering the top words using two strands of coloured thread. You can opt for any type of font you like, but capital letters are the easiest if you’ve never embroidered words before. Ensure the words are centred, and then take your time to stitch the letters, don’t be concerned about the mess you’re making on the back, it will be covered. Just focus on legibility and following the curve of your template markings.
Once completed, align the leaf where you’d like it to sit between the words and, using stitches which resemble the veins of leaves, secure it to the front of the patch using a green-coloured thread.
Lastly, attach the berry next to the leaf using the same technique as if you’re attaching a button. Stitch in three places along the length, making sure it’s nice and secure.
Clockwise from top: Gather your materials before you start; Felting isn’t difficult, it just takes patience; The berry needs to be well secured to the base; Once the last seed has been stitched, pull the thread through to the top of the berry and tie off with a knot; Two pieces of felt will form the base to hide both the pin’s stitches and the stitches from the lettering. Photos by Svetlana Bell
Attach The Pin
If you’re making a patch you can skip this step, but if it’s a brooch you’re after, you’ll need to attach the pin before finishing off with the backing layer. Thread your pin back through the cuts you made in the back of the patch. First secure with horizontal stitches (through the holes in the pin back). You can either use a matching coloured thread or a contrasting one. Then make stitches across, close to each other, to secure the pin really well.
Time To Assemble
Align your back and front pieces, making sure that the pin back is perpendicular to your berry (check from the side). Using three strands of the thread this time, sew the two pieces together with an overcast stitch. It should be about 2–3 mm wide. Leave small gaps between stitches as you go. Now stitch around the circumference once again, this time to fill in the gaps.
It’s a slow and meticulous process, so allow some time for this – and don’t worry if it’s not perfect, that’s the beauty of a handmade item. If you want to balance the composition, you can embroider white flowers on the left side of your berry to complete your brooch.