Big Bag Badges: Sew-on Hi-vis Badges for Cycling/running




About: I am a freelance design engineer and drummer. My business site is at and is often concerned with appropriate technologies, open source design and design for sustainability.

Back when I was a courier, I made myself a big hi-vis badge for my chic black Timbuk2 bag. It was a great success as I haven't been hit by any absent minded motorists yet, which i attribute to being highly visible, as well as taking care - there's no substitute for safe cycling. The badges are sewn together from scraps of hi-vis vests, which seem to be abundant these days. I then sew them onto the outdoor skin of the bag, taking care not to penetrate the waterproof inner. You can also use velcro to make the badge detachable.

I've made a dew of these to different designs, so forgive the mish-mash of photos in this instructable.

I make these up to order at 

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Step 1: What You Need

1 x hi-vis vest, of the sort worn by roadworkers, and now, any kind of pedestrian or cyclist prone to being hit by a vehicle! These cost about £5, or much less in bulk or from an industrial supplier such as this one. Most workplaces could get you some.
1 x reel of thick thread, preferably synthetic and a needle.
  A pair of scissors, pen or chalk and a ruler and square.
  This .svg layout sheet 
  Some Dress pins
  A sewing machine.
  Optionally: sew-on velcro. (approx. 1m per badge)

UPDATE - Have had to remove the .svg file link from here as apparently it never worked! See the link above for the .svg layouts.

Step 2: Choose a Design and Mark Out

Choose a design from the layout sheet, and print out at full size if possible. Generally the reflective strips on a hi-vis vest are 45mm wide, and the layouts have assumed this. Check yours are the same, and scale the layout sheet up or down accordingly. 

Marking out is the trickiest bit, as one has to assess how best to cut up the vest. There's no real formula for this, I try to make use of the mesh and reflective strip as it is such that the minimum number of cuts and joins are required. Work out the best strategy on the paper by drawing on lines for the joins. You will want to add on 10mm around all the edges to allow for seams. Measure the dimensions, add on your 10mm and mark out on the vest using a pen/chalk and a ruler and square.

Step 3: Cut Out and Do a Dry Run

Cut out all your parts and lay them out as you intend to assemble them to check that it is correct. 

Step 4: Assemble

Work out what order will be best to assemble all the seams. Take the pieces for the first seam, place them together facing each other and pin them together near the edge to be seamed (3-5mm from the edge). Then sew with a straight stitch at 10mm from the edge with the sewing machine. Tie off well.

Continue in this fashion to assemble the whole badge. This stage takes a while and is very methodical, so be patient and don't rush.

Step 5: Hem the Outside Edge

Once the whole thing is assembled and you are happy, hem the outside edge by folding at 10mm from the edge and pinning, then machine sewing.

At this point, if you would like the badge to be easily removable, sew on some velcro. I would put the hook side on the badge so that the bag or clothing remains soft when the badge is not attached. It is best to affix velcro all around the perimeter of the badge if possible to reduce sagging.

Step 6: Attach to the Bag or Clothing

This stage will probably need to be done by hand. If attaching to a courier bag, you want to only sew through the outer nylon so as not to damage the waterproof inner lining. This lining is pretty tough and separate from the outer so one can avoid it by tugging the outer once the needle is first inserted and being gentle, pulling back if the needle tip hits the inner.

I pin on the badge or velcro strips and use a backstitch or a zig zag running stitch around the edge. Be sure to tie off securely. Now is the time to add a label if you like, which looks quite good on the reflective grey strip material (see pic). For the velcro option, the method is all the same, but just sew on the looped velcro. 

That's you!

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    26 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    You can get really cheap hi vis from anyway these days. I picked one up for less than £2 from my local screen printers ( last week.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Came across site based in the midlands they offer good discount on a lot of Hi Vis workwear

    Bagged me a Bargain Hi vis vests ONLY £3 Incuding P&P!!

    If your in the UK I can highly recommend them.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Hi rikwwe, your absolutely right, they are a good resource for cheap hi vis vests, but I have always used these people for my workwear because they have always been very good to me. They also supply really good trousers from 'dickies'


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea. You can pick up a cheap hi vis vest for less than £2. I bought mine from step ahead. If you're from the UK I highly recommend them.

    not long after reading this I spotted a safety vest along a 55mph two lane road I travel a lot ,pulled over as soon as i could and walked back the 1/8 mi, and grabbed it.,I was giggling all the way home, it was in very good shape but I cut it up anyhow and sewed all the reflective tape to a " duluth pack" I made from an ible by Tim Anderson (got that material off that same road ),the poor thing is already as ugly as an old shoe so I just sewed the tape on in roughly vertical stripes got 5 2" x 18" strips with 2" spaces in between the pattern covers an approximately 20" square I should be visible from space,,,:) ,it relay does just glow in a light beam ,,, great ible ,,,thank you for sharing


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Its a vector image so I use Illustrator or Inkscape for .svg s. They can also be viewed in Firefox.


    9 years ago on Step 1

    this links to

    not a layouts.svg

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Cheers for letting me know! Can't get the download to work here at Instructables so have put up a link to the file on my own site.


    9 years ago on Introduction

     Really good idea. You can get dirt cheap high vis jackets from IKEA that would, i think about £2 each.

    Out of interest, the bag you used for this, what size/style was it? I'm struggling to judge from the dodgy looking photos on the site!


    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Where do you find this magical market everyone (even some of my fellow Americans, I think) talks about? There's no such thing in far northern Minnesota.