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Homemaking - Frugal Living

Simple Money Making Ideas for Moms

Sewing Boy Scout/Girl Scout patches

by Mary Leggewie

I charge 50 cents per patch, but I really should have said $1 per patch because it would be SO easy to get. Some people charge as much as $5 PER patch!!! At 50 cents per patch, I make between $15 and $25 per HOUR and the customers LOVE me. Go to your local Boy Scout council, Girl Scout council, or find the sites on the internet for the proper placement. BSA has little paper handout sheets that make it easy.

Thread I use Sulky invisible thread for the top, and have about six Gutterman colors that match the shirts and vests/sashes.

Tension for needle and bobbin The trickiest part was getting the machine set to do the patches with stitches being the right tension. My sister actually adjusted and set a separate bobbin just for this purpose, but I've found that all I needed to do was adjust the needle tension dial. Normally I sew about "tension #3," but when I do patches, I change it to "1.5," and it works right. Basically, you want the top and bottom threads to meet in the middle of the fabric, not have it poking through more on one side than the other. Look in your manual on bobbin and needle tension and you'll see what I mean... the wrong tension can make the bobbin loop come out on the top, and then you'll see the color of the bobbin thread on the patch, poking through.

Stitch I zigzag most every page. Some that have really tiny borders I'll straight stitch.

Numerals, or square/straight patches sewn side by side If you have 2-3 numerals, you'd scotch tape them together, then tape them to the shirt. Sew all around them, then go right over the old stitches to sew down one side and up the other on the middle spots. For instance, say you have 3 numbers, side by side. Tape them together with one long strip of scotch tape, tape them to the shirt. From the left top, sew across the top of all three, down the side, across the bottom of all three, then up the other side. Then to across the top of the first number, down it, up the middle number, back over your original stitching on the middle one, then down the middle one, up the last one and you're done! This is sooo much easier than everything else I'd tried!

Scotch tape--your secret weapon! My sister sews directly over it, but I've found that for me, I'd rather tape strategically and rip it off as I'm sewing than have to pick it out of the stitches. I still tape some patches, but I can now sew on merit badges (after the first row) without taping and most of the time they're straight. I still have to rip and re-sew more often that I'd like to, but I want them to be perfect.

Marketing Find your local Girl Scout troops, Cub Scout Troops, and Boy Scout Packs (packs and troops are separate entities with BSA). Make a little flier. I made a simple one, and tell them that I have same/next day service, "sometimes while you wait!" It's almost easier to do a quick job while they wait then to have them come back again (two appointment times that way). A typical 7 patch Cub Scout shirt job takes me 5-10 minutes to do, and a ton of patches on a merit badge sash might take me 20-30. I also do my own kids' leaders for free as a thank you to them for their work with the troop/den. See if there are monthly pack/troop meetings and if they'll pass out your flier, or have a little blurb added in their monthly newsletter.

I LOVE doing this. It's so fun to see the little boys light up, and to see the thankful parents who have no clue how to even sew on a button! I also tell them I'll hem the boys' pants for $6, and I suspect that that is too low.

I use Gutterman thread for these jobs. Good thread makes a HUGE difference. I use a new needle about every 3rd job, and I buy the expensive ones--Schmetz. If I'm changing needles for other things in between, I have a case for "used needles" rather than trashing one that has a little more life in it. REFUSE to sew on patches that have been glued on or you risk ruining your machine. I've told them to staple them on if they need a temporary fix. Boy scouts need to make you a list of their merit badges, because they have to be sewn on in the order they are earned.

This has led to some hemming/mending jobs from some of the clueless moms. I tell them that I don't do alterations, but I can do simple stuff and they're thrilled. I have turned down lycra/spandex stuff, though. Sewing knits is just TOO tricky! I always warn them that I'll look at the job before accepting it. I don't need the stress of complicated stuff when there is plenty of easy stuff to do.

For basic mending I usually try to figure a rate that works out to about $25 per hour or so. Buttons...it just depends...sometimes I charge $1 and some times 50 cents. If a seam is ripped on a simple skirt, I usually charge $1 per seam fixed. I even had one clueless gal have me sew up a ripped out seam on a PILLOWCASE!!! It's amazing how little home Ec some women have. I wonder what they cook!

When you figure out the tension and such, write it down in a safe place so you don't have to think about it next time. Save some old patches and scrap fabric to test out the tension if you have future problems.

Oh! I also tell them that to rip or to sew are both 50 cents per patch (go for $1-it's hard to raise your rate once people are used to it). I hate ripping patches, but I do have some who will pay me to rip off an old patch and replace it with the new one! Amazing. Boy Scouts are the ones who do that...they upgrade to some new level, and they have to take off the patch and put the new one in the same spot.

Boy Scout arrow points have got to be the absolute worse thing to sew. I tape them in a long row, tape them to the shirt, and sew a basting thread straight down the tape. This is the only case I've found it's worth the time to rip the tape out of the stitches. They're still a real pain to get straight, and you WILL end up ripping and re-sewing occasionally on these. I have used both zigzag and straight stitches for these for their final sewing, and don't know yet which I like best. Take the tape off the basting thread before the final sewing.

Also...the BSA shirts are really dumb. They put patches ON pockets. There is no way I'm going to hand sew those patches on, so the typical thing to do is just to sew right through the pocket, pretty much disabling the pocket! That's what the gal at council does on her jobs too. Which reminds me...your council might just have a list of gals who are willing to sew on patches--see if you can get your name on the list. Our council has a store employee who does it on the side, so they didn't want my name, even though I'm 30 miles away and 5000 feet above them. Oh well.

I think I covered everything! It really helps to have a sewing room, or an area set up where you can just leave your machine up. I don't think I'd do patches if I couldn't just leave the machine up and ready to go.

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