Sew Goodness – Thoughts on charitable sewing

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.)

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! (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.

This quilt assembled by Amy Vaughn

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!

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  • Reply
    September 18, 2018 at 5:58 am

    I can also longarm one of the quilts! I have plenty of spare batting…and time!

  • Reply
    Candace Allan
    September 18, 2018 at 7:58 am

    WONDERFUL article on charity giving today! Excellent encouragement and tips on what to give where. I will share the website address with my quilting bee friends today. Great blog Amy!!

    • Reply
      September 18, 2018 at 8:32 pm

      Thank you, Candace!

  • Reply
    September 18, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Such an inspirational post! You have a good heart and it’s nice to see it shine 🙂 I loved the story about the 95 year old quilter…I read it the other day and shared it with family. Your post ties in with that so nicely…his wife missed his company at times, but look at his accomplishment! I think we all feel some guilt working on projects at crunch time.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Reply
      September 18, 2018 at 8:32 pm

      Thank you, Tina!

  • Reply
    September 18, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Appreciated this post – thank you!

  • Reply
    September 18, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Wonderful post, Amy and the links were eye opening. I had no idea there were so many Opportunities in my local community, particularly for volunteering time.

  • Reply
    Lana Manis
    September 18, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Thank you for this post and the encouragement to do something. As I write this, I am sitting in a hospital room with my little 2 1/2 year old granddaughter who is in the midst of aggressive chemo. She has been in this children’s hospital since June 1st, with less than two weeks total spent at home some time ago. She loves having her own blankets and quilts, and I have thought often about making some small quilts to give to children here. When I have a little more time back at home, I hope to come up with a proposal, even if a small one, to do something.

    • Reply
      September 18, 2018 at 8:32 pm

      Oh goodness, hugs to that sweet granddaughter (and to you)! So much for your family right now. It’s amazing how when we are in the middle of our own trials, we can see more clearly how to help others through theirs. Sending love and prayers your way. xo

    • Reply
      Mary Scott
      September 23, 2018 at 8:25 am

      I love to make small cuddly quilts if you would be interested in letting me help you with your project email me at mscott2611@comcast.net and tell me some sizes and maybe I can start on it now because I need a new project to occupy my time.

  • Reply
    September 18, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Wow, wow, wow! Amazing quilts. And I agree about the overflow of donations during a disaster. We see what we think is a need, but it then ends up being wasted. Over the years my family has donated towards Samaritans Purse, as we have seen them in action, helping all over the world. Thanks for the insights.

  • Reply
    September 18, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    Amy, you created amazing quilt tops from all those blocks. They are so bright and colorful. I don’t even remember where they are going, but it’s a treat to see them. They will be cherished for sure. You make some very great points in your post. I always think, it would be great to send a quilt to a needy family, but perhaps what they mostly need is money to buy the basics. A warm quilt is lovely but only if you have a roof over your head, food on the table, stability and safe surroundings. Are you doing a monthly “sew goodness” drive right now or did I miss one?

    • Reply
      September 18, 2018 at 8:30 pm

      Thank you! I didn’t feature a monthly drive, other than mentioning the drive by Crafty Cop if anyone would like to help with that cause.

      I decided to let everyone catch their breath this month (okay, maybe just me) and I’ll be back with a new challenge next month!

  • Reply
    Karen Seitz
    September 18, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Fantastic quilts and a great post. It makes me want to dive into my scraps right now!

  • Reply
    September 18, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    I love all the colors. Often times I feel frustrated when I go to Quild meetings and everyone brings their quilts to show but I have trouble getting some of them to even make a pillowcase. Oh well it’s their loss. I have a great time sewing for others. I will bring 22 quilts Thurs night and ask them to just finish sewing the binding down by our Nov meeting. They are meant to be Christmas presents for the Women’s Shelter. I have done the rest. This usually works. Hopefully someone will pay me for the thread. I used a lot.

    • Reply
      September 23, 2018 at 7:08 am

      I feel your pain. But don’t lose your blessing by dwelling on their nonparticipating. I faced much the same situation with the group I quilt with monthly. But when there was a crisis that involved someone’s loved one a quilt was made with a lot of members helping. Since then we have made several more and right now have two in the works!?. I volunteer to do most of the quilting. Just wish we could do more.

    • Reply
      September 23, 2018 at 1:23 pm

      Same with the group I sewed with. I finally left the group and now Sew solo.

  • Reply
    Amanda Castor
    September 19, 2018 at 6:56 am

    Amy, these quilts turned out so beautiful!!! Thank you for taking your time to piece them together. I’d be happy to quilt one if you are still in need of any quilters! I’ll provide batting as well. I also love that you highlighted Jessica’s work – what she has been able to accomplish with the help of quilters across the country is nothing short of amazing. Kudos to you both for taking action!

    • Reply
      September 19, 2018 at 9:36 am

      Thank you Amanda! THat would be fantastic. I’ll email you.

      And yes, I think the way Jessica has rallied so many quilters is amazing.

  • Reply
    Glenda Stanton
    September 19, 2018 at 8:31 am

    So very well said. Crafters hearts are so big. Your wisdom will help direct our efforts in an efficient, effective way. Hoping to share with several stitch groups. Hurricane Harvey taught those of us in South Texas some of these lessons. People were so willing, but didn’t realize the magnitude of the storage and distribution difficulties. Local charities are able to process cash donations to meet many needs. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2018 at 9:15 am

    The whole post is great. I really appreciated the advice on best ways to donate after a disaster. But, those quilts are the stars of the post! How absolutely beautiful! They are going to be well loved by their owners!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2018 at 9:47 am

    Thank you for today’s post! I really needed that pep talk. I just told my husband yesterday, I see so many deserving charities and I can’t help them all. I love that phrase, “Do what you can, when you can.” Now I’m going to take a deep breath and go back to sewing!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    My guild sews lap quilts for local nursing homes. These get passed out just after Thanksgiving, so it’s a great Christmas present for those folks. We usually make around 200 or so each year (which is about 1 per member). As for showcasing a charity quilter, I recommend Kat of Kat and Cat Quilts (katandcatquilts.blogspot.com) who is a nursing student and makes quilts for her charity, Covered in Love. These comfort quilts are provided to patients who pass away in the hospital where she works in East Texas. She regularly has a block drive, which I have contributed to, and accepts donations of batting and backing fabric. Most of the quilts she pieces and quilts herself, but sometimes she has supporters who provide a quilt top or even a finished quilt!

  • Reply
    Robby H.
    September 19, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    Those quilts are gorgeous, and I’m sure they’ll be finished just in time for whatever their calling is. You made several really thoughtful and practical points about doing charitable work like this. “Do what you can, when you can.”, is such an important message. Our church has a class on spiritual gifts and one of the things they do remind people is that sometimes we’re at a point in life where our serving needs to be less, or we even need to be served. This is the way life was designed, so we may be interwoven in our needs and service.

  • Reply
    September 19, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    YES. Money. Most people just need help cleaning up and getting everything back together.
    I am hoping that there is as much energy needed to help everyone just get their life back.
    Any disaster is stressful.

    These quilts are really beautiful. I love the log cabins. I have never made these blocks.

  • Reply
    Simone Fisher
    September 21, 2018 at 7:24 am

    Amy, this is such a great post!! There is so much information here and great links to other resources. Thank you for putting this together. You are right, quilters are giving people. We want to spread the love that we put into quilts to others. We just need to make sure that it is being given to the right place and the right people :-). There are so many ways to volunteer /give and every little bit helps. I am saving this post and will be passing it along to my guild next week! Also, just beautiful work on those quilts!!

  • Reply
    Terry Gage
    September 22, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    I don’t let any of the material I buy go to waste. Small scraps that I can’t do anything with I cut into pieces and donate to my vet. I understand there are some cats that eat cat litter so they use the scraps for that. They are always happy to get the scraps from so I’m assuming they use it up.

  • Reply
    Marie Spanos
    September 23, 2018 at 2:10 am

    Fantastic list of tips for Giving Love and Kindness. Since 1990’s when I first saw Amish Quilts in Phoenix, I began by taking a class, joined a quilting group in a Local Hospital making quilts for ill children in it, (fast forward now)), am a volunteer for AZ Blankets fpor Kids organization in many AZ cities; recently our Greek Orthodox Church has camps and My donated quilts go to children with cancer. Always blessings return. Amy, your tutorials quilts were the blessed quilts for them.
    Have about 20 quilts started in 2008-2014 and being long arm quilted, all donations/Fundraiser for an Orphanage and individuals whose homes and buildings in Athens, Greece were destroyed by a wildfires recently.

  • Reply
    Jill Norenberg
    September 23, 2018 at 6:40 am

    CranioCareBears.org is an organization (developed by 2 moms) that sends care packages to babies & toddlers that are facing surgery. One of the many wonderful items in this box of love and support is a stretchy cap for children to wear after their surgery. As far as I know, the Mother of one of the organizers makes all of the caps! I have tried to make a few myself (I’m the Granny of a Cranio Kid) but found it extremely difficult to find polyester (stretchy) fabric in children’s prints.
    I’m sure we can get the actual pattern if anyone has access to stretchy children’ prints and is interested in helping this wonderful organization. Thank you Amy for all that you do in this world to make it a better place.

  • Reply
    Susan Shaw
    September 23, 2018 at 6:59 am

    When we don’t know what to give, many of us give what we would love to have. I understand that it is very hot where the hurricanes are. I live in OK where it is very hot in the summer and we often have little rain in the summer. Yet, I stay under a quilt all year. A guilt is very comforting for my disability. I have the luxury of air conditioning. I did not grow up with that luxury. I think many people have been burned with donating money to find that the money was not used as indicated. Therefore, people started using the money to send goods. People forget the diversity of the needs of different regions of this country. The national news media is repetitive about the weather in disaster situations and not in the needs of the people in the area. To be fair, often the immediate and long term needs of the people are not known. Many disaster responders came to help in Hurricane Florence that many felt that the needs were being met, too. Thankfully many of us have not been in a disaster and have no idea of the needs. Tulsa was hit by a tornado a year ago and there are buildings that still are boarded up with apparently no signs of repair or decisions to demolish after a year. These are public buildings, not homes. Of course, there are some homes. It takes time for these things to happen. Restaurants were impacted as well as office buildings. It’s a shame that the things that could not be used and were destroyed could not be shipped to another region that could use them and that costs money, too. It’s sad that people think that their good intentions are helping people and in turn they become a burden. It seems that we need some kind of organization to get the proper goods to the proper region at the proper time. It’s a huge logistics job. It makes me think about my donations again. I need to think about the assumptions that I make about them. Thank you for the thought provoking post.

  • Reply
    September 23, 2018 at 7:11 am

    Amy, you did a stupendous job putting these blocks together. Blessings on you!?

  • Reply
    Barbara Esposito, The Quilted B
    September 23, 2018 at 7:30 am

    Amy, thank you for this thoughtful post. It can be overwhelming, even paralyzing sometimes, to want to do good but not know where to start. There are so many national causes, and your advice to check the reputation first is spot on. I am also grateful you remind us to look locally as well. So many times doing good is as simple as asking a neighbor if you can watch the kiddos for an afternoon, bringing a meal to an elderly neighbor, or offering to walk a dog for someone who is ill or recovering from surgery. Quilting is an awesome way to help but sometimes we neglect the simple everyday opportunities to do good. Thank you for being a brilliant example to us all.

  • Reply
    Stephanie S.
    September 23, 2018 at 7:37 am

    I have pasted below, info directly copied from The Quilt Pattern Magazine who sends out info to members of the kennel quilt team when they are asked by various animal shelters for kennel quilts. They have very specific instructions as far as the size & materials to be used. While they ask volunteers not to use fleece, a local cat rescue in my area loves fleece for their cat kennels, so I have been using up my fleece stash for their kitties. (I live in the Northeast, where we have all 4 seasons).

    Info :

    TQPM Small Kennel Quilt Team is a volunteer organization sponsored by The Quilt Pattern Magazine (TQPM) that is available when disasters strike. It is a way to join a larger effort to help our animal friends in times of need by doing what we love. TQPM Small Kennel Quilt Team supplies kennel quilts to shelters.


  • Reply
    September 23, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Very sage advice. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Rebecca Burch
    October 10, 2019 at 10:16 am

    I really needed this post today. I love to do charity sewing, have way over-committed myself & now have been laid up with acute bronchitis for almost 2 weeks so no sewing getting done around here but plenty of guilt. I’ll try to let up on myself. I’ll do what I can & hope that is enough. Once again, thank you for your wise words.

    • Reply
      October 10, 2019 at 12:43 pm

      Well, I’m glad it was helpful, but so sorry to hear you’ve been so sick! That is no fun. So no adding guilt to the mix! You take good care of yourself. xoxo

  • Reply
    September 19, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    Amy, I have used your Summer Bunting pattern for Quilts of Valor going to Navy, Coast Guard, and even the Army Cavalry group. I love it and it’s a super way to use up patriotic scraps. I even devised a way to use a panel in the center for variation. Thanks! hope your son is doing well.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2021 at 12:15 am

    Another idea would be to donate quilts to women’s shelters, my sister was in one last year, and when a woman has lost everything to escape a bad home situation, something comforting like a quilt they can take with them after their stay can be a sign of a fresh start and a reminder that there are people who care. Often there are kids with their mums in these places too so baby quilts or single/twin bed coverlets or quilts are such a sweet thing for them to have.

    • Reply
      October 2, 2021 at 12:48 pm

      Yes. Excellent suggestion.

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