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 organized a side event: as we were anticipating that most or all of our guests would be women (given of the goods we were offering – jewelry and stuffed animals-), we called upon Irini Fthenaki of House of Color who did a mini seminar on what colors 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?

Guide to Donating Stuffed Animals

I’m incredibly passionate about sharing the love of stuffed animals with children in need.

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 side 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.

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?

Note from Wendi – I’ve been told by many that their local hospitals really like Warren the Charity Bear – for reasons I didn’t anticipate when I designed the pattern. I found out that children who have chest or abdominal surgery are required to cough frequently after their surgery, and to support their incision with a pillow when they do this. Warren is just the right size and shape for that. Nurses also like that he has very short arms and legs – nothing that will get caught or snagged on the many tubes and monitors that kids in the hospital often have to deal with. So keep those tips in mind if you’re making toys for kids in the hospital – and definitely talk to someone at your local hospital to find out what restrictions/needs they have.


Find out more!

Here are some more links you might find helpful!

Do you have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments!



Have you heard about the Red Scarf Project?

This post originally appeared on November 20th, 2013. But it’s such a great cause, I’m reposting it with additional information!

What happens to a child in the foster care system when they turn 18? They’re ‘adults’, and are set out into the world alone, and without a network of family or social resources.

Sad, right?

If those kids are awesome enough to get themselves into college… who sends them care packages? Who do they call if they need an emergency $50 for a surprise textbook?

In most cases, they have no one to turn to.

Makes you sniffle, right?

That’s why I love Foster Care to Success, an organization that supports foster care children who have ‘aged out’ of the system. The organization collects money for emergency funds and runs other great drives to support this often-overlooked population.

I particularly love the Red Scarf Project. I read about it in Craft Activism.

Red Scarf project

The Red Scarf Project collects scarves from September 1st – December 15th every year, and then distributes them to a foster student on Valentine’s Day.

Isn’t that sweet? Can you imagine how special you’d feel if a handmade scarf with a sweet note showed up on your door? And what a boost that would give to your semester?

That’s why I’m knitting one!

Red Scarf Project

I didn’t feel like I had the time: the Kit Club packages, hosting Thanksgiving dinner, planning for the holidays… and then I told myself “Balarky! You can make the time! These college students don’t have families!”

And surprise… I’m finding the time!

Join in!

Can you spare the time?

Nothing fancy is required, just a simple red knitted or crocheted scarf. Check out the guidelines, here.

This link tells you where to mail the scarves, as well as the not-too-hard guidelines (basically is red, gender neutral and about 60″ long). Pattern suggestions, too!

Sweet extras, such as a hand-written note, are welcome!

Made with Love – Donating Your Handmade Quilts and Softies

Donating Handmade Toys and QuiltsEvery once in a while I get an email from someone saying they love to make softies, but don’t have any children in their lives right now the right age to get them. They want some suggestions for where they can donate their creations.

There are so many wonderful places!

  • children’s hospitals
  • firefighters and police departments like to keep some on hand to give to traumatized children
  • homeless and family violence shelters
  • orphanages – both in the US and overseas

This is just a the tip of the iceberg! I put out a call in a recent newsletter asking readers where they give, and I got a bunch of great responses!

So let’s start with a few general guidelines and things to think about, and then move into the specific suggestions offered by readers.

The number one bit of advice I have is to ask first! Some organizations might have restrictions that you could never anticipate. Depending on the ward, some hospitals can only take toys that are made of hypoallergenic materials – they can give you a list of what is and isn’t allowed. One suggestion that surprised me (but made perfect sense) was to keep arms and legs minimal so there’s less to get hooked on tubes and wires.

My local shelter asked for toys to be small – they pointed out that each kid has a bed and a small shelf and that’s it – and when they leave they leave with a small bag. They can’t have a stuffed animal that takes up half the bag. They also asked for some teen-appropriate softies, saying the teens are often happy to have a softie to hug, but don’t want something that looks too babyish – a request that totally broke my heart. So contact the organization and ask first.

And remember – your favorite organization might prefer cash! I’ve lost count of the number of cat and dog quilts that have been made and auctioned off at shelter fundraisers! Every one of them makes me so happy!

Sarah of Dolls and Daydreams has some really great info about donating dolls abroad here.

And now – here are some responses from readers. . .

Lots and lots of people mentioned the Knit-a-Square organization. They collect knitted and crocheted squares to be joined into afghans, and also handmade stuffed animals and dolls – all going to AIDS orphans in Africa. Definitely take a look at their website – they have the infrastructure to distribute a LOT of love. 🙂

Julia writes. . .

I am about to send two quilts to Quilts For Kids, an organization that donates quilts for kids in hospitals. I have tons of baby-ish fabrics in my closet and feel great that they’re all going to a good cause.
After I found out about QFK heard a lovely story about a family that had premature twin babies in a NICU in New York–the NICU also had quilts and both parents commented on how comforting this was.

Beatrice writes. . .

Currently I am in the process of making lots of “Warrens” which will be donated to orphanages and cancer hospitals in Egypt. I have been living in this country for 18 years and donated lots of items and cash to help the poorest, which sadly are numerous. This time though, I feel really happy, because with every lovely bear finished I try to imagine a little girl or boy who will love what I have created.

Liz writes. . .

A local organization that I donate time, money, and material things to is Hope’s Door, in Dallas.  It’s a shelter for battered women and their children.  They do a wonderful job and are a great bunch of dedicated, insanely organized people.  Throughout the year, Hope’s Door does everything from toy drives to fun runs to auctions. If you’re going to post a list, I’d love for you to mention them, and I know they would appreciate it, too!  They always have needs because, sadly, they always have clients.

Cindy writes. . .

There is a woman who works with my husband who belongs to a small church that gives away bags of food once a month. For Christmas I donate lots of stuffed animals and dolls. And also at Easter I donate  Easter things – bunnies and chicks, etc. I’m so grateful I have the time and money to do this.

Candy writes. . .
Here’s a suggestion of where to donate softies; local hospitals and local woman’s shelters. I have been making and donating for several years now to both. The shelters love the animals or dolls because lots of times the families are rushed away from their homes because of fear and abuse and don’t have time to grab things of love and importance so having something to cling to (softie) is sometimes a life saver. This goes for kids as well as the women. Hospitals love any type of donation, whether it be softies, knitted things for babies, sewn things for babies and blankies. I know there are lots of other places to donate but these are my favorite.

Laura writes. . .

Wildlife rescue groups sometimes request crochet artificial nests for orphaned birds, bunnies, possums etc. Your readers can see if they can find one locally that needs some.

I have seen cat and dog rescues that take handmade fleece blankets to shelters so the animals don’t have to sleep in those harsh metal cages without any protection and warmth they can receive from a blanket. Just make sure to contact rescue first to obtain size wanted.
An excellent charity is your local domestic violence shelter. These families have fled their homes with nothing. They can use new blankets and quilts ( I have donated many fleece blankets for infants and toddlers), new handmade softies for the kids, hats gloves and scarves in the winter. This is an extremely rewarding charity to donate!

Ann writes. . .

I donate softies and dolls at my local hospital pediatrics ward and in the Emergency Room waiting area where children often are waiting with adults. I also go to the local pediatric office, pediatric dentist office, the sheriff’s department and the fire department.

Joan writes. . .

We are a small group of ladies that gather once a month to sew to donate. Some of local items we have donated are fleece hats given to our pre-school.  We used a pattern from Nancy’s Notions.  They loved them. Kid capes were given to our local day care centers. We borrowed a doll from the pre-school and made doll clothes, diapers, blankets, a mattress for a crib, etc. for their room. This month we are making pillows for cancer patients.  We are making a port pillow, heart shaped pillows, rectangle pillows.  These are delivered to local hospitals that give cancer treatments. One month we did walker bags for a local nursing home.  We did lap quilts for shut-ins. We have made burp cloths and receiving blankets and bibs for Northeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership.
We like to find local spots we can donate for we have found postage is soo expensive.

Finally – a couple of specific patterns.

I designed Warren the Charity Bear especially for donations. He can be made out of any kind of fabric, with any kind of stuffing, and has lots of possible variations so you won’t get bored if you decide to make a lot of them – like Kathy and many others have done. 🙂

Kathy made the Warrens in this photo and Caroline made the ones in the top photo – both for Knit-a-Square.

Lots of colorful and fun Warren Bears - made with a free pattern from Shiny Happy World

I’ve also heard that Warren makes an excellent post-op cough pillow for kids. People who have had chest or abdominal surgery are taught to hug a pillow when they cough, to help support the incision and ease pain. Warren is just the right size and shape for this. 🙂 He also has very small arms and legs – small enough that lines and cords in a hospital bed won’t get caught on them.

You can see how to make Warren here.

I also have a tutorial here showing how I made an easy scrap quilt for charity.

If you have any other suggestions – either for places to donate or favorite patterns to use – please leave a note in the comments section!

Happy sewing!

How to Make an Easy Charity Quilt – a simple and fun tutorial

The easy charity quilt I made for Craft Hope is finished and on its way. I love how it turned out! 

How to Make a Charity Quilt - an easy and fun tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Craft Hope is an organization that partners with different organizations to collect handmade items for donation. I know lots of crafters like making items to donate  and there’s always a demand for patterns for easy charity quilts, so when I made my Craft Hope Quilt I decided to share the how-to so you could make one too, if you’re so inclined.

It’s an easy and fun technique – great for beginners of all ages. I’ve been posting lots of in-progress photos as I go and I’ve been getting a ton of questions, so I’m going to answer them here all in one place. . .

How are you piecing and quilting the blocks all at once?

That is the magic of Quilt As You Go. It really is the perfect no-stress way to make a scrap quilt of this kind.

You can see a full tutorial for the process here.

Did you really make it all from scraps?

Yep. I have (had) a lot of scraps and I store them in baskets sorted by color – which made it really easy to make this kind of quilt without making a HUGE mess in my studio. It was more of a manageable mess. 🙂

If you did all the quilting while you pieced, how are you backing it? Do you have to quilt it again?

Here’s what the back of the quilt looks like.

How to Make a Charity Quilt - an easy and fun tutorial from Shiny Happy World

I backed it in Cuddle Fleece – delightfully soft, cuddly, and easy to work with. I used it as the back of a quilt for my daughter a little over a year ago and she loves it so much that she basically told me I should never use anything else. 🙂

You can see that the front is nice and crinkly after washing – every seam is also quilted so it crinkles up nicely.

The back has a lot less quilting. I sewed all the finished, quilted blocks together, pressed the seams open, backed it with the fleece, basted it (I use safety pins) and then quilted 1/4″ from each block-joining seam. I like the kind of frame-ish effect around each block and I like the big grid on the back.

There’s a video here showing that technique in more detail.

How big is the finished quilt?

Each block is a 10″ square, finished, so the full quilt is 60″ wide and 90″ tall. You could very easily make it bigger or smaller just by adding or removing blocks. You could also change the size of the blocks, but I don’t think I’d make them much bigger – a 10″ grid on the back of the quilt works very well but there might be some bagging or sagging if you went a lot bigger. I’ve done some quilts with 12″ blocks and that works fine too.

Why don’t you spray baste?

I tried it once (many years ago) and it was a disaster. The fumes are pretty intense and you’re supposed to do it outside – but there’s no clean place in my yard to do it and I don’t have a clothesline to use for that method. So I tried it inside where the fumes almost killed me. I got overspray in my carpet (which was very hard to wash out) and then the adhesive gummed up my needle the whole time I was sewing. The product has probably improved a lot since then (I don’t even remember what brand I tried) but it will be a while before I’m ready to try it again. 😛

How do you pick your binding on a quilt with so many colors?

I really love to use black and white or dark grey bindings with a rainbow quilt like this. I actually would have preferred a nice crisp black and white stripe for this, but I didn’t have enough of that and I needed to ship the quilt out to make the deadline so I went with the black and white gingham-ish print you see in the photo above. I love black and white with bright colors!

That’s it!

With winter and the holidays coming, a lot of organizations are calling for quilts – especially twin quilts and crib quilts for kids in need and lap quilts for seniors. This is a fun technique for an easy charity quilt that even beginning quilters can make successfully. Kids can do it too! Give it a try!

Happy quilting!

That's me!

Charity Quilt Tutorial

Red and purple improv log cabin blocks made with the free scrap quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

For a while now I’ve been thinking about designing a free scrap quilt pattern that’s as fun, easy and versatile as the Warren the Charity Bear pattern.

Just like Warren, I wanted something that was fast. I know some of you make and give away a LOT of these quilt every year.

I wanted something that was easy. Easy enough for a beginner or a child to make.

I wanted something that was versatile. Something that you could play around with and make a lot of different looks – and not get bored making lots of them.

When Craft Hope announced that they were looking for some quilts for part of their newest project, I jumped right in.

I’m making my quilt entirely from scraps. I sort my scraps by color and I’m tackling one basket at a time, so the blocks so far are all purple and red. When I’m done it’ll include all the colors of the rainbow. 🙂

My quilt also uses Quilt As You Go – but a different technique from what you’ve seen me use for the applique quilts. For this quilt I’m actually quilting as I piece – a huge time-saver and lots of fun. This method also allows me to use batting scraps. Bonus!

Here’s how I build a block. . .

Batting squares cut and ready to use in a free scrap quilt pattern.

Cut some batting squares a little bit bigger than the size you want your finished blocks to be. My finished blocks will be 10 inches square, which means I’d normally cut them 10 1/2 inches – but I cut mine 11 inches square to give myself a bit of wiggle room. That wiggle room lets you be a bit imperfect in your cutting – see how the fold in the batting made a little jagged pointy bit on the left side? That’s ok – it’ll get trimmed off. 🙂

Important! You must use 100% cotton batting. You’re going to press this a lot and anything with polyester in it will melt to your iron. I always use Warm & Natural – you can read my review of it here.

Blue and yellow beetle fabric on a batting square

Pick a piece of fabric to be your center feature and cut it (roughly) into the shape you want. All of mine are four sides – but nowhere near perfect squares or rectangles. I used scissors (not rotary cutting tools) and just eyeballed everything. Slap that piece down in the middle-ish of a batting square.

detail image showing how to piece an improv log cabin block

Now pick another scrap of fabric. Trim it to match the width of the starter scrap, lay it face down over the starter scrap with the raw edges mostly lined up, and sew across the edge using 1/4 inch-ish seam allowance. You’re sewing through both pieces of fabric and the batting.

detail image showing how to piece an improv log cabin block

Flip that piece up and press it flat.

Now we’ll add another strip. I like to work clockwise, but it really doesn’t matter.

detail image showing how to piece an improv log cabin block

Lay a strip face down over both your earlier pieces and trim it (roughly) to fit. Sew it in place just like the first one. (You can click on the photo if you need to see it bigger.)

detail image showing how to piece an improv log cabin block

Flip that piece open and press it flat.

first rings of red strips sewn around a yellow rectangle, demonstrating a free scrap quilt pattern

Keep working your way around that center, building up the size of your block. I added the zigzag piece next, then the skinny stripes.

Keep adding strips until the batting is completely covered.

detail image showing how to piece an improv log cabin block

Those first four red strips were pretty uniform, so it’s time for a skinnier strip. I like to keep things mixed up for more interesting blocks.

detail image showing how to piece an improv log cabin block

I also like to make sure some of my strips go slanty – so they’re thicker at one end and thinner at the other. To do that, I don’t line up the raw edges exactly – I let the new strip slope up or down a bit, like in the photo above.

detail image showing how to piece an improv log cabin block

See how that looks when it’s pressed open? It’s not the most efficient use of fabric, but I’m only wasting a tiny bit and I think it makes the block much more interesting.

detail image showing how to piece an improv log cabin block

Sometimes I use a new fabric with every strip and sometimes I’ll use the same fabric a few times in a row to build interesting shapes. Two consecutive strips of the same fabric makes an L. Three makes a U. And four makes a frame.

detail image showing how to piece an improv log cabin block

Sometimes I only have strips that are too short to reach all the way from edge to edge of the block – especially as the center section gets bigger.

When that happens, I just sew two strips together and use the new, longer strip in my piecing. Sometimes I use two strips of the same fabric, and sometimes I use different fabrics (like in the strip on the right in the photo above). It totally depends on my mood at the moment.

Red improv log cabin block with raggedy edges, waiting to be trimmed. Free scrap quilt pattern.

Keep going until your batting square is completely covered.

Finished block in a free scrap quilt pattern, shown from the back so you can see the quilting lines

Here it is from the back. See how there’s fabric showing all around the edge of the batting? And look at the nice quilting already done – holding everything together. I’m going to back this quilt with cuddle fleece for special cuddly warmth. There are tips here for using cuddle fleece for the back.

Trimmed block (shown from the back) in a free scrap quilt pattern

Trim your block down to size from the back, so you can see that you’re getting batting in the entire block. I trimmed mine down to 10 1/2″ square.

And here’s the finished block!

Finished red improv log cabin block - a sample demo block in a free scrap quilt pattern

In the very first photo I showed the blocks arranged in a checkerboard-ish pattern, with red blocks alternating with purple. I’m not sure yet what the final arrangement for the quilt will be – it kind of depends on how many blocks I end up with for each color. Here’s an alternate possibility where the blocks blend from one color to another.

Red and purple sample block arrangement for a free scrap quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

Whatever arrangement I choose, the final quilt will be bright and cheerful and cuddly and warm – just what I want to give a child. 🙂

Update! You can see the finished free scrap quilt here. Along with showing the finished quilt, I also answered a lot of questions people had about the process. Click over to get more details.

A couple of final notes. . .

I think improvisational scrap blocks like this look best when you sort your fabrics a bit first. You can see that within the red blocks there’s a brick red block, a red and white block, two bright pink blocks, one light pink block, and several bright red blocks. Within the purples I have one magenta-ish purple block, three lighter purple blocks, and lots of dark purple blocks. Sticking to one shade or tone per block keeps a little order.

This would be a really fun way to make an I Spy quilt – with pairs of center pieces to match up. I have two of the larger blue/green stars and two of the girl in the blue tree.

Here’s a post with some helpful info about where you can donate your finished beauties made with this free scrap quilt pattern.

Happy quilting!

An honest talk about charity, donating and the Philippines

I was going to show you how I made my monster skirt today… but I’ve postponed it a little because there’s a topic weighing heavily on me that I want to talk about.

By most reports, the typhoon that struck the Philippines is the worst tropical storm to make landfall. The death toll is over 3,000 and some estimates predict it will reach 10,000.

What I’m about to say may be controversial, but please hear me out.

Donating toys to the Philippines

Please do not send stuffed animals to the Philippines

The victims of the Philippines typhoon do not have food, drinking water or medicine. They don’t have enough personnel to move debris to search for survivors, or enough well-bodied people to bury their dead. It is a catastrophic situation that most of us find hard to imagine.

As crafters, we want to help. Our first instinct is to make/sew something to send to people in need.

This is a great instinct, but we need to use our judgement. We need devote our crafting energy towards causes where we can make the greatest impact.

And right now isn’t the time. Let me tell you a little about what we learned from Newtown…

Lessons from Newtown

Do you remember when we collected stuffed animals to send to the children of the Newtown tragedy? Crafters banded together and sent an astonishing number of stuffed animals. I was so proud!

I was devastated to find out that what we thought was a great idea turned into a burden. The town was overwhelmed with stuffed animals, requiring countless volunteers and warehouses.

It breaks my heart to say that many of those animals never made it to children. There were just too many.

Do what is most needed

I love stuffed animals (trust me!), but we need to make sure we are doing what is best for the disaster area. The people in the Philippines need water and relief workers, and right now, the best way to get that help to them is to donate money to a relief organization.

Sending a stuffed animal to the Philippines won’t calm the grumble of a child’s hungry tummy and it takes up valuable shipping and distribution resources that are needed for essentials. The shipping cost, alone, would provide food for a family for days.

Use the tragedy to inspire your charity crafting

I know that in horrible times such as this, your fingers get itching to make something… that’s wonderful! You can still help! Maybe you make animals and sell them, donating the profits to the relief effort.

Or maybe you feel inspired to make animals… but save them and donate them to your local fire department, to calm a local child after a scary incident.

amigurumi crochet bear

Crafters are an amazingly caring group of people. Please continue the tradition of caring by doing what’s best for the disaster-struck region. Send money. Save your stuffed animals for where they’re needed.

Tips for Starting a Craft Club

Tammy Powley Today’s guest post is written by Tammy Powley, crocheter and blogger at The Crafty Princess Diaries.

Tammy leads a craft club at her local school, and she’s been sweet enough to stop by today and share her tips! This post contains some great tips and also a list of charities that you can consider contacting if you’re interested in starting your own charity-driven craft group.

Have a read, and you might feel inspired to start a craft club of your own!


I am a member of a number of web-based craft groups, and we often get together (virtually) and use our crafting skills to help charitable organizations. While the Internet is a wonderful space to find fellow crafters and fiber lovers, I started to crave the “in person” experience.

However, the only group I could find locally meets at times when I’m working, as all are retirees. This dilemma eventually gave me the idea to start my own craft club. Though my club is affiliated with a school, a similar approach can be taken to create a club at other institutions or privately.

Find your Mission

I enjoy making donation items, and since I am a teacher, I decided to combine these two interests and start a craft club at my school. We are called Caring through Crafting and our mission is twofold: teach club members various crafting skills (crochet, knitting, paper-arts, jewelry making, etc.) and then use these skills to help local charities.

craft club

A few months after starting the club, I was lucky enough to find another faculty member who knits and crochets, and we both are now the club’s advisors. During the school year, the club meets twice a month, and we craft like crazy.

Each semester we select a service project. Some of our past and current projects include the following:

  • Making fleece blankets and collecting donated items for Save the Chimps.
  • Crocheting and knitting snuggles for two animal shelters: Domino’s House and Dogs and Cats Forever.
  • Making no-sew blankets, crocheting and knitting wash cloths, and collecting toiletry items for Miss Inc., a women’s and children’s shelter.
  • Making baby hats and afghans for Okeechobee Healthy Start.
  • Making various crafts (greeting cards, jewelry, amigurumi, journals) and selling them at a local craft show with the proceeds going to charity.

Straighten out the supply-line

When I first started the club, there was no funding available from the school because I started it in the middle of a semester and everything had already been budgeted. I bought our first batch of yarn and crochet hooks, but it did not take long for us to start receiving donations.

how to start a craft club

Here are some tips for getting funding and donated supplies:

  • Whenever it is appropriate, tell every person you know about your club, especially if you plan to also participate in charitable projects. Word of mouth has been my most successful way to receive donated supplies.
  • Many newspapers have small sections where they feature local activities. Contact them about your club.
  • Use social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, and Plurk) to help get the word out. Our club has a Facebook page that also helps us keep members up to date with club activities.
  • Keep an on-going list of supplies you need, and keep track of spending. This can be helpful when someone asks about what supplies you need.
  • Run fund raisers to earn money for your club. Our club makes greeting cards and sells them throughout the school year.

Expect the unexpected

Of course, there was a big learning curve for me when I started the club, and this is an on-going process.

assembling an afghan

Here are a few challenges to expect:

  • Not all donated supplies are going to be useful to you. Sometime you may have to decline simply because you have no use for them, or you may not have enough storage space.
  • As far as yarn goes, expect a lot of acrylic, which is actually fine for many charities (since it is easy to care for) and useful for beginners to use as they learn.
  • If your club decides to commit to a big project, make sure you are ready to commit yourself to doing all of the work. Lots of times members will have great ideas but are not able to follow through. If you feel you could not complete the project on your own, then you may have to nicely explain to members that it may not be a good fit for the club right now.
  • You won’t be able to please all the club members. Some will want to knit and crochet, and others will want to make jewelry. Make a schedule and agenda in advance so members know what activities they will participate in at each meeting.
  • These days, families are so busy that there is little time to sit down and teach children how to sew on a button or crochet a scarf. Do not expect to make large-scale projects if you have inexperienced crafters. Items like snuggles and dish cloths are perfect beginners’ projects. Be patient and encouraging when teaching newbie crafters.

The club has turned into a lot of work for both my co-advisor and me, more than either of us had imagined. The emotional rewards, however, are worth all of the effort.

We have seen club members go from learning the chain stitch to crocheting a small blanket for a cat or dog in just a few weeks. Not only do they learn a new skill and help others, but in turn, they help themselves. School is an enriching environment, but it can also be stressful. At our meetings, we have fun and learn and achieve. We talk, joke, and bond as we weave together bits of yarn. Members feel successful and proud of their efforts, and this translates into self-esteem and self-worth that they carry with them forever.