Embroidered patches are a economical way to decorate a item of apparel. The use of patches was very big during World War II. Each unit from a corps to a platoon used embroidered patches to promote comrade and a sense of belonging.
After the war the market for patches grew. Boy scouts used them as merit badges. Sport teams decorated their uniforms with patches. Companies provided patches to sports teams to promote and advertise their products or company.
1974 Patch caps are popular
Around 1974 patch caps started to become popular. Caps were now getting decorated with a simple patch on the front as a method to promote a message. Seed companies used this as their primary method of advertising. Think of all the Cat caps, John Deere caps, Coors beer caps that were sporting custom logos.
In 1977 recognizing the popularity of logo caps Northwest Embroidery was started in Tacoma, Wa.. The business model was to find a better way to manufacture emblems in the pacific northwest. At that time 90% of the embroidered patches were made in and around Union City New Jersey. This area was known as the embroidery capitol of America. The patches were made on giant Shiffli looms which produced quantities of 220 each.
The team at Northwest realized the real market was for small orders. The goal was to manufacture in groups of twenty four and attach these emblems to caps. The order size made sense because a customer could now purchase small quantities and not have to figure out what to do with 220 patches.
A solution to the problem
In order to make this plan work a machine was needed which could produce small quantities. This void was filled by a Japanese company who developed a multi-head embroidery machine which could produce in multiples of 12. The problem was solved.Off to the races
Northwest purchased two 12 head machines and started selling small orders. They have been doing this ever since. The company is now 42 years old.