Introduction: Custom Space Mission Patches
Going on a mission to outer space? You need a mission patch to wear on your spacesuit, well, at least on your bookbag. Have something to stoke the imagination. Design and create your own mission patch for your adventure in exploring the galaxy and beyond.
Making mission patches would be a good way to get kids interested in STEM topics. Incorporate art as a gateway to broaden their experience - STEAM.
Step 1: Make It So...
Actually, make it no sew.
It is expensive and complex to make a real embroidered cloth patch. I wanted to do something that was relatively easy and low cost, something that would work for a whole classroom of kids or for a group project.
To get the faux-embroidered fancy patch look, printed iron-on fabric transfers is an option but the special printing sheets are relatively expensive and I no longer have my inkjet printer operational since I switched over to color laser. They do make iron-on fabric transfers for color laser printers but I have not tried those yet.
When finished, you can affix them to your jacket, backpack or jumpsuit - get some utility coveralls to simulate the look for space camp.
I had a lot of felt sheets which would make a great base layer for the patch. You can use any sturdy fabric though.
I started cutting out a few disks. They were marked for size by tracing around the bottom of a jar I had nearby. You can make the shape of the patch anything you like. Start out simple with circles, rectangles, squares or triangles.
In comparing what a real cloth patch looks like, it has a thick embroidered edge. We can get the same effect by gluing a length of thin clothesline or paracord around the edge. You may want to weigh down everything so it is flat to ensure the paracord is glued down to the fabric. Use a textbook as the weight covered in plastic wrap to avoid the mess.
Use different color paracord to ring your felt pieces to make several patches. The cut ends may take a little finesse to glue the ends together while tucking the inner core out of sight since the outer sheath frays.
When dry, trim any excess fabric that my be outside the rim formed by the paracord.
Go ahead and imagine a few more missions that you would like to undertake.
Step 2: Pay Attention to Details...
Once we have the a border around the patch, here are some things we can think about for elements of the design inside the patch.
What does this mission patch represent or symbolic of?
Do you have a project name?
Is there some kind of entity or organization that is affiliated with the project?
Is there a destination in mind?
Is there a specific goal of the mission or type of research/experiments it will conduct on the trip?
Is there a spacecraft or vehicle name?
Is this patch to recognize a launch/landing facility or training facility?
And who are the crew members involved with this mission?
Step 3: Badge Collecting...
I am just going to give you some ideas on how to decorate your patches.
Sun, Planets, Stars and Moon
The first set I built up with cut out pieces of felt and glued them on. The layering of the felt makes the patch quite thick but gives it that 3-dimensional look and feel. 3-D fabric paint would work if you wanted to draw on big shapes. It would be difficult to get fine sharp details though.
I was going for the planet lined up in a row with the Sun as the background. The "flying V" is what is called a vector shape - also used in the NASA meatball logo. I guess when space travel gets commercialized you will see that become the trademarked athletic gear "Swoosh".
You can depict a constellation or just a star field with some glitter. I glued some bits of fabric to form the stars but it might be easier by painting on 3-D fabric paint.
Text or Writings on the patch
You could use a marker or fine paint pen to inscribe the patch but that would not give you the sharpness of a printed character.
There is a Wordart feature found in most major word processing software packages, I use OpenOffice(Fontwork), that lets you format text along a circular path or into a shape that fits your patch. It is probably simpler to use Wordart than going to a full blown graphics manipulation software like Photoshop, GIMP or Inkscape. You can then print out your text. Trim it close to the printed characters, position and just glue to your patch.
If printing light characters on a dark background and cutting out to glue on a dark fabric, use a marker to color in the light paper edges so it will blend in better with the fabric.
You can experiment with different fonts and even get something similar to the popular NASA worm logo font.
Use of Roman numerals is good. Do they even teach that in school anymore?
What you will want to do is to coat the cut piece of printed paper entirely with glue so as to decoupage it. It forms a sealing film and ends up like a piece of rubberized fabric. You don't have to coat any exposed bare fabric not covered by the printed paper in the patch. You can if you want an even look on the surface of the patch. It is preferable to use a color/black & white laser toner printer as the inks will less likely to bleed when saturated with glue. Use the ModPodge product which has additional sealers in the formulation for a more durable finish.
Something Scientific or tech sounding...
You can pay homage to any of the great scientists that may have contributed to the field of study you are studying about. You can select an image of any real or proposed spacecraft, satellite, space station, probe, etc... and print the clipart to glue on to the patch. A well thought out patch will have elements that the student has researched and selected to include in their patch design. They should be able to explain how the names chosen or text relates to the image of the object used in the design. Of course, anything in Latin(use online language translators to come up with your own phrase) or even foreign language or characters add interest to the design. There is the International Space Station which has been host to astronauts from several different countries. Use it as an opportunity to learn which countries have participated.
Step 4: Expand Your Universe...
Recoat with glue and fill in any spots where the paper lifted off from the base fabric. Paper does curl or warp a bit when saturated with wet glue. Give it a day or more for the glue to completely dry.
You can use the same technique to make name badges for the crew. You have to earn your astronaut wings through lots of hard work and study.
So go and make a mission patch to wherever you imagination takes you. Make a set to start collecting or trading patches.