Cody McElroy lives in the desert, 30 miles east of Reno in Nevada, where he just sweats all day sewing some of the most awesome patches we’ve ever seen. We asked him about the first patch ever made in history and the coolest patch he has ever spotted. Enjoy his answers and some snaps of our favorites patches from his shop, Dirty Needle Embroidery.
When would you say the first patch of history was designed? Did it have any particular purpose?
I’m not sure when or what the first patch in history was. I’m sure it was used to differentiate one section of humans from another, for instance family crests during medieval times. The first patch in the history of dirty needle embroidery was a black panther fist, because I have always been a supporter of the B.P. party and their sense of community.
How did this passion for embroidery come across?
I’ve been a collector of vintage patches, boots, and jewelry since I was 16. My friend Mike Drake taught me how to tailor my clothing 12 years ago, so I tried to make a patch on a piece of Carhartt material just to see if I could do it. I ended up breaking a couple sewing machines in the process.
Are there any patch artists or 'schools' you really like? What is the coolest patch you've seen?
Just really old traditional patches from the Vietnam area, probably from Vietnam or India. But Ben Venom makes some really cool quilting tapestry art. There is also a few kids I have influenced to make patches that have been getting pretty good recently. The coolest patch I’ve seen? My friend Dave England has a patch from the forestry that says 'shit burner’ and it’s a man burning shit in a trash can, I thought it was really cool.
How long does it take you to sew a patch ? Describe the creative process from the idea, the drawing, to sewing it to the jacket.
Thirty minutes to twenty hours … I lay out a material, roughly sketch an idea, and back it with stabilizer, and then thread my single needle machine with the desired base color of the patch. Then once that color is filled in I cut all the thread strays and re-thread my machine with the next color … I repeat this process and end it with outlining in black if needed and cut out the patch by hand with scissors. Then I use a tacking spray and put the patch where it needs to go and embroider it directly to the jacket with a stronger gauged needle. It’s basically reverse tattooing — color shade then outline. And if the patch doesn’t meet my quality standard it gets thrown away and a second attempt is made.
Where is the most relevant place to sew a patch?
Above the breast pocket of a jean jacket on the left side. And as far as large patches, obviously the back. The most irrelevant place is to sew it to my finger, witch happens every couple of months.
Find Cody McElroy / Dirty Needle Embroidery on Instagram: @dirtyneedleembroidery