Craft & Design
Cathy Callahan’s Old School: Iron-On Patches

I just hated it when my mom used iron-on patches to “fix” my clothes. I was so embarrassed to wear something that had been patched in that manner: the patches were hard and scratchy (especially when applied inside a garment) and usually ended up falling off. As soon as I was old enough to do my own mending, I stitched on embroidered appliques (like a turtle or a daisy) that I purchased at the fabric shop using my allowance. Heck, I loved those things so much I even stitched them on things that didn’t need mending.
Pictured above are a few packages of iron-on patches I found at my mom’s house. I actually think she might have used the drawing on that Sturdy Brand package as a style guide for the way she dressed me. There are pictures of me dressed in almost that exact same outfit. I absolutely adore the graphic design, color palette, and illustrations. Wouldn’t you just love to walk into Jo-Ann’s today and see a whole rack of packages that looked like these?
I am actually kind of fascinated by the Plasti-Stitch corduroy patches. Were they meant to blend in seamlessly and look like you never had a hole in your pants? Or could you go wild and do a little mixing and matching? Perhaps you could tone down your plaid pants a bit by adding a little gray corduroy patch. The back of the package lists purple, olive green, maroo,n and gold as other available colors. Wow!
Let’s take a closer look at the Touch O’ Magic package: “Use on new jeans for longer wear…” I love their approach to “preventative” patching. But why not wait until you actually have a hole? And isn’t the very nature of denim its strength? Iron-on patch sales must have been down in 1968, so those folks at Sandrew, Inc. (makers of Touch O’ Magic) of Streetsboro, Ohio, had to come up with new ways to sell their product.
Since my father (a warehouse worker) and I (a klutz) were deemed to be “hard” on our clothes, there was always a stockpile of iron-on patches in my mom’s sewing room. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not that I’m suggesting that my mom was not skilled at mending (she was an amazing seamstress); I rather think she liked the convenience they afforded and was probably swayed by their marketing. Who wouldn’t be? How easy to just plug in the iron, cut the patch to size, and press for 40 seconds.
And they were GUARANTEED.
Then why did they often fall off? At least then you could try to put another one on. But the worst was when the adhesive gave out only around the edges (and yes this still did happen even when you rounded the corners) and they curled up. Once that happened, the garment was history because the center of the patch was now stuck on the hole and you couldn’t get it up to put a new one on without making a bigger rip. Well I guess you could have just used another, bigger patch.
“This Sturdy Brand Patch is guaranteed to last for the life of the garment to which it is applied. If unsatisfactory, return package and unused portion to manufacturer for replacement or refund.”
That must have been why my mom saved all of these Iron-on patch packages. She didn’t want to void her warranty.
About the author:
Cathy Callahan is a crafter and window dresser who draws inspiration from vintage crafts. She blogs about 1960s and 1970s crafts at
Cathy on MARTHA 3/11:
Set your DVRs! Cathy Callahan will be on MARTHA tomorrow, March 11th. She will be showing Martha Stewart how to make vintage flower loom flowers. The main theme of the show is the 50th anniversary of Lily Pulitzer. Check your local listings for show times.


I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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