This tutorial demonstrates my striped zigzag patch pattern, along with instructions for turning a patch into a badge/pin and sewing a patch to a bag or hat. You must be comfortable with the materials and processes involved in the basic stripes patch tutorial and before attempting this one.
Like standard cross stitch, the zigzag patch operates on a line: I sew one half of the line from left to right before returning over the same row of stitches from right to left. Unlike standard cross stitch, I’m placing diagonal lines of back stitch to become the zigzag/arrowhead shapes of each row. These stitches will form crosses when adding lines of back stitch sewn in the reverse direction.
If you wish to turn your patches into badges/pins, I recommend using high-quality safety pins. Flimsy or easily-bent pins, like those found in most dollar shops, are not suitable. Safety pins are best sourced from a specialised sewing shop.
People who don’t want to sew can try a fabric bonding product like Peel N Stick to permanently attach a patch to a garment, bag or fabric lanyard.
Structuring Your Zigzag Patch
This tutorial creates a horizontal zigzag or arrowhead shape three stitches high and five stitches wide, repeated six times across a rectangular patch. The arrowhead can be modified in height by increasing the width: a seven-stitch wide design will be five stitches high.
Stripe thickness is entirely optional. I often create three-line stripes, similar to my basic five-stripe flag designs, but I’ve also sewn patches with two and one-line stripes. If you want your patch to obviously represent a pride flag, you’re better to do two, three or more lines per colour without repetition. If you want a subtler or more abstract design, you may prefer to use one line per colour and repeat your flag’s colour pattern down the patch.
In counting out your patch swatch from your aida, note that a horizontal zigzag patch with zigzags three stitches high requires an extra two stitches of height allowed to fill in the gaps at the top and bottom of the patch. (The amount of extra space needed increases with the height of your zigzags.) While my standard three-stitch-high five-stripe flag finishes at fifteen stitches high, the zigzag version needs seventeen.
Depending on the number of stripes needed for your flag or palette, the number of rows chosen for each stripe and the number of zigzags you wish to sew on the horizontal line, you may not be able to make a perfect square. I find that this design works best for rectangular patches.
Sewing Your Zigzag Patch
For the purposes of the rest of this tutorial, I’m sewing a horizontal five-stripe rectangular flag with stripes three stitches wide: a 17 x 25 stitch patch with a three-stitch border. This means a fabric swatch of at least 23 stitches down and 31 stitches across, plus at least one stitch’s space left as excess.
To begin, assuming a three-stitch border and one stitch excess, count four holes across from the left corner and seven holes down the patch from the top edge. This is your starting point; push your tapestry needle up through the fabric from the reverse side. Sew three back stitches in an upwards diagonal line from left to right, as shown below:
Still starting from the reverse side, sew a single diagonal stitch beginning two holes down from where the uppermost stitch ended:
Now repeat this sequence of three and one diagonal backstitches across your swatch, starting the new lot of three stitches two holes down from where the single stitch ended.
Your line of stitching should start to look like a row of mountain or arrowhead shapes. One slope of the “mountain” is formed by an unbroken diagonal line, while the other is formed by stitches slanted in the opposite direction, an empty hole left between each.
Repeat the series–a row of three diagonal stitches, drop two holes, one diagonal stitch, drop two holes–across the fabric for the desired number of peaks.
To complete the line of half stitches, drop two holes as if beginning your three stitch sequence, this time sewing only one back stitch as below:
This finishes your row of “mountains”.
To complete your line of cross stitch, bring the needle up through the hole beside the bottom hole of the last stitch, in the same way as finishing a straight (non-zigzag) left-to-right row. Sew a row of three diagonal back stitches, moving right to left at the opposite angle, across the row of three pre-existing diagonal stitches. This forms your first row of crosses:
Drop the needle two holes down from the top hole of the last diagonal stitch and sew a single back stitch across the pre-existing diagonal stitch, again in the opposite direction, to finish the return sequence of stitches.
Drop the needle two holes down from the top hole of the last stitch to begin the chain of three back stitches. Repeat this three-stitch, one stitch diagonal sequence, working right to left, until you reach the end of the line.
To add another row or line of stitches, simply repeat the process with each new stitch sitting underneath the one above it. It’s easier to do this with the first line sewn in, as you can copy the placement of the stitches above without counting holes.
The number of lines chosen per colour does impact the shape of each zigzag stripe. In the allo-aro flag below, I use three rows per stripe, resulting in a chunkier block of colour; in the pansexual flag, I use two.
(The pansexual flag patch shown also demonstrates some of the problems with dollar shop and eBay flosses. Despite my using two strands of floss for each, the yellow thread is much thicker than the pink and a little thicker than the blue. This makes my stripes look uneven.)
When you’ve finished all your stripes, you should have rows of zigzag stripes across the swatch with empty “valleys” left between the peaks of the zigzags:
To create straight lines for your border edging, you’ll need to fill these in with sections of cross stitch. You can use a colour unrelated to your flag or a colour matching your chosen edging. I prefer the top and bottom colours reversed, with the bottommost colour showing above the topmost stripe, and the topmost colour showing below the bottommost stripe. This gives the impression that the patch is cut from a larger, repeating section of fabric.
To complete your patch, trim, edge and finish as detailed in the previous tutorial.
Attaching Your Patch – Badge/Pin
You’ve finished your patch–now what?
If you wish to turn your patch into a removable badge or pin, I recommend using the additional backing method referenced in my first tutorial and treating the edges of the aida with fabric stiffener, fray check/stop or clear nail polish. This creates a sturdier patch less likely to crease or crumple.
(If you plan on only making badges, I’d use vinyl aida for additional sturdiness/resistance to creasing. I’ve also seen wooden pendants with pre-drilled holes that may make for a cross-stitched badge, charm or keychain.)
For adding a pin to your patch, you’ll need:
- A sharp hand-sewing needle (sharp, crewel, embroidery, etc)
- Thread in the colour of your choice (I use white hand/machine sewing thread, doubled over and knotted at the tail)
- A high-quality safety pin
To start, slide your needle underneath a couple of stitches to the edge of the cross-stitched section of your patch, positioning the thread close to the vertical centre point. Pull the needle all the way through.
If you want to hide the knot, or you used an additional backing so that you can’t see the reverse side of your cross stitches, you can first slide the needle under a section of your border floss.
Open the safety pin and rest the back (the non-opening side of the pin) along the centre line where you wish the pin to sit, leaving the open side facing up. (It doesn’t need to be exactly aligned at this point–mine isn’t!) I find it easier to sew the pin in place when open, as I’m not needing to thread the sewing needle underneath the open side of the pin.
Take your needle and sew an over/whip stitch over the back of the safety pin and under the back of one of your cross-stitch stitches, pulling tight so that the stitch rests beside the coil of the pin. Be careful not to place the thread or needle underneath the open side of the pin; don’t pick up any part of or thread your needle through the aida. Only thread it through your previous stitches, not the fabric: this keeps your stitches from showing on the front of the patch!
If you backed your patch with an additional piece of fabric before adding your embroidered edging, you’ll want to instead pick up a few strands of the backing fabric with your needle, being sure that you don’t pierce the front layer of fabric.
I do recommend using a shorter piece of thread than shown here to avoid tangling it around the open point of the safety pin as you sew.
To fasten the pin to the patch, sew a row of over stitches along the back side of the pin from coil to a millimetre or two before the clasp, always putting the thread over the back of the pin and underneath the back of your cross stitches.
I like to return back down the row from clasp to coil, completely covering the back side of the pin with my stitches. The finished badge-patch should look something like this:
It can now be attached to a coat, shirt, bag, lanyard or hat!
The unbacked (one layer of fabric) patches will crease and bend if brushed or knocked about, but I’ve never had a patch-pin unravel, fall apart or fall off. They look fragile, but if you use a decent safety pin and many small stitches in attaching it, they stand up to some brushing and snagging.
Attaching Your Patch – Sewing
I sew my patches onto my backpack with the same floss I used for the patch’s embroidered border, lining up my anchoring/fastening stitches with the border’s stitches. This makes the front of my stitches invisible.
Always save a section of the same floss you used for the border if you’re planning to later sew your patch to an object or garment. Dye batches often change between skeins, and purchasing a new skein of the same colour from the same manufacturer may not give you an identical match for your patch.
(If you think you’ll need more than one skein for a project, purchase the additional skeins at the same time as the first.)
This method creates an underside with obvious stitches, as your thread matches the patch and not the fabric beneath it. To avoid this, you can border your patch in a colour matching the object to which you mean to sew it. (A patch with a yellow border, for example, to go on my yellow backpack.) You can also try using transparent sewing thread to tack the patch onto your garment. The transparent thread won’t blend into the border as invisibly as the same-coloured floss, but you can sew around the patch’s border in a simple running stitch that will be less noticeable on the reverse side.
Please note that I am an autistic who struggles with both aligning objects and recognising when they become misaligned. I moved this patch out of its original position in the course of taking my photos and failed to correct its placement, so it ended up–like all my other patches!–severely crooked.
For sewing a patch directly to another fabric object, you’ll need:
- A sharp hand-sewing needle (embroidery or chenille is best)
- The same colour and batch floss you used to edge your patch (or transparent sewing thread)
- Something to anchor your patch in place while sewing (optional but recommended)
First, position your patch in your desired position on your garment or bag.
I’ve been using 13mm sequin/appliqué pins similarly to thumbtacks (pushed through the holes in the aida at each corner) to hold the patch in place while sewing, but they work imperfectly at best. I want to try first using a fabric glue stick to temporarily adhere my patch before sewing it in position. Given that my daily backpack is subject to swinging, lifting, dropping and brushing against other objects, I am not confident of my patches remaining attached with a fabric glue stick alone.
I thread my needle with a single strand of floss, doubled-over and knotted at the end. This means that I don’t have to worry about the floss slipping out of the eye, since sewing a patch onto bags or clothing often requires inconvenient angles and positions. You don’t want to sew a sleeve closed or stitch through a bag’s top flap and the pocket underneath because you got distracted by your needle!
Choose a starting point and bring your needle up from underneath the section of garment or bag and through the patch. You want to come up on the inside edge of the patch’s border, right where the border and your cross stitch meet:
Take your needle over the width of the border and insert it into the fabric underneath at the outermost edge of the patch. I like to blanket stitch my borders because I can thread the needle through the tiny knots on the edge of the patch, as shown above. If you over/whip stitched your border, place the needle as close to the edge of the patch as possible.
The trick is to place your stitches so they follow the same direction as the “grain” of your border. Like wood, your border has a grain, and it may not always be straight up and down, especially at the corners. If you stitch over the border in the same direction as the original stitches as you tack it down onto your garment, your new stitches vanish into the border.
If you stitch against the grain, your new stitches may stand out a little even when using the same colour floss:
In the photo above, my patch’s border along the dark green stripe has my new stitches going straight up and down, but the grain of the border underneath is slightly angled. This results in their looking a little puffy and unneven. The section closest to the camera is also sewn down, but the new stitches are harder to see. From a distance, any failure to follow the grain won’t be visible when using the same colour (and batch) of floss, but it does help in creating a polished look.
To continue, simply move your needle a little further along the border, bring it up on the inside edge of the border as before, bring it down flush against the patch’s outside edge, repeat. Larger gaps between your stitches creates spaces where the patch bulges, buckles or lifts up from the fabric beneath. I prefer sewing many stitches with fewer spaces left between them, and I always cluster my stitches tightly at the corners!
A sewn-on patch looks so little different from an unsewn patch that you’ll have to believe me when I say it is sewn down:
And that’s it! Sewing my patches onto things is the least fun step for me, as chronic hand pain makes it difficult for me to hold and manipulate the additional shapes and fabric. It’s worth it to know that my pride will never fall off my bag … although since I mean to replace my earlier patches with new, thicker-bordered ones, I’m dreading all the unpicking!
In the next tutorial, I’ll show you the patterns for my “aro” and “allo-aro” text patches.