Sunday, December 15, 2013

How to make (de)merit badges

stich your (de) merit badge tutorial by grrl+dog
(De) merit badges recognise unique qualities nobody ever validated you for. They announce abilities previously dormant in younger years, but now flourish, like cocktail drinking and being assertive.

All of them can be made by hand in about an hour, depending on whether there's alcohol involved.

Some I have made differently just because I was messing about with an idea, but you go ahead and make them your way, because you're awesome and defiant and that's how you roll.

First thing is download the designs here, and pick one you like. There are 12 to choose from, with more coming.

  • plain cotton fabric to stitch on about 3 inches square
  • fabric for the back
  • padding fabric to give the badge some "puff"
  • embroidery thread
  • needles
  • scissors
  • erasable fabric pen for tracing the design
  • embroidery hoop optional
Gather materials, or get lazy and buy a ready made kit from me for $9.00 here

(de) merit badge packs by grrl+dog on etsy

No need to get fancy, because if the fabric is plain enough, tracing is easy. It's really handy to have one of those fabric pens that fade away. They fade quickly with the heat of your hands, so no tell tale marks.

As you can see in some of the examples, I was too lazy and drew mine in hot pink sharpie. Awkward.

If you DO get fancy, and use image transfer paper, remember to flip the ones with text before you print, or the words will come out backwards.

Pick out the colours you wish to use. Since the design is small, limit colour choices to three or four maximum.  If you like using an embroidery hoop, whack the fabric in there. Now for some detail work:

(de)merit badge tutorial by grrl+dog

The smaller the design, the smaller number of strands used to stitch. See in the image how there are only three strands of thread in the needle for the text? 

Embroidery thread comes with six strands. Six strands will look too bulky and clunky for the letters, so divide them. This means more mileage from the thread and an much neater look. 

For really fine designs, like "Talk to the Hand" use two strands. 

Once the stitching is done, it's time to add the back and padding. If you are using a kit, the padding is already there. Otherwise any scraps will do. Just three layers is enough to give it an authentic, badge like feel.

(de) merit badge tutorial by grrl+dog

The last part is the best! Adding the border. Most (de)merit badges use simple stitches to finish - either the whip stitch (where you just go round and round the edge and pretend your a machine, or blanket stitch. "Amaze-balls" and "Self Care" show blanket stitch, and the  Million Pins badge uses a whip stitch. You decide what you want.

(de) merit badge tutorial by grrl+dog
If you feel like dragging out the machine, there are more options. The Pillow, and plain old zig zag around the edge. In Dogs Rule, I have demonstrated the tangly mess you get when the bottom bobbin tension is all wonky.

The Flip the Bird (de)merit badge uses a pillow style, machine stitched base. This was created to frame the embroidery. I love how the fabric shows around the edge to make a nice border. The pillow is two pieces of fabric, placed right sides together and stitched nearly all the way around, then turned  right side out again, birthing your tiny badge baby through the hole. 

awesome merit badge by grrl+dog

The Awesome badge uses a pillow style too, with a very simple border, because the fabric was so ...awesome.

(De) merit badges are so easy, and you may even design your own. Please do post any to show off, I'd love to see them.

When I divided my embroidery thread into three strands, they got all tangly, and now it's a ball of mess.
Yep - you get that. One way is to cut lengths no longer than your elbow to your knuckle. It's one of the rules of embroidery that save lots of stress. And stitching should never be stressful.

I did that, but I still have a ball of tangle.
Did you buy your embroidery thread at a cheapo dollar store?

Cheapo dollar stores exist to give us embroidery angst. Never skimp on thread. A hank costs 89 cents. Splurge on the beautiful colours and know you are helping the world.

What do you mean by "Fading fabric marker" ?
Don't you hate it when things have different names in different countries? Most sewing or quilting places stock erasable fabric pens. Just google that. Sugar Tarts have a wonderful guide to choosing the right marker here.

My "Flip the Bird" has fat fingers
Use only two strands of thread. The finer the design, the thinner the strands.

Hi. It's me again. I got the 89 cent silky  DMC brand of thread but STILL have a tangle. 
Hi. Again. Sometimes the thread gets all twisted, and you have to let it go. Jut like life. Turn the work upside down, let the weight of the needle dangle the thread down and watch it unwind. That should do it.

Why should my dog miss out on (de)merit badges?
Glad you asked. All dogs are awesome and deserve their own badges. Tutorial coming as soon as I make the one for eating cat poo. Bruce is champion at that.


  1. These are so sweet! I can't wait to see which badge I'm getting -- I have a feeling it might be a "flip the bird" one! Hope you're having a great weekend. xo

  2. Bruce is a rebel too? We should have known.

  3. These are brilliant. On my to-do list as soon as the first stage of de-cluttering is completed. Found old linen pants, cotton shirts and added them to the fabric stash. xo

  4. This is truly the most amazing idea....You are a visionary. xox

  5. it's not poo. it's delicious cookies [according to Mollie and Boston]

  6. You've started something! I stayed up late last night, sewing and can dee over on Pintrest if you like at Amanda makes. Thanks for such inspiration xxxx

  7. This was a pleasure to read. While I doubt I'll have the time to make these any time soon, they give me a warm comfy feeling of freedom. I think it's a great project for the rainy days ahead for our area.

  8. Oh, I need a bunch of these...brilliant therapist will definately approve! Thank you.

  9. Eating cat poo badge! That was a "laugh out loud" moment when I read that. Great tutorial. Love your work. xo


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