I used to be a Girl Scout and as an adult it’s a bit disappointing that we don’t get to earn badges for doing stuff. I’m not suggesting the world owes me a cookie for being a decent, mostly functioning adult, but I do think giving oneself a little reward here and there can make life a bit more fun.
Badges are great for personal achievements. Get a promotion? Make yourself a badge! A friend is playing their first public gig? Make them a badge! Refrain from killing that annoying coworker? Badge!
They don’t have to be merit-based either. A few years ago our circle of friends decided we’d gone on long enough without earning badges so we started a club (the Unnamed Society of Friends in Favor of Frippery and Frivolity, or US4F). Really it’s just the usual friends getting together, sharing a meal, doing some sort of thematic activity (which is sometimes just eating), and getting a badge to sew on our sash just for participating (or eating). It’s a way to mark the occasion.
A badge can take many forms. For our club’s strawberry themed event we just used red buttons. For the 70s party we sewed on costume mustaches. As long as it fits the occasion and you can sew it on a sash it’s fair game.
The classic round scouting style badge is really easy to make. You’ll need the following:
- Scrap fabric
- Scissors or pinking shears
- Embroidery hoop, floss, and needle
- Fabric markers
Your badge design shouldn’t be too complicated. It should be something that can be done in one or two colors, doesn’t have a lot of fine details, and conveys the idea of the achievement or occasion simply.
Once you have your design sorted, choose your fabric. For this tutorial I used some scrap denim from a pair of old jeans. See additional fabric recommendations below.
For a quickie badge, draw your design onto the fabric with fabric markers.
Mark the border of the badge. I used a votive candle as a template and traced around it.
Cut it out with pinking shears (which will prevent the edges from fraying) or scissors, and you’re done. Denim works great for this kind of badge, so if you’ve got some scraps of old jeans lying around this is a good way to use them up. Canvas would work great, too. Avoid felt for this version because the fuzzy surface does not work well with markers.
If you want to get a bit fancier, put the fabric in a hoop and embroider over your drawing. I embroidered just the outline to save time. You could even embroider some outlines but not others as I did with the bubbles example below, or fill it all in completely.
Cut it out using the same method above. You’ll want a fabric that can handle dense stitching. Consider using interfacing if you choose a particularly thin fabric. Scraps of denim work great for this option as well as canvas. Craft felt is a good choice if you don’t mind not being able to draw your design on in detail before you embroider. I love working with felt because it comes in dozens of colors and is inexpensive. Cross stitch fabric is particularly helpful if free-form embroidery gives you the willies.
To affix your badge to something (sash, banner, super 80s denim jacket), pin it in place and hand stitch around the outside using a coordinating thread. Or if you have a sewing machine, use a dense zigzag stitch all the way around. If you don’t feel like hand sewing and you don’t own a sewing machine, get some fusible iron-on tape and heat set it in place.
You can make a badge for any occasion or achievement. Make a bunch to keep on hand to surprise your friends. Take to the streets and leave a few out in the open for people to find. A little bit of silliness might brighten someone’s day (and we could all use a bit of brightening now and then, especially to get us through a difficult winter). Use your imagination and have fun!
See next week’s tutorial on how to make your own sash.
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