Badges of Honour by Kelly Waterhouse

GirlGuidesCANblog Big Deal SealUpdate: This post was voted as a 2011/2012 GirlGuidesCANblog Big Deal Seal winner in the category ‘Oh My Guides’! Bravo blogger Kelly!


Note: this post originally appeared in the Wellington Advertiser in Kelly’s column “Write Out of Her Mind,”  a humour feature about family life in a small community.

Girl Guide badges
Girl Guide badges

When I was eight years old, I promised to do my best, to do my duty, to God, the Queen and my country. I was a Brownie, in a brown canvas dress with an orange and white maple-leaf scarf tied at the neck and a gold-buckled belt. I belonged to the Sprites, and if I got all my badges and hung in until a certain age I would be a bona fide Girl Guide. Oh yes, I was all that and a bag of chips.

My mother, bless her sweet guidance, suffered mother’s guilt for working full-time. To help reduce this, she often supported my extra-curricular activities by volunteering. Sucker. Lucky for me, she knew I needed her too. I was a gangly, awkward, four-eyed girl and I needed help to navigate the world around me, more than most perhaps. She didn’t let me down. She over-achieved. Within weeks of signing me up for Brownies, my talented, totally organized mother was quickly coerced into becoming our fearless Brownie leader “Brown Owl,” a title she took to heart with a rather competitive streak to make our Brownie pack the coolest in our region. We totally were, the coolest I mean. Toowit, toowhoo!

So, when my son asked to join the Cub Scouts, I was supportive. Anything that gets a boy active and away from video games and television is worth it. Besides, I can see he is much like his father, the Carpenter, and this means he needs to do manly, guy stuff like nailing stuff to other stuff, or digging stuff up, or the all important task of gathering sticks to make huge bon fires that he will spend countless hours fussing over, just to get the coals to a perfect orange hue for roasting the perfect marshmallow. For this obsessive masculine behaviour he will be rewarded with the almighty badge, in an honour system that encourages him to connect with nature, and doesn’t involve the bribery of candy or cash. That works for me.

When my son came home with his first badge for carpentry, I don’t know who was more excited.   What I didn’t expect was the ineptitude I would feel. Oh sure, I was thrilled with the badge, but now I had to admit yet another mommy flaw: I don’t know how to sew. Not a button, or a stitch, and certainly, not a badge. I don’t own a sewing kit. Ugh. By today’s standards, I would have to revoke my Brownie status.

There was no hiding the truth. I was going to have to fess up. Worse still, I was going to have to find someone who could sew, and fast. Can you imagine the humiliation I would have to endure for admitting this to another mother? Scouts honour, all I wanted to do was glue those badges on and see if anyone noticed.

Imagine my surprise to learn that my son was sending his grandmother secret emails, with adorable pleas for assistance to sew his badges onto his Cub uniform. He didn’t trust me to sort it out. Who could blame him? But Grandma could do it. Grandma can do anything. It’s true.

I wasn’t insulted. I was relieved. Nobody understands the pressure of a working mom better than my retired mom.

Looks like my mom is still helping me navigate this world.


Kelly Waterhouse
Kelly Waterhouse

By Guest blogger Kelly Waterhouse, a freelance writer (and former Brownie) in Elora, Ontario where she is busy raising her family while raising her career. Kelly is the weekly columnist behind “Write Out of Her Mind,”  a humour feature about family life in a small community, seen weekly in the Wellington Advertiser where this piece originally appeared.

What do you think about the task of sewing badges on blankets and sashes? Is it really that difficult ? Share your comments! We’d love to hear from you.

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18 Responses to Badges of Honour by Kelly Waterhouse

  1. Cathy says:

    My daughter’s Girl Guide Leaders are always sending her home with patches and crests that need to be sewn on. Oh wait–her leader is me! It takes so long to earn badges and program squares in Guides, that we try to find challenges and crests to reward the girls along the way.

    I haven’t kept on top of it this year, so I have about six months worth of camp blanket sewing to do and the pile is quite large! I did get all of her badges sewn onto her sash so she looked quite accomplished as she advanced and got her Lady Baden Powell Award. Now I’ve taken them all off of her sash so I can sew them onto her blanket. It seems like it never ends!

    • Jennifer D says:

      Quick tip: Sew the whole sash onto the camp blanket! It looks really neat and there’s a lot less sewing required. 🙂 Mine looks so pretty awesome with the Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders, and Scouts sashes side by side with a few camp badges in between. 🙂 (I did Scouts and Venturers alongside Pathfinders.)

      • Cathy says:

        Yes, I know that tip–but I’m succumbing to the wishes of my daughter, who didn’t want her sash sewn on. 🙂 Thanks!

  2. jmd says:

    Wait a minute… aren’t they all supposed to sew their own on!? Even those manly Cub scouts?

    Of course, I say this as a leader without children of my own. Perhaps I need to teach my unit to sew and save all the moms. I’m not sure I can do it without a machine very effectively but I think I might need to put it in the plan for next year.

  3. Katie Webber says:

    I’m quite lucky in that my Mum was there to sew my Brownie & Guide badges to my uniforms, but I don’ t have that luxury now. While I’m not a parent, I have a camp blanket to look after, and it needs badges on it!! I’m getting there, and it’s looking a lot neater now my sewing is better, but it’s nowhere near as good as my Mum’s sewing!

  4. Ali Peters says:

    Oh, the badges… I know we were encouraged to sew our own on, but my mom never trusted us with her sewing stuff so she did it 🙂
    NOW, some years later, I’m a leader and I have a pile of over 100+ badges in a tin, waiting to be put on the “blanket” (another rite of passage). BUT WAIT! WalMart sells tape that ‘glues’ badges on and all you have to do it cut, paste and throw in the dryer for a few minutes. Will it hold as well as sewing? Probably not, but it beats having to ask my Mom (who is still a Guide too) to do it for me…

    • Jennifer Duggan says:

      Hi Ali! Sadly, that ‘glue tape’ doesn’t work. Not even for badge sashes. Some parents have tried to bypass sewing by using all sorts of no-sew methonds and all of them fail eventually, especially in cold weather. Sorry to say, you’ll have to make a weekend of movie-watching and badge sewing. And it’s fun going back and remembering all the memories attached to all those badges!

      My mom asks ME to sew her badges onto her camp blanket… Ah, how the tables have turned.

  5. So as a GGC staffer I must confess as well…I sewed on my daughter’s badges and only 1 month later did my daughter point out to me that 1 of them was upside down! I should have known the wings go at the top and not under the flying postal envelope!

  6. Allison Graham says:

    I’ve got 20 years worth of badges to address (thankfully 15 years of them have already “been addressed”)! I started glue-guning my guide badges on at age 10, and now, at 27, I’m having to pull them all off, pull all the glue off, and sew the back on. However, at 10, my sewing probably would not have held as well as my trusty glue gun…

    Fortunately I have learned to sew. Now I’m a Spark leader and we teach them the blanket stitch with the HUGE needles and wool, with the hopes that they will at least acquire the ability to replace a button and sew on their Brownie badges… 😀

  7. otterma says:

    Yes badges can be daunting…as a leader and a mother of two girls in guiding, I do have a pile of badges to sew on. There is no need for parents to feel guilty bout their lack of ability to sew, grandma’s are a wonderful resource. I have also seen badge scarves that have had the badges glued on and they didn’t look all that bad. Another way that I’ve seen done is to use heat & bond!!! I think the main thing is to focus on the wonderful accomplishment that the girls have done rather than the sewing!! 🙂

  8. Sandra says:

    I have successfully used hemming tape to ‘sew’ some of my daughter’s badges on. She just finished Brownies and thankfully the keys and interest badges were iron on. So it got me thinking, as I dug through my sewing kit (yes I can sew but as a busy mom this seemed faster) to find my hem fusing tape. It is heat activated. All I did was trim it to the size of the badge, place a damp cloth over it and iron till the glue held. Worked for the Brownie sash. I’ll probably be trying it for Guides this year.

    I can remember learning how to sew in Brownies. I’m not sure if it was part of the program in the early 80’s but that is where I learned sewing basics (simple stitches & buttons). Then when I watched my mom sew my badges on I knew exactly what she was doing.

  9. As a Brownie my mother sewed on my badges… well till I turned 9. Then I gained my stage 2 Sewing (as it was then) and my mother retired. I can sew hems, buttons and badges on quicker and better (her words not mine) than she can these days. Good thing too, my badge blanket is well past the 400 badge mark and every one is sewn on by hand.

  10. Anne says:

    I think I sewed on my own badges as a girl, but I could be wrong … I’ll need to ask my mom. As for my daughters, yes, I sewed theirs. I got smart, I found Invisible Thread and would put that in the top of my sewing machine and machine sewed their badges. Now I manage to keep up with my daughter’s Guide blanket (you can see it here: … and I promised my nephew I’d sew his Scout badges to a blanket – lucky he knows it will take years before I get started!

  11. Rainbow says:

    Hmmm… by the time I was a third year guide, I sewed all mine on, and did so all the way through Pathfinders. Now it’s the blanket to take care of. I was also a self-taught sewer (with a mom who considers herself not so great with a needle and thread), and taught myself to cross-stitch at age 9.

    Sewing the badges isn’t really that bad. A lot of my friends hot glued theirs when I was a Guide, but they really only need eight stitches, at the compass points, and they’ll hold fine. (I cover mine in stitching around the edging… like a whip stitch around the raised border, which helps hide the thread.)

    Last year we took our guides to a camp in Paris, Ontario, and made it a “Paris” themed camp. One of our activities was to make camp ponchos from fleece blankets and we taught all the girls to sew on a button to hold their collar back, then got them all to sew on a couple of crests we had saved up. I don’t think most of them sew their own badges, but they really are little proofs of achievement and are important, I think.

  12. Craft says:

    When my granddaughter was in Guides had her try to sew on some of her interest badges and tho they’re still on there the thread is all over the place often an inch or more out from the badge. LOL If I’d kept her at it she’d have eventually learned how to keep the thread closer to the badge edge but there were many badges that were way too stiff for her to push the needle thru – VBS some of them were so stiff I had a lot of trouble pushing the needle thru. And the smaller badges were beyond her as she doesn’t have really good small motor control yet. Never mind it took her almost an hour to sew on one badge – not very thrifty use of her time. So I went back to sewing them on by hand because she earns so many that we sew half of them on the inside of her scarf. Her camp blanket is waiting for me to make some time to sew on a doz or so. She’s in Pathfinders now and she’ll try again to sew on her badges on a badge scarf BUT they too seem pretty stiff and the shiny backing is really hard to push a needle thru.

    If the badges had the softer backing like they did in the 50/60’s it would be way easier for the girls to learn how and sew on their own badges and perhaps more would do so. Till then I suspect that I will have to continue to sew on her badges for at least another 3 yrs.

  13. Anonymous says:

    As a Leader for the last few years I have to say I have seen it all with the girls and the badge sewing. We really try to encourage the girls to do it themselves, but what was funny one night I discovered that there were a couple of girls who had gotten out the stapler and stapled their badges to their sashes! I had to laugh. I made a deal with my daughter, if she tried to sew badges on herself, I would help sew them too.

  14. We were lucky to have a Guider for a few years who liked sewing badges (she used her fancy sewing machine) and sewed them on for the girls for 25 cents a badge, which she donated to the world friendship fund. She even did a backlog of 100 badges for my camp blanket for me, and now I am resolved to stay on top of it.

    Honestly the newer Guide badges with that stiff backing are really hard to sew by hand – the cub badges are much easier. Now I hear the cub badges will have to go on the sleeve – which will be impossible by machine, and tricky by hand.

  15. I had a sash in brownies and my mum sewed the badges on for me (my needle kept on bending in the stiff fabric!) but when I saved up and bought my first campblanket about a year ago I promised I would sew everything on my blanket myself! and I have kept that promise and now over 150 badges later they are still holding! starting sewing age four was the best thing I ever did! I can fix my school trousers and even sew a cuddly toy!

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