Using Your Creativity To Help Those in Need

Using Your Creativity To Help Those in Need


A finger puppet from Craft Hope’s project with Country Woman magazine

Last week on the blog, I wrote an introduction to craftivism, an international creative movement that I started in 2003. As I noted last week, within craftivism, I created three different tenets to help illustrate whether something falls under that umbrella: 1) donation (creating items for others in need), 2) beautification (improving your local environment with handmade items), and 3) notification (making items that bring awareness to a cause, illness or issue).

As each of the three tenets will be receiving its own post here, this week’s post is about donation. People have a wide-range of feelings about donation. Some can’t get enough of it. Others want to write a check for the cause instead. However, most people tend to agree that, in general, donation is a good thing, which is great, because tangible items are needed for all sorts of situations.

Even though programs like this have always existed, when I started writing about charity craft projects in 2003, there were very few of them noted on the web. Therefore, I’m happy to report that a Google search for charity and sewing turned up 1.5+ million results! How exciting! Sometimes in the face of tragedy or loss it’s hard to not feel totally helpless. And in some cases, giving money is the best, most helpful thing you can do. However, in cases where tangible items are needed, making something can do a lot, too. Here are a few examples of just some of the ways that people have used their craft skills to help others.1

One of the bags Cinnamon Cooper made and gave to a local Chicago charity

Cinnamon Cooper 

Cinnamon Cooper, a craftivist from Chicago, makes chic bags for sale on her site, In an email interview, she notes that sewing is her craft medium of choice for her craftivist work because it gives her the chance to make items “faster and sturdier” than other avenues.

Along with creating bags for sale, Cinnamon also makes them for local organizations. When I asked why she did this, her response was amazing: “making shoulder bags for local organizations that support young mothers makes me feel like I’m making the life of a young parent a little easier, and a little prettier. Preparing satchels for back-to-school events makes me feel like I’m making the lives of children a little easier, making it easier for them to get to and from class makes it easier for them to learn.”

One of the bags Cinnamon Cooper made and gave to a local Chicago charity.

One of the bags Cinnamon Cooper made and gave to a local Chicago charity

What I like about Cinnamon’s work is that she is connecting with the need all of us have to feel special and noticed. By sharing her work with people in need, she is sharing the notion that whatever our circumstances, we are all worthy of well-made and aesthetically-pleasing things. One of the things I hear over and over again when it comes to recipients getting handmade items is that they feel “special.” I love how our craft skills can gives us the change to make someone in a disaster or rough situation feel that way, despite whatever else they may be going through.

Craft Hope

On the other hand, Jade Laswell, who started Craft Hope in 2009, collects handmade donated items for various international projects. Her blog explains why she started Craft Hope better than I ever could, “from time to time people ask me how I started Craft Hope. I always respond with, it started with a dress. Twenty-nine pillowcase dresses to be exact. I started this little blog and named it Craft Hope. I probably had twenty followers and they were all blog friends. I said, ‘let’s make pillowcase dresses for orphans in Mexico’ and they said ‘okay.’ And the rest is history.”

Quilts collected by Craft Hope to send to the charity We Are Kenya.

Quilts collected by Craft Hope to send to the charity We Are Kenya

Since that humble beginning, Craft Hope projects have donated more than 170,000 handmade items to people in need around the world. I think it is the time and care and empathy that people put into their donated items that I find the most magical, all those stitches, done with either hand or machine, made for someone else to receive.

Women crocheting on the steps of the Helsinki Cathedral from Flickr user timelessriver  © COPYRIGHT Ann L Andersson

Blankets at the Helsinki Cathedral

In 2011, several Finnish groups decided to get together and see if they could: 1) break the Guinness World Record for the largest crochet quilt and 2) collect 1,000 quilts for charity. Over all, they ended up collecting 7,800 quilts to donate to a local organization. This particular project, while it didn’t break the world record, due to its size and volume of color, got much attention in international media.

Just some of the 7,800 crochet quilts laid on the steps of the Helsinki Cathedral by Flickr user timelessriver.

Photo of some of the 7,800 crochet quilts laid on the steps of the Helsinki Cathedral by Flickr user timelessriver  © COPYRIGHT Ann L Andersson

I love how much the colors pop when put together!

For those of you already making things for others, what have you made or whom for? There are so many incredibly projects and organizations out there, I always love it when people share their favorite places to help out!

[The slider’s photo of the quilts is by Flickr user 68797416@N06.]

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  1. Yvonne

    I love this , I worked on a project called wool against nuclear weapons in the uk and it was so much fun to use knitting and crochet to a 9 mile scarf that we used in our campain .
    All the knitting has need turned into blankets now to be sent where they are needed 😍😇💝

    1. Author
      Betsy Greer

      Was is Wool Against Weapons, Yvonne? That campaign was amazing, wasn’t it? And I bet it was fun to be a part of it, too!

  2. Margie Veon

    I have been a volunteer seamstress for Sew Much Comfort since 2008. We work on donated articles of clothing mainly tees and athletic shorts to adapt them for wounded vets so they can be used to fit over casts,appliances etc. The requests have slowed down since the troop withdrawals but seem to be needed again so I am still sewing!

    1. Author
      Betsy Greer

      What great work you’ve been doing, Margie! Huzzah! I think it’s wonderful that you’re helping make vets’ lives easier with your crafting skills, and since those types of amendments aren’t so easily found, I’m sure they appreciated them so much!

  3. Donna Horowitz

    Hello ! I am the proud founder of a small , but growing charitable sewing group called Sew Crazy . The group started in 2011 with a handful of sewist who desired to sew for those in need in the Tri-Cites area of East Tn. We work solely from donations of supplies which helps us to determine the type of project(s) we work on monthly . Our past projects have included: items for animal shelters, mastectomy aprons, infant demise gowns, bathrobes for a women’s domestic abuse shelter , shawls for the elderly, stuffed animals for various children’s charities, quilts for the homeless, wheelchair bags for veterans, diaper bags & baby slings for homeless young mothers.
    In addition to sewing for charities, we believe in passing along the history and love of sewing through teaching. We have taught young ladies through several organizations how to create simple projects while operating a sewing machine . We collect donated sewing machines and pass along to new members and others in need of a working sewing machine .
    Our passion for sewing is matched by our desire to help others in our geographical area . The Sew Crazy concept is now available to others to start their own chapter ! We have a second location in Bedford, VA.
    We would love to hear from you ! Like us on Facebook – Sew Crazy Johnson City TN. Check out our website-

    1. Author
      Betsy Greer

      Thanks for sharing word of and info for your group, Donna! It sounds like you are up to some very magnificent things!

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