Camp blankets and badges
When I was five years old, I went on my first Guide camp. My mum was an adult helper with her old Guide unit (which eventually became my Guide unit) and the unit used to do 10 day Guide camps. Ten days! They were at the start of the summer holidays, and I have very many happy memories of these camps. There were quite a few adult helpers with children, the photos from each year look remarkably similar to the year before, with the children just looking a little bit taller and in a slightly different field!
Every evening we would either play a game of rounders or, my favourite, have a camp fire. A proper camp fire, with a circle made out of sitters (what's a sitter, I hear some of you ask? A long rectangular piece of groundsheet, long enough for about four or five Guides to fit and sit comfortably on), or large logs, if available, and a large fire in the middle. We would start early evening, after we'd had dinner and washed up, and got the tents ready for the night. There'd be a chill in the air, and several of the Guides would probably be in their pyjamas, under their camp blankets. Ah! Camp blankets! That is where I am going with this.
My grandmother made my first camp blanket for me, I believe it's an old army blanket which originally belonged to her father. It has a hole cut out of the middle so I can wear it as a poncho. I'm sure it covered me when I was a Rainbow and Brownie, now I'm bigger and taller it barely covers half of me! My grandmother blanket stitched around the edge, and my mum started sewing on badges. I'd get a badge from wherever we were on camp, usually a local area badge, perhaps the badge of a place we visited, and fun badges. When mum sewed them on, I asked her to space them out, to make it look as though I had lots. When I left Brownies, she took all the badges off my sash, and sewed them on to my camp blanket. When I was a Guide, she did the same with my Guide badges. After that, I think she decided it was time I took responsibility for my blanket and learned to sew them on myself!
In my mid-teens I left Rangers (The Senior Section) and joined Venture Scouts (now known as Explorer Scouts). It was through Ventures that I attended the 20th World Scout Jamboree in Thailand (which was fabulous) and it was here that I learned how obsessed people can be about badges. Selling them, swapping them, archiving them, there was a whole side-street at the jamboree dedicated to people and their badges. I'd always seen badges as a nice memento of an event, but never really thought about collecting them.
Fast forward a few years, and my original camp blanket is getting a bit full. As a leader in Girlguiding, I seem to be doing lots of badges with my unit, and going on lots of events, and just obtaining badges without really thinking about it. In 2008 I went with my old Guide unit to the Essex International Jamboree. Every subcamp was named after an animal (the theme was endangered animals) and there was a badge for each subcamp, I was a komodo dragon (the best subcamp clearly, our badge was the first to sell out!). Everyone got a badge of their own subcamp, and you could buy the others. A leader and I went round and bought just a few badges. Then we thought we may as well buy the full set. So we did. I remember sitting in our area of the subcamp, waiting for the Guides to meet us for dinner, and thinking that I quite liked badges, and how pleased I was that I got the full set.
From then on, I was hooked.
I love badges. If we did a badge at Brownies, we always ordered enough for the leaders. If I visited a place that sold badges, I bought one. In the Guiding centenary in 2010 I joined with other adults to collect 100 centenary badges, and I soon reached that target. I started my second camp blanket with a whole section dedicated to the centenary. My first blanket has had a lot of badges taken off and resewn, in order to make use of all the space (even though I originally asked Mum to sew them far apart!).
I even started designing badges with friends, sending a design off to a badge company to be made. We had a district badge made up for Brownie Holidays, I had a Fluffy Owl badge made, and then a Brown Owl badge and Snowy Owl badge. I then designed a badge saying 'my camp blanket is a labour of love', I've sold over 1500 of these (I still have lots available for sale, £1.50 + P&P!). All the money I've made from selling badges has gone in a separate badge account, and I'm using the money to pay for Guiding adventures - it's currently going towards my trip to Iceland this summer.
A few years ago Sooty Owl and I went to visit a friend who was volunteering at Sangam, the Guiding World Centre in India. We took Boris the Brownie Bear with us, and he couldn't resist buying a badge for each of the Brownies! I have a few Guiding people who I know love badges, and they know I love badges, so we regularly buy an extra badge or four whenever we attend an event, just so we can send them to each other. That's the spirit of Guiding! For a Division earlier on this year, we purposefully over-ordered badges as we knew people would want to buy them!
My camp blankets are a story of my Guiding journey so far. Everyone's blanket is different. I'm not bothered about straight lines or neatly sewn badges or using the same colour thread as the badge edge, as long as the badge stays on that's fine with me! For Brown Owl's 30th birthday I sewed a lot of badges on to her blanket for her, she had rather a lot waiting to be done.
I'm not a badge purist, some people will only collect badges they earned or from events they attended. I'm happy to have random badges I've swapped, cute badges from other events, and I'm happy to buy badges which have been produced as a fundraising effort. I love fun badges (I heart eggy bread) and personalised badges (Happy Birthday Fluffy Owl - this was a present, I didn't buy it for myself!).
I love my camp blankets. I love taking them on Guiding events, and showing them to people. I love answering questions about my badges, and telling the story behind the badge (they're from my licence weekend, that one I made on a weekend for leaders only, that one has an ex-boyfriend's phone number on the back, he was a Scout, we met at a Jamboree, didn't have mobile phones so had to communicate via badges!). I also love seeing other people's blankets, whether it be a Brownie with just a handful of badges, a Guide with a few more, or another leader who has, quite literally, thousands.
I've no idea what my blankets are worth, if you go on the basis of one badge equals £1, which is a very rough estimation, that in no way works out their value. To me, they are utterly priceless, and I love them.
The end of 2016 saw me completing my second blanket (this one is fleece and has badges sewn on both sides). My third camp blanket is massive, wool, and has a slit cut in the middle so I can wear it as a poncho. I have a backlog of badges waiting to be sewn on.
Here are a few photos of blanket #2.
The blanket is quite organised, with the badges in groups, or years. Here is my Big Brownie Birthday section, celebrating 100 years of Brownies in 2014. The third badge from the left on the top is my 10 year service award.
These four badges commemorate how Guides helped during the First World War.
Sooty Owl made me a badge for my birthday.
Here are the Essex International Jamboree 2008 badges - the complete set!
These badges are celebrating the 2010 centenary of Girlguiding.
There are so many memories behind these badges. I can probably tell you how I earned each badge, or which friend gave it to me, or why I bought it.
Bring on blanket number three! The needle and thread is waiting.