Hello friends! For part of this month’s Sew Goodness update, I want to talk about sewing for charity and giving, including some lessons I’m learning about making time for giving and serving. So here are some thoughts on how to make the most of your sewing and giving for charity and how pace yourself in order to help the most people effectively. (Including yourself.)
There were enough blocks for SEVEN quilts! (more on them below)
I’m excited to say that these quilt tops are finally pieced. When I put out the call for blocks last spring, I was so touched by the response as so many of you made blocks (many times multiples!) and sent them to me. And at the time I had high hopes to get them pieced together pronto.
Welp, that didn’t happen.
And all summer I felt guilty seeing that pile of blocks and not getting them organized and prepped for sewing, let alone just sewing them in the first place. (And I know that some of you offered to help with the piecing and I just couldn’t even get them organized enough to send them out. Once I finally got them organized by quilt a few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to piece them because I wanted to see what they looked like all together.)
So here are some thoughts that I learned, or was reminded of, along this process
1. Giving blesses/enriches the receiver AND the giver. We’re doing this because we care about those around us who are struggling. But it also just feels good to give – we receive happiness and more meaningful quality of life when we choose to look beyond ourselves to those who are struggling in any way.
I loved this recent story about a man who had a goal to make 500 baby blankets before he turned 95. So heart-warming. It feels good to do good!
2. Pace yourself: It doesn’t all have to be done today. Or tomorrow. Obviously, occasionally there are some needs that are urgent that we don’t want to ignore. But we also shouldn’t ignore the real, everyday needs or people in front of us.
I feel like I was reminded of that this summer. As a mom of 4 teenagers, life is busy. And even though they’re getting bigger and more independant, they still need a mom. And now that I’ve had one leave the nest, I’m realizing that my time with them is more fleeting than I thought. I don’t want to miss the memories and experiences with them. We’re all in different circumstances and seasons of life. Do what you can, when you can.
And now with hindsight, even though it took me 5 months longer than I’d planned, we pulled off seven quilts for charity, for crying out loud! When you step back to look at the big picture, 5 extra months is not that big of a deal. Right?
3. Let go of the guilt. Honestly, there’s no point. We’re doing this to make people’s lives better (including our own), not add a layer of guilt and shame. Once again, (say it with me now): Do what you can, when you can.
Even if all you can give that day is an extra smile to someone in need, well do it! And good for you!
4. Your giving doesn’t have to be monumental. One of my favorite thoughts is: “By small and simple things, are great things brought to pass” – any contribution to a larger cause makes a difference. Don’t hold back because you feel like your offering is too small, or too late. There’s no such thing!!
This collection of scrappy quilt blocks is a perfect example of that. Many hands contributed to a greater cause, which resulted in 7 quilts to donate to Project Linus.
5. You don’t have to do everything. (And don’t compare what you’re doing to what other people are doing.) If you want to, just pick one thing and do that thing. You’re the only one that knows your capabilities right now. It doesn’t matter how much or how little other people are accomplishing (or sharing) or what they think of what you are accomplishing and sharing.
Sometimes it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the many very legitimate needs we see to the point that we don’t know where to start, so we don’t to anything. Don’t let the overwhelm get you. Again, pick one thing and focus on that thing. You are making a difference.
6. Donate to a reputable charity and make sure they actually need the items you want to give, so that the items you are making and donating are actually getting in the hands of people who need them. (There is a great article here by Abby Glassenberg about crafting for charity.) Find a reputable charity and check their actual needs and materials specifications so that you don’t waste any of your, or their, valuable time or resources. The Sew Goodness page has a growing list of charities that are actively looking for sewing donations.
7. Work with a charity organization following a major natural disaster or large-scale tragedy. This one feels especially timely during another devastating hurricane season. We makers are doers and doing something makes us feel like we are helping. When we see others going through challenges – particularly natural disasters when homes and earthly possessions are lost – we recognize our surplus and we want to share.
This comment from Elaine Clements last year after Hurricane Harvey was particularly enlightening:
“I work with a religious organization that has a best practice model disaster relief international (and domestic) program. I live in New Orleans where we have experienced a number of disasters, the most notable being Hurricane Katrina. I appreciate that people want to help but “goods” donated are called “the disaster after the disaster”, especially domestically when even after a disaster, most people have access to goods in local stores. Needs change quickly after a disaster so that by the time the need is expressed, the goods amassed and shipped, the need is most often over. Also, buying things locally helps support the local economy, giving it a much needed post disaster boost. It also allows people to choose what they want rather than us choosing what WE want them to have, an important component of respecting human dignity. Also, storing and distributing large quantities of goods becomes a nightmare for non-profits helping people recover. While I appreciate that quilters generously want to give of the thing that they love (quilts), most folks along the Gulf Coast really don’t use or need quilts, especially in hurricane season, when average temps hover in the high 90’s. In Katrina, well-meaning people sent us truck loads of winter coats, hockey gear, children’s books (things the community ended up warehousing for years and years at great expense and finally, having to dispose of). We can also become convinced that sending goods is a good idea because people in the disaster don’t say “no” to our donation when we offer. Part of every trip I make to these areas is to listen to local folks talk about goods and how to handle them because they don’t want to say “no” because “people are so nice”. Please, please, instead of sending goods, consider sending money to your favorite disaster relief organization.”
Sometimes the distribution of goods can cause more challenges for over-taxed relief agencies. So a few final thoughts specifically for helping out in times of large natural disasters or crises:
8. Donate surplus clothing, bedding, etc to a local charity that is looking for those kinds of donations. They are equipped to process those items for the best possible use, whether it’s getting the items to people in your local community who are in need, or filling requests from outside causes (such as natural disasters) for calls for specific goods.
9. Donate money. We love to make and donate items like quilts, but often the greater immediate need is things like diapers, clean clothes, or a new roof. Your donation doesn’t have to be huge – again, remember collectively small and simple things make a difference. Donations allow funds to be used most efficiently, where the need is greatest, and goes back into the local community at the site of the disaster.
Make sure the place you’re contributing to is a reputable charity. You may also want to make sure their overhead is low so that the money you are donating is going directly to the cause in need. I typically donate to LDS Humanitarian services because 100% of my donation goes to the cause itself. Other great options are Catholic Relief Services and Samaritan’s Purse or visit Charity Navigator to checkout legitimate organizations.
10. Donate time Websites like JustServe.org and Create the Good.org have lists of local charities looking to fill specific needs on a local level. Just put your zip code in and you’ll find a list of ways you can help close to home. If you are trying to fill a legitimate charitable need, it’s also a forum where you can submit an invitation for help.
Finally, I’m SO EXCITED to share these gorgeous quilts! I finally got the blocks sewn together from the scrappy log cabin drive we did last spring. (You can also find the tutorial to make your own).
There were enough blocks for SEVEN quilts! Six of the quilts finished at 60″ x 72″ and one of the quilts (the pink/purple one) finished at 48″ x 60″. THANK YOU!!! These quilts will be donated to Project Linus.
Most of the quilts were monochromatic, with the exception of this color spectrum quilt. Aren’t they awesome? Isn’t it amazing what many hands (and scraps) working together can do?
All of the quilts are folded in half for this picture, just so that I could get them all to fit in one shot! (I have a small handful of about 5 blocks left over and will hold onto them for future charity quilts, or I’m happy to send them along to someone who can put them to use right away.)
And a big thank you to Riley Blake Designs for donating backing yardage for all of the quilts and to those who volunteered to do the machine quilting on these quilts including: Charmed Life Quilting, Mixi Heart Quilts, Homestead Quilter, Material Girl Quilts, and Tricia Clayton.
And now a September spotlight on another great quilting cause: Jessica aka @CraftyCop on Instagram has spearheaded a drive for quilts for families of police officers killed in the line of duty. Over the past year enough blocks have been donated and assembled for over 100 quilts. (All blocks were made using this tutorial by Heritage Threads.)
If you are aware of any fallen officers in your community or would like to help this cause contact Jessica directly (A Direct Message/DM through her Instagram account.)
Kudos again to so many of you who are already doing so much. Carry on my friends.
PS: If you know of a cause that’s in need, either urgently because of the current devastation from Hurricane Florence, or an ongoing cause that I can feature in a future Sew Goodness post, please share in the comments of this post!