DIY Elbow Patches

How to Make (and Apply) Elbow Patches
I admit it-- I have a love affair with cardigan sweaters. And living in the San Francisco Bay Area means wearing cardigans 12 months per year. This also means that I tend to wear through the elbows of some old favorites. In attempt to extend their lives, and add some extra charm, I've learned the importance of a sturdy elbow patch. This tutorial is simple but it's the result of my own tried and true mistakes--be sure to take the time to mark where your elbows hit your sweater and do not just guess. Trust me, it's not as intuitive as you might think. 

Skill Level
Basic. This tutorial only requires a basic hand stitch and some patience.

Materials List
  • One sweater with fraying elbows
  • Fabric scraps to use as patches (about 5" by 6" for two patches)
  • Fabric scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Fabric pencil/ marking tool (optional, you can use straight pins)
  • Thread
  • Ruler
  • Paper for making a pattern template (old manilla folders work great)
  • A small round object approx 2" in diameter
  • Optional: A self-healing cutting mat and rotary cutter
Note: Before you begin, please wash, dry, and iron all fabrics. Also, please get somebody to help you mark where your elbows hit your sweater--just trust me.

Step 1: Make the Pattern
I measured my elbow patches at 3" wide and 5" long. This might seem bigger than necessary but it looks appropriately-sized once it's applied. Of course, the ultimate size and shape is up to you. I used corduroy scraps for my fabric because I wanted a wintery look. These are basic rectangular shapes but you could use hearts, stars, circles, or any shape of your choosing. Measure your shape to sturdy scrap paper (old manilla folders work great) and cut out.

Step 2: Round Corners
Take your round object (I used the bottom of washi tape) and trace the round shape against the corners of your paper rectangle. Place the round object at roughly the same point on each corner to make evenly rounded corners. Don't worry if your corners are not precise--that's part of the charm. Cut out your corners following the marks as guides.

Step 3: Trace & Cut 
Trace your paper pattern to your fabric and repeat so you have two drawn patches. Cut along the markings. Be sure to clip any loose thread when you're finished. 

Step 4: Measure & Pin
Okay, this is the most important part! Mark where your elbows hit your sweater. Put your sweater on, button it up, and be sure to measure where your elbows hit the fabric when your arms are straight and when they are bent. Now, get a friend to confirm that your pins or markers are in the correct place. Everybody agrees they are in the correct place? Phew. Please proceed.

Step 5: Stitch
Pin your patches into place. Using a basic whip stitch around the edges, secure your patches to your sweater. Be sure to hide your knot under the patch so that it doesn't show when you're finished. Try to make your stitches at even intervals (about 1/4 inch) as you go. You can use contrasting or matching thread--I used brown corduroy patches and red thread on a red sweater.

Step 6: Celebrate!
That's it. You're finished. Enjoy your new elbow patches with abandon. I decided to take a few extra minutes and replace the buttons on my sweater too. Now this sweater is a constant go-to as the elbow holes have been replaced by cute corduroy patches and the broken buttons were replaced by trusty wooden upgrades. Grab some hot chocolate and snuggle up with a book. Enjoy.

(Please note: All of my tutorials and projects are intended for readers' personal use only. Not intended for resale, retail, wholesale, or any other form of reproduction. All images and text copyright Katrina Rodabaugh. Thank you.)