Charity Drive: Project Teddy Bear

I know you love crocheting cute stuffed animals, and if you’re like me, you probably crochet a few more than you really need (oops!). That’s why I like to feature awesome charities that collect handmade stuffed animals! You can made a few extra to send in, and feel really fabulous about making a child’s day!

It’s not always easy to find a charity that’s willing to accept items that are bulky, such as a stuffed animal. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read this blog post about donating toys, which out that many of the thousands of stuffed animals donated to tragedies such as Newtown ended up in the trash.

That’s why I’m really passionate about sharing charities that want stuffed animals and put them to great use!

This quarter’s featured charity is Project Teddy Bear, a program that both helps inmates crochet stuffed animals (a life-changing experience for them… read more about this aspect in my post about Knitting Behind Bars) as well as children who receive the animals.

Let’s learn about them!

About Project Teddy Bear

Project Teddy Bear is a restorative justice project in which inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone, MN teach one another to crochet animals and hats to be donated to children and their siblings at the Ronald McDonald House.

The project grew out of inmates’ desire to do something positive and give back to the community. A couple of the guys knew how to crochet and others were interested in learning. Dr. Poch, a psychologist at the prison, reached out to Dr. Shlafer at the University of Minnesota Medical School with the idea.

Dr. Shlafer’s research focuses on children’s outcomes when parents are incarcerated, and so this service project was a natural fit for her and her students. Yarn and supplies are collected and donated to Project Teddy Bear through students at the University of Minnesota and get delivered to the inmates. Using patterns, the inmates create amazing critters! All of the critters are specifically picked with little ones in mind. For example, small birds were made for kids to hold in their hands while getting blood draws; hats were made to cover kids’ heads after they lost their hair from chemotherapy treatment.

Every few months, the critters get delivered to the Ronald McDonald house and children get to come and pick out their favorites. The children at the Ronald McDonald House get so excited when they see the animals laid out and ready to be taken home with them. The animals create a bright spot in what can be a very hard time for children and families alike.

The inmates also benefit from participation in the program as it gives them a feeling of purpose and helps to break
down borders to reach a shared goal in the prison.

How you can help

This program is supported solely by donations from individuals in the community.

If you would like to be a part of Project Teddy Bear, monetary donations can be made through the University of Minnesota’s website.

You can donate handmade animals by mailing them to:

717 Delaware Street SE, Room 382, Minneapolis, MN 55414

You can e-mail Project Teddy Bear at: with additional questions.


July Crochet Fun + Fave Links

Little editorial note… I published this post about a week ago but I discovered that the fancy website widget that emails the blog post out to my over 5000 subscribers wasn’t working! Eep! And you can’t go without the July news! So, I’m republishing the post… apologies to the (few) folks who read it the first time!

Usually, summer is a slow time in the crochet world, but not here at FreshStitches! Summer is the time when you might head out on vacation, find a bit of time by the pool or want to curl inside in the comfort of the air conditioning… with a crochet project in your hand! Am I right?

Amigurumi crochet sun with comic eyes

Sunshine shown with 16mm round comic eyes

(and for those of you reading in the Southern Hemisphere, by all means, grab a hook and snuggle inside to enjoy the winter!)

The biggest news is that Ami Club members unanimously voted to turn the monthly newsletter into a public one for all FreshStitches blog readers! Hooray! Aren’t they the sweetest? So, I hope you enjoy!

In this post, you’ll find out all kinds of news and I’ll share my favorite links that I’ve found this month!

New 18mm color eyes!

18mm color craft eyes from FreshStitches

I’m always working to bring you the best selection of craft eyes, so I’m delighted to announce that I’ve expanded the shop to include 18mm color eyes!

They’re available in the same, beautiful pearlescent color as the 12mm and 8mm color eyes (starting off with Pale Blue, Green and Brown: the 3 most popular colors).

Although I don’t have an exclusivity arrangement with the factory, I haven’t seen these offered in any other shop! Many other pearlescent eyes are hand-painted, which means they are much more expensive. And all of my craft eyes have ridged posts, which allows for the plastic washer to click on tightly and securely.

And Ami Club members get 10% off their entire eyes purchase: all the time! Just one of the many perks of the Club!

Join the Ami Club!

I’ll be sharing all of the cool things we’re doing this month in Ami Club, and I’d really love for you to join! I don’t want you to miss out!

Use the coupon code: TRYJULY for a free one-month trial!

It’s only $6 a month to continue your membership, which includes a monthly exclusive crochet pattern, discounts, CALs, access to the forums and more! I know you’ll love it!

Join now and get access to all of the fun stuff I’m sharing in this post!

July Pattern

I really love July’s exclusive pattern… Stanley the Stingray!

Stanley the Stingray amigurumi from Freshstitches... so cute!

Isn’t he a cutie? This pattern contains 3 brand new videos, including how to use stitch markers so you don’t need to count to do his shaping!

This pattern goes away on August 1st, so make sure to login and download your copy!

Kepler the Lion CAL!

Our regular Crochet-a-long began today… and we’re making Kelper the Lion!

Amigurumi Lion Crochet pattern

All Ami Club members have Kepler available in their downloads, go grab him and start crocheting!

The CAL ends on August 31st, and everyone who posts their finished photo to the FO thread is entered to win a prize! The prize this month is 2 skeins of yarn and a project bag… squee!

50% off Featured Patterns

Every month, Ami Club members receive 50% off featured patterns. This month, the featured patterns are: Frankie the Lobster, Jay the Bird and Murray the Squirrel.

Amigurumi Lobster pattern

Check the forums for the 50% off discount code for July! Good on one or all three patterns!

Can you Loop Stitch?

I just love the tail on Murray the Squirrel, but I know a lot of people find the loop stitch intimidating. You don’t have to!

How to loop stitch

Pop over to this blog post for a step-by-step photo tutorial and a video for how to do it!

If you’ve tried the loop stitch before, but the loops came apart, don’t worry! The post shows you how to prevent that from happening! (The photo above is the spoiler- you have to make sure you’re grabbing both sides of the new loop with your hook. It’s a very common mistake to just grab one!)

Ebook: Creating different shapes

The monthly ebook download for Ami Club members is about how to create different base shapes for your amigurumi.

FreshStitches Robot

The stingray pattern for this month (and this robot!) were created using a square as the basic shape (instead of our usual circle). These combinations are so fun to experiment with!

If playing with different shapes gets your juices flowing, then you’ll love my Amigurumi: Design Your Own Monster class on Craftsy!

Fave Links

Lots of stuff is happening! It’s hard to keep up with it all! So, I’ve rounded up a few things that I thought you’d want to see.

As a boring side note, if you live in Los Angeles County, you’ll notice that sales tax went up on July 1st. Doesn’t affect any customers outside the county!

Speaking of enamel pins, who would be interested in new pins with my new Nelson logo? Which is your fave? Reply in the comments!

Can’t wait to hear from you… and hope you have an amazing July!







How much yarn does crochet use? Single vs. double crochet

My previous post, how much yarn do I need? has been so popular that I wanted to expand on it a little bit today by looking at adding another stitch into the mix, the double crochet.

How much yarn do I need crochet

And this is only the beginning! I’ve compiled all this information and more into a handy-dandy ebook for Ami Club members. Yup, it’s the May 2017 ebook download! If you’re not a member, sign up!

Double Crochet vs. Single Crochet

The measurements above show you how much yarn you’ll use for a single crochet stitch for different thicknesses of yarn.

Did you know that different stitches use different amounts of yarn, too?

For my measurement, I measured single crochet and double crochet, both using a size H (5.0mm) hook, worsted weight yarn and crocheting through both loops.

how much yarn single crochet uses vs. double crochet

How much yarn does a double crochet in bulky yarn use? Or fingering? I’m only one gal! You’ll have to measure that yourself! Here is a tutorial on how to measure how much yarn a stitch takes.

You can use this number to calculate how much yarn your project will use or how many rows you can work on your blanket before you run out of yarn. Cool, right?

Which stitch should I use?

It looks like the double crochet uses more yarn, but keep in mind that it’s also a bigger stitch, too… so one stitch covers more surface area.

In this month’s Ami Club ebook download, I crochet swatches and directly compare how much yarn you’ll need to crochet the same size swatch in these two stitches. And then you can carry out the same calculations for your own project!

Knitting, too?

You can do the same comparison for any two stitches… even comparing a knitted stitch with a crochet one! Check out Not So Granny’s post on Does crochet really use more yarn than knitting?


Comfort Cases Charity Drive + Giveaway!

About Comfort Cases

You know that every quarter, FreshStitches picks a new charity in need of receiving lovingly made, crocheted stuffed animals. Last quarter’s drive, animals for Kids Need to Read, was a huge success… and I am over-the-moon excited about this one!

Donating supplies to foster kids

This quarter, we’re making stuffed animals to put in the backpacks distributed by Comfort Cases to children in foster care. Did you know that most foster children move from foster home to foster home with their belongings in a trash bag? Doesn’t that absolutely break your heart?

Comfort Cases is dedicated to providing foster children with a backpack (and some supplies) of their very own. And we’re going to be making stuffed animals to add to the packs! For children without families who can rotate through a number of homes, a handmade stuffed animal is just a little reminder to a sweet child that they’re cared for.

When I began organizing FreshStitches charity drives, my first goal was to connect with local foster care systems. However, when I contacted them, they told me they were simply too overwhelmed to collect and distribute stuffed animals. That’s why a charity like Comfort Cases is so important. They’re collecting and distributing supplies for foster kids, a task that is too logistically complicated for the overworked foster care systems to do themselves. I am so happy to have found them!

(As a total aside, I highly recommend the touching movie Butter, about an adopted girl who doesn’t really believe she’s been adopted permanently… there’s a super-sweet moment when she finally decides to unpack her little suitcase.)

How to Donate

We’ve connected with Robyn, a Comfort Cases volunteer, who will be collecting our stuffed animals to put into backpacks. She has a current request for 450 backpacks… so start crocheting!

Adorable Crochet Delia the Duck

This sweet duckie is April’s exclusive pattern for Ami Club members… join to download!

When you have finished an animal (or a few!), mail them to: Robbyn Lessig, 3671 Cottage Pines Lane, Spring, Texas, 77386.

I know we can get together a huge collection! And I know we specialize in crocheted animals, if you want to sew or knit a stuffed animal, feel free to send those along, too!

donate supplies to foster children


We also have a giveaway that just started today for Ami Club members! You can win the yarn you’ll need for May’s pattern as well as a big collection of eyes!

Head on over to this thread to enter! I’ll pick a winner Tuesday, April 25th!

Tips for Organizing a Charity Craft Fair

There are a lot of charities in the world doing really amazing work. I’ve written about how to donate stuffed animals, but frankly, most charities benefit from donations of cash. Large organizations are typically more efficient with cash, not only because they are able to better use the resources (for example, a charity that helps the homeless can usually purchase food at a better price than you as an individual can), but also because money avoids the cost required in shipping and transporting physical goods.

It’s why, for my most recent sample sale, I sold my stuffed animals and donated the money to Heifer International. The cash allowed Heifer to buy a dozen animals, a far greater gift than what they could have accomplished with some plushies!

Mirena recently organized a Craft Bazaar in her hometown, Athens Greece, to benefit Amimoni (, an organization dedicated to children with vision impairments and developmental disabilities. It’s a cause close to Mirena’s heart, the organization helped her daughter see… taking her daughter’s vision from 0 ( to 5/10.

I thought the idea of organizing a craft fair with charity in mind was brilliant! So, I reached out to Mirena to ask if she had any tips to share with us in case you’d like to try this in your own community! A huge thanks to Mirena for chatting with us today!

Event success!

I organised the bazaar together with my friend Chistina Vaggele, who has been in the jewellery business for 30 years now. We raised almost 1000 euros for Amimoni, which is a huge success! Especially for our first fair!

We chose as venue a coffee shop located near our homes but not to the centre of the town so that our guests had easily-accessible parking. This way we were also offering coffee and wine. The coffee shop also provided for a very large table for the display of our goods.
For the promotion, we printed flyers that we gave to every single student of the school our children attend and to stores. We also printed posters and we put them to the school, to the coffee shop and to various stores. Of course we posted on our social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) and Amimoni did too.
We also organised a side event: as we were anticipating that most or all of our guests would be women (given of the goods we were offering – jewellery and stuffed animals-), we called upon Irini Fthenaki of House of Color who did a mini seminar on what colours we are suggested to wear according to our complexion.

Tips for organizing a charity-focused Craft Bazaar

1) Pick your cause: Get in touch with them, tell them what you want to do. They won’t say no! They will probably provide assistance with the organisation of the event. Ask them for their logo to put on your promotional material. Ask them for help in the promotion of the event (they can put an announcement on their website, on their Facebook page, they can put flyers and posters to their offices etc). Decide if you are giving all or portion of the income.
2) Pick the date: Consider picking a date close to a holiday when people are likely to buy and bound to help! That’s why we picked a December date for this event.
3) Pick the venue: Where will you hold the bazaar? Consider:
  • is there enough room to display your goods?
  • is the parking easy for your guests?
  • are there passers-by or is it more secluded?
  • what is the fee for holding your event there?
Craft fair items for sale
4) The promotion: social media is your number 1 go-to place for the promotion of your event. You can also print posters and flyers. Don’t forget your acquaintances!
5) Plan for an extra side event that will attract more people to your bazaar: a mini seminar, live music… Find someone who would want to advertise themselves through your event.
6) Have plenty of goods to sell! This requires a lot of advance planning!
7) Don’t forget your packaging! Simply because it is a charity event it doesn’t mean it has to be sloppy! Maybe one of your guests is buying a gift and would like it wrapped.

Ideas for the Future

What I would change for next year in our bazaar? (Yes, we are doing it again!)
  • Have more stuffed animals available to sell (the truth is I had only 1.5 months to prepare the whole thing!)
  • Have a book with photos of the stuffed animals so that people can place custom orders
  • Select a venue where there are more passers-by
  • Organise a mini concert during the event

Thank you so much, Mirena!

Have you ever organized a charity fair? Any more tips to share?


December Ami Club Newsletter

Oh, hey, lovely Ami Club member! Welcome!

You’re probably familiar with my Yarn & Craft Newsletter, where I share fun yarn stuff from all around the internet. But I thought it would be fun to have a monthly Ami Club Newsletter which focuses more on crochet and amigurumi! Oh, and cute. Look for this newsletter on the 2nd Friday of every month! And it’s only for members!

What I’m up to & news

I shipped out loads of goodies on Thanksgiving weekend, but I snagged a little goodie for myself, too! Check out this adorable pin by Mochichito! I’m in love with enamel pins, and this guy is a cutie! Don’t forget to show me your favorite enamel pin in this thread… I’m going to gift one to a lucky winner in January!

Season is the lucky winner of the Knit Picks giveaway! Yay! For the giveaways in Ami Club, all you need to do is comment on the thread… no reason not to enter!

I’m heading off to Australia tomorrow (our annual holiday visit), but I won’t be totally away. We’ve got LOTS happening!


I’m really excited about the Snowman CAL… you get the adorable pattern as part of your membership! And, are you joining in on our swap? Click here for details.

Great Crochet Links

More Great Links

Let me hear from you!

What are you up to? Are you loving the club? Plans for crocheting holiday presents? Come chat in the forums!


Guide to Donating Stuffed Animals

I’m incredibly passionate about sharing the love of stuffed animals with children in need. In Ami Club, we will be selecting a few charities a year that are committed to lovingly matching children with their new companions.

However, you don’t need to mail stuffed animals across the country to make a difference! In this post, I’ll be sharing tips for finding a local source to receive your handmade creations.

The comfort of a plush

I love stuffed animals and I totally believe in their power to comfort. You had a favorite as a kid, didn’t you? One that you slept with and was like a security blanket?

I had a bear named “Teddy” (creative, huh?) and then I moved onto a purple hippo when given to me by a teenage boyfriend. (It was just like this one, but bigger. Can’t believe you can still find them! I got rid of mine along with the boyfriend).

And now Maddie has a puppy (named “Puppy”) that she sleeps with and feeds in her high chair.

There’s just something so special about having a soft toy to call your own. It’s always there to give you a snuggle.

My love for stuffed animals is why I do what I do: I think everyone deserves that special someone.

Choosing donations sites, carefully

It’s heartbreaking to think about, but there are so many kids who don’t have that special toy. Kids in poverty. Children whose families have lost everything they own in a fire. Foster children who are moved from house to house without any possessions of their own. There is a need for donated plush toys. Especially handmade ones that are created with love.

However, we need to be selective in where we send our animals. After the Newtown shooting, I helped organize a toy drive of handmade animals to send to Connecticut. I was devastated to discover that pretty much everyone had the same idea, and when I visited, I saw piles of animals by the site of the road, left like trash.

Since then I’ve learned that it’s best to NOT donate toys during a time of crisis. First responders and resources are tied up doing other things, and our best intentions often create an organizational nightmare, which of course, isn’t what we intended! For more details and my thoughts on the issue, please read An honest talk about charity, donating and the Philippines.

It can be difficult to find a charity that accepts stuffed animals. Because any item given to children has safety concerns, many hospitals have chosen to not accept donations.

This is why Ami Club will be highlighting a few charities a year who are eager to match children up with adorable plush friends!

How to find a place to donate locally

You don’t have to wait for an Ami Club drive to donate! I know that our drives involve shipping fees… money that could be spent making an impact in your area!

A few types of places are often eager recipients of stuffed animals. Call the chapter/office closest to you and ask if they are accepting donations and where you can drop them off.  Look for:

  • Police and Fire Departments (first responders often distribute a toy to a child on the scene of an incident to reduce fear and anxiety)
  • Foster Care agencies (usually with your county’s Childrens and Family Department)
  • Children’s Hospitals (enquire about allergies and age-appropriateness, below)
  • Women’s Homeless shelters (as they often have children as well)
  • School counselors (either to distribute at the in counseling sessions, or they may be aware of children needing a little something extra to take home)

Questions to ask

A surprising number of charities aren’t able to accept stuffed animals due to safety or allergy concerns. So, in addition to asking whether they accept toys, ask some of the following questions:

  • What ages are the children you serve? (if they are mostly infants, consider making toys with baby-safe eyes)
  • Are there any fiber restrictions? (many places request that animals be machine-washable, and to avoid wool for allergy concerns)
  • Is there anything additional I can add to make the gift special? (For example, some hospitals may be thrilled with a sweet card with well-wishes)
  • What is your timeline? When can I drop the toys off? Do you have a minimum number of animals you need?

These tips will help you get started to find a local home for your sweeties!


Find out more!

A pdf of this information is available in the library to all Ami Club members. You will find information about this month’s selected charity (coming soon!) in the forums.

Here are some more links you might find helpful!

Do you have any tips to share? Do let me know in the comments!




Sample Sale, Tuesday only!

Hi there! I’m having a FreshStitches Sample sale on Instagram!

FreshStitches Sample Sale

Today is #GivingTuesday, and Heifer International is doubling all donations today only. If you’re not familiar with them, they are an organization that gifts livestock and education to people in need, so that they can raise the animals and create an income for themselves. I’m really passionate about this charity because it’s helping others help themselves- and those people in turn give their small chicks (or other animal baby) to others in their community, and one donation lifts an entire village out of poverty.

I’m selling some FreshStitches samples and donating 100% of the sales to Heifer International today, so that the gift will be doubled. If I sell all of the plushies, we’ll be able to provide 2 sheep, 2 flocks of chicks, 2 flocks of ducks, 2 flocks of geese and 2 sets of honeybees! Squee!!! Or 2 sheep and 2 llamas. Well, there are lots of combinations. 🙂

So, hop on over and check them out! Instructions on how to purchase are in the posts: comment “SOLD + [your PayPal email]” and I’ll send you an invoice for your cutie!



Cyber Monday Deal!


It’s Cyber Monday, and I have a fabulous deal… Goodie Boxes!

These are available to Ami Club Members, only! (so, if you’re not a member, sign up now!)

Contents of the boxes vary, but that’s part of the surprise! Every box contains goodies worth at least $105 retail value, and include:

  • 2 different bundles of yarn (from the Texture bundle, bulky bundle or mini-skein bundle)
  • Notions case
  • Set of locking stitch markers
  • Nelson the Owl enamel pin
  • Sheep necklace
  • FreshStitches pattern

And lots more! Needle gauge, record-your-own inserts and many yarn balls and miscellaneous craft supplies part of the bundles!

These come in two size boxes, 2-lb and 3-lb. They both contain contents of similar value, but the 3-lb box contains more worsted weight yarn than the 2-lb box. The 2-lb box is a great option for international folks who are concerned about shipping prices.

Don’t miss out!

Today is the last day to join Ami Club with a 1-month free trial!

And don’t forget that the Furls Crochet Hook and Louet Needle of the Month Club deals are going on through today, as well!



Pineapple Shawl, Tutorials and Sharing the Love

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”25034″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]

What I’m up to

Whoa! So much has been happening around here! There’s the new website, Ami Club opening next week, Black Friday sales… oh, and did I mention my in-laws are coming from Australia for Thanksgiving? Their first Thanksgiving ever? No pressure.

With all of that, I’m (as the Aussies would say) “flat out like a lizard drinking”. Which roughly translates to “dog-tired”… but I’m also incredibly excited!

I’m not spilling any beans, but a major international craft magazine just emailed me this morning about featuring Ami Club. Whoa. The club is going to be so good and I just can’t wait until it launches, because I know you’ll love it too.

In my downtime, I finished crocheting my pineapple shawl (it’s SpaceCadet’s Lucina Fingering in the color Drizzle and the pattern is Pineapple Centerpiece #7771. Catchy name, huh?) The pattern is for a doily, and I was hoping that with a thicker yarn and bigger hook, it’d be shawl-size. I even added an extra row of pineapples… and it’s, well, a small shawl. Which is okay. I learned the knot stitch, which is cool even though I’m not sure how much I love the look. For my next one, I want to go bigger, so I’m eyeing this pattern. But it uses 4,000 yards. So, maybe next year.

If you don’t know all 4 colors of cauliflower (or haven’t seen them in one place), then you’ll want to look at this photo I took at my farmer’s market.

You’ve probably noticed that Nelson the Owl (my logo) got a bit of an update. I just finished crocheting a new Nelson. What a cutie!


Great (yarn-y) Links

More Great Links


Let me hear from you!

Today’s feel good story is this grandma who invited the wrong teen to Thanksgiving and invites him anyway. She says “Of course you can [still come by]. That’s what Grandmas do… feed everyone!” Isn’t that EXACTLY the spirit we all need right now? Spread the love, people.

Oh, and Michael’s JUST tweeted that they’re having a 70% off pre-Black Friday sale.

Let me know what you’re up to! You’ll hear from me again before Thanksgiving![/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”25020″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row]