elbow patch tutorial

i first posted this tutorial for elsie marley‘s fall 2011 kid’s clothes week challenge (right here), and now that fall is right around the corner, i figured it’s an appropriate time to bring it home!  


Hi, I’m Kristin from skirt as top and I’m here today to talk about elbow patches!  I’ve been spotting lots of elbow patches on adult shirts and sweaters heading into this fall, and I love the trend.  I thought it could be fun to add them to homemade kids’ clothes for a little “mini-professor” style, too.  Problem is, kids’ sleeves are very narrow and that means it’s pretty much impossible to sew the patches on after the garment is already completed.  That makes finding that right placement for your elbow patches a bit tricky.  In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to add properly placed elbow patches when you’re making a shirt from scratch.

elbow patch tutorial


  • Tailor’s chalk or water-soluble marker
  • Clear ruler
  • Elbow patch pattern (draw an oval shape onto a piece of paper – mine is about 2.75″ tall x 2.25″ wide and works for about 6-12 month – 3T sizes, though you can make it whatever size you like)
  • Cut (but now sewn) sleeve pieces from your shirt or sweater pattern (shown is the Oliver + S sailboat top.  Maybe try Dana’s free 90 minute shirt tutorial!)
  • Scraps of fabric for the patches (try a small floral for girls, or suede if you’re daring!)
1.  Wrangle your kid while they’re wearing a long-sleeved shirt from their wardrobe.  Mark an X on their elbow with chalk or water-soluble marker.
2.  Take the existing shirt off of your child, measure from about .5″ above the shoulder (to account for the seam allowance) down to the X that you marked earlier.  Write down this measurement (for my 10 month old, it was 5.5″).  We’ll call this the “Elbow Measurement” because I’m super original.
3.  Go to one of your new garment’s sleeve piece.  Fold it in half to determine the center line, and press.  Mark your seam allowance from the cut side of the sleeve with water-soluble pen or tailor’s chalk, then find the center point between the folded center and the seam allowance mark and draw a vertical line (just guess approximately where the patch will hit on the vertical axis).
4.  Measure down from the shoulder edge along the vertical line you marked in step 3.  Mark your sleeve with a horizontal line at your Elbow Measurement (remember mine was 5.5″) so your markings form a +.  I shifted my ruler over to the edge for clarity, but you should line it up through the middle of the ruler to make the + shape.
5.  Trace the patch pattern onto your scrap, cut out the patches, and find the center of each patch by folding it into quarters and pressing slightly.  Apply fusible web if desired (the patch is essentially an appliqué).  Match the center of the folds on one patch with the + marking on your sleeve and pin into place.
6.  Lay your other sleeve piece down, aligning both sleeve edges side by side.  Using your clear ruler as a guide, place the second patch on its sleeve to mirror the one you already pinned on.  Make sure they are mirror images so you don’t apply the patch to the front of a sleeve!  Pin the second patch into place.  Be generous with pinning if you didn’t use fusible web.
7.  Sew around the edge of each patch using a straight, zig zag, or blanket type stitch.  I used the blanket type stitch here (number 11 on my machine).
8.  Repeat for the other sleeve.  Your patches are on!  Finish your garment per the pattern instructions.

elbow patch tutorial

I hope this helps you add a little extra punch to your little one’s long sleeved shirts and cozy fall sweaters.
Thanks so much for having me, Meg, and happy KCWC sewing, everybody!

12 thoughts on “elbow patch tutorial

  1. Jessica at Me Sew Crazy says:

    This is such a great tute Kristin! I cant even begin to tell you how many times I sew on patches, only to find out I put them in the wrong place. I know it is ridiculous, mainly because I am going too fast and not paying attention – but this is a great reminder! Your photos are gorgeous, as usual. Seriously, magazine worthy! Love the whole thing.

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