I would like to add patches of material to a dress (95% cotton, 5% elastane), however I don't own a sewing machine and it would be a lot of work to sew by hand.

Essentially I just want to add shapes to the dress by adding fabric of another colour- these patches would be approximately the size of a hand. After some research, it seems there is temporary fabric glue, which could be a solution. It would be a bonus if I could take the patches off again afterwards! But I am concerned that the temporary glue might not hold on for an evening of moving around in the dress?

Another option seems to be 'fusible bonding web'. I have no experience with this; would this be a better option than glue?

I am also not sure if glue/bonding web would stiffen the material, so that the dress may not sit and fall well. Could this be a problem?

Many thanks for any advice!

1 Answer 1


Believe it or not, the simplest and probably best solution is to sew the patches on.

I've used different types of fabric glue in the past and all of them were very disappointing. They left ugly spots on the fabric (as if you had spilled sauce on your clothing). None of them held the fabric together after the first wash, but not all of them could be washed out, so the ugly stains remained.

Fusing or fusable interfacing works better to combine 2 pieces of fabric, but fusing always makes the fabric stiffer and takes away any stretch. In some areas you want that effect, like in shirt collars, but in other areas this would look and feel very odd. The advantage is that fusing can be peeled off again. But since it fuses with fabric by melting glue, it might also leave stains.

Sewing patches on clothing for a short while is dead simple. Please don't think you have to stitch as fine and evenly as a machine. We're all humans and no machines, we don't have to be perfect. A stitch length of about 5 mm or 1/4 inch is sufficient to securely sew fabric. If the patch is only supposed to stay on for a short while (like for a costume you only want to wear once), you can go with 1 cm / 3/8 inch stitch length.

You don't even need to tie any knots in the thread. Just start with a really tiny stitch (about 1mm long) and then stitch a second time over the first one. That's enough to secure your thread in the fabric. If you're afraid the end might slip out, stitch a third time over the same stitch. Do the same if you run out of thread and you never need to tie tiny knots in your thread.

If you don't own a sewing machine, but hand sewing is not appealing to you, you might find a friend, family member or neighbor with a sewing machine you can borrow. There are also "makers spaces" where you can use machines and tools for your projects (usually for a monthly payment). A local repair café is another solution, if they have a sewing machine. Some sewing machine shops might lend out machines or let you use it on-site for an hourly fee. And lastly there are different social media portals like facebook groups or local neighborhood networks where you might ask strangers in your local area if they would lend you their sewing machine. It's a great opportunity to get to know new people in these crazy times and they might also give you some advice (like how to sew an elastic seam).

  • 1
    Many thanks for your help! I will have a look around for a sewing machine to borrow, and otherwise I will sew it by hand with a longer stitch length, perhaps simplifying the design a bit to save some time. I really appreciate the feedback, very nice to have input from someone with a lot more experience than me.
    – Olivia
    Nov 6, 2021 at 21:25
  • 1
    Hi @Olivia, if this answer helped you out - and it seems quite thorough - could you accept it as well? Thanks in advance!
    – Joachim
    Nov 12, 2021 at 11:23
  • I assume Elmy is imagining that each patch would have a folded edge all the way around. (Unless the patches overlap, in which case a raw edge is allowed when it's completely covered by a neighboring patch.) This is easier if you avoid curvy patch edges. The purpose of the folds is to avoid any fraying or unraveling. Also note that an easy way to set up these folds around the edges of the patches is by folding the edge over a piece of thin cardboard and then ironing to make a sharp edge. / Look at instructions for a traditional "crazy quilt" - this will give you the general approach. Dec 7, 2021 at 8:12

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