There are a number of ways to apply an embroidered logo to a shirt or some other item. Two of the most common are direct embroidery and embroidered patches. There is a difference between the two. Understanding that difference can be confusing for people because patches are generally embroidered and many people refer to direct embroidery as a patch.
The key difference is really in the way the image is applied to the shirt.
Direct embroidery is a process of applying an embroidered logo directly to a polo shirt, cap, bag or other item. With direct embroidery, the item to be embroidered is placed in a hoop and put into an embroidery machine.
Then the logo is embroidered directly onto a shirt. Or it may be more accurate to say the logo is embroidered to become a part of the shirt. This happens because the embroidery is woven directly into the fabric.
Patches are still embroidered images, but they are different. Patches are embroidered onto a substrate of material often a number at a time-not individually like direct embroidery. Patches then lay on top of the fabric and are either ironed on or sewn on.
The most common application for a patch is on the sleeve of public safety personal like police officers, paramedics and fire fighters.
One of the big advantages/differences of patches is that they can generally be removed from one shirt and placed on another shirt. With direct embroidery, it is very difficult and time consuming to pull out or remove the embroidered logo of a shirt without damaging it.
Another difference is the flexibility to embroider more detail. Because the substrate of a patch is more stable than the material of shirt, it offers the embroiderer the flexibility to embroider smaller details and text on the image than direct embroidery.
One of the disadvantages of a patch however is they can be heavy when placed on a shirt and it some cases it feels like you might be wearing a bullet proof shield.
A patch is also has a perceived lower value than direct embroidery. Most people would not choose to wear a patch on a nice golf shirt. Patches are best used for uniform situations like law enforcement or the military vs. branding situations like the promotion of your company.