April 9, 2015

Thimblenest Thursdays: Embroidered elbow patch tutorial

Regardless of which hemisphere you're in right now, the season in most places is cardigan-friendly (not too hot, not too cold). The following tutorial will show you how to brighten up a cardigan or sweater with embroidered elbow patches.


  • knit or woven fabric for patches (minimum 4" x 6"/10 cm x 15 cm)
  • cardigan or sweater
  • embroidery design (the clover design I used is found here)
  • lightweight interfacing
  • pinking shears
  • embroidery thread
  • water-soluble fabric marker
  • patch pattern (mine was 3.5" x 5.5"/9 cm x 14 cm)
  • seam roll (or a rolled up magazine, catalog, etc.)

Prep Cardigan & Pattern/Embroider

Try your cardigan on and mark your elbow point (and where you will center the patches) on each sleeve using a pin, chalk, or fabric marker.

In Word, Inkscape, or another program, draw and print an oval the size you want your finished patch to be.
Cut out the patch pattern and trace its outline onto both pieces of patch fabric.

Transfer your embroidery design to the center of each patch oval. Make sure there is at least 1/4" between the outer edges of the design and the entire outside edge of the patch.

Embroider your design.

Prep Finished Patches

Cut close to traced outline of your patch, leaving a little extra allowance. 

Adhere interfacing to the back of each patch.

Carefully cut out the patch with pinking shears, cutting directly on the traced outline.

Find the center of each patch by folding into quarters and mark.

Center the patch over the elbow point you marked on the cardigan sleeve.

Sew Patches to Cardigan

Pin or hand baste the patch securely in place.

Sew the patches permanently onto the sweater using the Twisted Lazy-Daisy Edge Stitch, blanket stitch, running stitch, or another of your choice.


Originally I planned to make my patches with knit fabric, but ultimately I loved the subtle gray and white stripe and woven won out. I think this project would work well with either knit or woven fabrics. 

Sewing patches onto a preexisting sleeve was more challenging than I expected. Inserting a sleeve roll into the sleeve allows you to use both hands and maneuver the pieces more confidently as you stitch.

Because of its circular shape, the patch will want to shift some as you stitch. Try and go with it, but make sure you keep the centers of your patch and sleeve aligned.

If you use this tutorial or any other project from feelingsstitchy.com, please be sure to share them in the Feeling Stitchy Flickr Group.

Hi, I'm Wendy - I've been embroidering since age 9 when my grandma gave me some blank tea towels and a set of Aunt Martha’s transfers. I blog at ThimbleNest.

You can also find me on Pinterest.


  1. such a great idea! I love how pretty those look, and of course the options for what to stitch would be endless. thanks for such a great hit of inspiration!

  2. Thanks! Yes, choosing what design to embroider was torture :)

  3. I like how you used a chain stitch around the edge versus a buttonhole stitch and I like the background fabric.

  4. So sweet! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  5. really pretty, what a lovely idea!

  6. i have to do this to the sweater im wearing - thanks!!