Sewing for scouts! How to sew badges, uniform tips, retired badges, keepsakes, and more. All projects and posts may contain affiliate links. Read our policies here.
Yet another fun project done by request! Got something you need stitched up? An idea you're not sure how to make happen? Let me know!
Today's project contains several tips - using clear thread to sew on patches easily and quickly without changing threads, using the free arm of the machine to fit into tiny spaces, lab tape for patch placement, and how to sew onto bulky stuff, like a backpack!
The more of these projects I do, the more I find myself appreciating the story behind each item. Today's project comes to us from a young woman I'm calling Jo. She's a recent-ish Girl Scout alum, now a college student. Her keepsake backpack is evidence of what the Girl Scout program can do for girls. She has traveled all over the world, met Girl Scouts and Guides in other countries, and visited some of the best places both in the USA and abroad. Her backpack is loaded with patches from the places she's been.
And she needed some sewing help! She had hand-sewed all of these patches on. That's great, but she started having a few problems - the threads on the inside of the pack were getting tangled in the zipper, and a few of the patches had started to come loose. In addition, she had some newer patches that were too thick for hand-sewing. The Badge Fairy to the rescue!
Of course, I started with the most important elements - bobbin thread that matches the fabric, and my must-have item, clear thread (get yours).
Next I took off the arm compartment because getting down into the corners of the backpack would be impossible with it on. It just slides right off, leaving a more slender arm, and making it easy to fit something (like a backpack) around it.
Bonus! That removable deal contains little storage compartments. My front one usually looks like this - complete with Sprout yellow, Daisy blue, Brownie brown, Junior green, and CSA tan. :D And in the back section, extra needles, lab tape (another must-have!), and a ripper.
There are lots of ways to sew patches on. You can just wing it - cross your fingers and hope they don't come out wonky and crooked. You could use pins - but I'm kind of prone to stabbing myself. I like lab tape! In fact, my machine often looks like this, with pieces of tape hanging off while I sew. I just re-use the pieces as many times as possible.
Putting it all together
Finally, the fun part! I started with a patch that Jo got when meeting Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts of USA. My own daughter got to meet her recently too at Shades of Green, a big convention hosted by Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, our home council. Here's Cupcake with a real life rocket scientist! She carries around a bag of these patches at events like this to hand out to girls she meets. Awesome!
So this patch is a keeper! But as you can see it's roughly hand-sewn, the stitching is quite visible, and it's not held on super tightly. No problem, we can fix all that. First I ripped out the hand stitches.
Then I pulled the backpack onto the free arm, and stretched and wiggled it into place. This is at the very bottom of the side panel, so it's the hardest place to get to, but my Baby Lock does just fine. :)
Then I laid the patch where I wanted it on the backpack, and taped on the short ends to hold it in place.
Here's a question I'm asked all the time and it surprises me - what about needles? Don't I need a super special strong needle? Well, no. I only ever use standard size, strength etc. I've heard people say that only denim or leather needles work. That's just not true. In fact, specialty needles like that are often designed to make a permanent hole in the fabric, whereas a regular needle just slips between the threads in a fabric, which is perfectly fine for patches. It's possible that the strength of the machine matters more than the needle, and if you're breaking needles consistently, I recommend upgrading your machine, not your needle. Read more about my thoughts on sewing machines here.
Anyway, now that everything is in place, sew sew sew all the way around. You *can* sew right over the tape, but on this patch I didn't. I only did sewed the long sections across the bottom and top, and ran a few stitches along each side. The bulk of the backpack in this one spot would have made turning corners too difficult (more on that in a bit). It still came out perfect! Can you see the stitches? Look closely!!
Here's another one I did using lab tape. The stitches perforate the tape, so it's easily removed and reusable.
Jo asked me to take off these patches from the sides and top of the backpack and replace them with newer ones, so that's what I did! Luckily they were hand sewn on in white thread, so very quick and easy to remove!
And what about that tangly thread I mentioned? This is what the inside of the backpack looked like when I got it from Jo. Big, loose-ish stitches, and long ends that tend to get caught up in the zipper, That's annoying, I'm sure!
Here's the after - perfectly machine sewn, nearly invisible stitches from both the inside and outside of the backpack, and safely out of the way of the zipper. Nice!
Yeah, so turning something like this around for sewing isn't easy exactly, but practice and willingness to screw up are required. Remember, everything is fixable, so just try!
The most important thing to remember is ALWAYS have your needle down! The needle holds everything in place so you can spin everything else around the way it needs to be. Second most important thing is to be vigilant that nothing crept up underneath where you're sewing - you don't want to sew a pocket closed or accidentally catch a strap or something underneath. I do this by constantly pushing everything as flat as possible from the top, and feeling around underneath while the machine is working. It can be difficult too keep all that out of the way, and to rotate it all through the machine, but it's required! In the end, you end up with picture-perfect patches, so it's worth it!
And here's my own tote bag, sewn in much the same way. I carry this full of supplies to my workshops. I have a bunch of patches in a pile waiting to be put on!!
Once again, thanks for reading!! Jo, I hope you love it! Thank you!