Not all stories are told in books, not all memories are seen in pictures – some come in the form of a thousand little embroidered pieces of felt.
My camp blankets tell more than my Guiding story. They weave together a tale of friends, experiences and memories that span more than 25 years of my life. Each badge chronicles a moment in time – the visit to a World Centre, a successful district camp, an initial encounter with a soon-to-be friend – and serves as a colourful reminder of a funny story, a sad goodbye, or a proud achievement.
I decided to put together my first blanket after a life-changing visit to Our Chalet and Pax Lodge as a Pathfinder. Armed with my grandmother’s sewing basket, a fresh booklet of needles, and a bag full of badges from around the world, I sat down on my bed and stabbed into the coarse wool blanket with gusto… promptly piercing through the top of my finger. One gauze bandage and a precautionary tetanus shot later, I was back at it, determined to finish the blanket before the end of the year.
The Crafts badge was the first badge I earned in Guiding, and was the first sewn onto my blanket. As I carefully stitched around the tiny triangle, I recalled tiptoeing to the car after one of my first Brownie meetings, terrified of shattering my freshly painted light-bulb-head Brownie doll onto the sidewalk before I could show my parents my handiwork.
I then moved on to the Guide badges, laughing when I reached the Needleworker badge – which I earned more for my determination than for the lopsided, stuffing-challenged polyester pig I presented to my camp leaders with pride, a full hour after the other girls had finished and were outside enjoying the sunshine.
Finally, as the snow started to fall outside, I sewed on the last of the badges – a small Girl Scout Cookie Selling badge, given to me by a new friend I’d made at Our Chalet, who’d encouraged me onwards with the promise of chocolate when I started to falter on a seemingly never ending hike through cow-pie-covered fields. Putting down my slightly-bent needle, I remember stepping back in awe of all of the brightly coloured patches dotting across the blanket that had been such a dull monotone grey only months beforehand.
My current blanket weaves through my life as an adult member, chronicling my Guiding experiences internationally, throughout Canada, and in my backyard. It’s more than simply a collection – it’s a record of all the vibrant and fulfilling experiences Guiding has brought to my life. I love bringing my blankets to my unit meetings, to show my girls what Guiding can do for them in a way that speaks volumes more than a photobook or website.
So, tackle that box of badges hanging out in your closet or in your drawer, and relive all of your Guiding memories as you sew them onto a blanket, a poncho, or a jacket. The next time you’re around a campfire, you’ll be thankful to be able to pull it close and wrap yourself in hundreds of stories, told one badge at a time.
Guest post by Sarah Govan-Sisk is a Guider with the 12th Ottawa Guiding Unit and a former member of the National Board of Directors. Check out her previous posts Opening the Vaults: Embarrassing moments.
What’s your Guiding story? Share it with us! ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca