Sewing for charity is a great way to use your sewing skills to help others. I’ve been making little items like zipper bags, and headbands for Operation Christmas Child for a few years now.
I always love being able to add a little handmade something to the little shoebox gifts. Giving will bring you joy, and that special personal touch can go a long way in making a difference in people’s lives.
Here are some great charities you can sew for, and other things you can do to help out sewing charities.
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I’ve gotten plenty of emails with well-meaning people I think confused about this post enough to warrant me adding this little disclaimer.
Elizabeth Made This is my personal website. It is not a charity, and I cannot accept fabric or sewing machines. I do not represent any of the organizations listed, nor am I able to organize a group of people to participate in any of these or other groups. This article is a resource for you to help find charitable organizations that accept handsewn goods. I have and continue to be someone who sews for charity on my own time, and please use this resource to help you find places to volunteer your time.
There are lots of wonderful opportunities listed here, and check out the comments as well for even more ideas.
Questions to ask a charity before you sew for them
When you’re thinking about sewing for others, here’s some questions to ask the organization you have in mind:
- Do you accept handmade items? Simple thing to ask, and ask you should. You know how much time and energy goes into your sewing projects. If your project cannot be used or worse thrown away, you’d want to know that!
- What kinds of items are most helpful to people?: Wool hats might not be the best project for people in tropical climates. Really understand what kinds of challenges the people you want to sew for are facing. What will be useful for them? Will having this item you want to make be a burden or something that can fill a practical or emotional need?
- How do you process donations: I know my local thrift store often gets absolutely inundated with donations. The same might be true of local shelters or hospitals. Talk with someone to understand how their donations get processed. This will help you make a smart decision on what kinds of charity sewing projects you can work on.
- Are there other things that I can give that are maybe more helpful?: Whenever news is breaking about a natural disaster, it’s hard not to start sewing all the quilts and going through our closets to send clothes. Your heart going out to someone else in need will never ever be a bad thing. But be wise and ask if your charity sewing efforts are the most helpful thing you can do in a situation. It just may be that sending money or contributing food would be more helpful.
Now with the tough questions out of the way, here’s some sewing charities to consider.
13 Sewing Charities you can sew for today
Ryan’s Case for Smiles
Ryan’s Case for Smiles seeks to support kids’ and their families dealing with cancer. Handmade pillowcases are given to help children cope as they’re in hospitals receiving treatment. Pillowcases must be made with all new materials, 100% cotton, not laundered in scented detergents. You can read more about sewing your own pillowcases for this sewing charity here.
Days for Girls
Days for Girls provides handmade menstrual pad kits to girls. Girls with access to these basic hygiene items are able to continue in school instead of missing for days during a month. Sewists can get kits and all patterns to make the pads through Days for Girls. There are local chapters, small teams you can join or you can sign up an individual sewist.
Along the same lines, you can sew purses for girls in Zambia through Sew Powerful. These purses hold reusable pads and school supplies, letting these precious girls stay in school more days.
For this charity, you download a purse pattern, sew it up, write an encouraging note to a girl and send off your purses. From there, purses get filled with helpful supplies for the girls. People kept telling me about this project, and I’m so impressed with their work. From 2015-2020, over 54,000 purses have been sent in for girls in Zambia. That’s a serious impact they’re making!
Operation Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child under its parent organization Samaritan’s Purse delivers little shoebox gifts to children all over the world. The program is part of their evangelistic outreach and their efforts in providing humanitarian aid in places where it’s needed. While Operation Christmas Child is not a sewing charity per se, there’s plenty of room to add handmade items into your shoeboxes.
This year I’m making simple drawstring bags, 7 minute zipper bags and some simple utility aprons. There’s some wonderful stories of people sewing handmade gifts for their boxes. This is a great story of then 100 year old Eva, who made a handmade dresses for her boxes. I love her quote here:
I’ve been given a talent, and I make use of it.
Little Dresses for Africa
You can sew simple pillowcase dress for Little Dresses for Africa. The dresses go to girls around Africa as part of the organizations efforts there to provide clean water, education and community. This is a great project for even beginning sewists who are wanting to sew for charity. Many churches and sewing groups host Little Dresses for Africa sewing events. You can find directions for the pillowcases here.
Britches for Boys
As a 75% boy Mom, I’m really glad that there’s sewing charities that think about boys too! Britches for Boys is the boy side to Little Dresses for Africa. You can sew shorts to be delivered with all the dresses. Sewing With Nancy has a simple pattern here for making easy elastic shorts from a t-shirt.
Project Linus provides handmade blankets to children who are ill, traumatized, or just in need of love and comfort. You can sew blankets or crochet or knit them. Project Linus encourages people wanting to contribute to this charity to check first with their local chapters to see what needs are in an area. You can find your local Project Linus chapter here.
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Quilts of Valor
Quilts of Valor offers healing to veterans through handmade quilts. If you make a quilt for this sewing charity, it must be made of 100% shirting weight cotton and it should be machine or hand-quilted. Quilts of Valor expects that quilts donated to them be of great quality as a way to thank each veteran for his or her service. This is a great sewing charity for experienced and confident quilters. More information on the requirements for Quilts of Valor are here.
The Lydia Project provides free services to women facing cancer treatment. Support includes encouragement and correspondence and housing for women being treated for their cancer locally. The sewing charity part comes into play with the handmade embroidered totes provided for the women served by the Lydia Project. Each unique tote includes a journal, and other items to help encourage each woman through their cancer journey. Young girls receive handmade quilts. You can request tote kits here.
Firehouse Quilts is a Colorado sewing charity. They make handmade quilts for Colorado fire stations, ambulance companies, Douglas County Women’s Crisis Center, social services organizations, Denver Health Medical Center and victim advocate offices to help people dealing with trauma. They host sew days at local sewing stores.
I’ve personally gone a couple times to sew-ins and it’s a great opportunity to spend time sewing with ladies. I’m not a quilter, but there is so much help and fun available to anyone wanting to sew. You can bring your own fabric, sew from a kit, or cut your own quilt with their materials.
Emma and Evan Foundation
The Emma and Evan Foundation is a really special sewing charity devoted to sewing angel gowns from donated wedding dresses in Montana. This is not a sewing for charity opportunity for everyone. The idea of making an infant burial gown for stillborn or too-soon taken away babies is not easy work, but what a tremendous opportunity to send love to a hurting family.
Volunteer seamstresses must be able to create 5-10 angel gowns within an 8 week time period and provide your materials for a trial of 2 gowns so that your sewing expertise can be evaluated. More information on volunteering is here.
Little Angel Gowns
Much like the Emma and Evan Foundation, Little Angel Gowns provides burial clothes for infants to hospitals and funeral centers across the U.S. You can donate wedding gowns or apply to sew angel gowns. More information for Little Angel Gowns is here on their FAQ.
Operation Chemo Comfort
Operation Chemo Comfort provides goods and services to people coping with cancer. They provide many different items to help support patients’ mental and physical well-being, but if you’re looking to sew for charity, Operation Chemo Comfort asks for hats and scarves.
How to organize a group to sew for charity
Getting together a group to sew for charity is as easy as finding friends and setting a day. But there are some things to think about and other things to plan your way.
I put together a free planner to help you do just that. Sign up for the newsletter below and get the Charity Sewing Planner’s Guide. It’ll give you some ideas for deciding on a project, an email template to send out to friends, tools and supplies lists for you to make and more.
It’s my hope that it’ll help you plan out your sew day so that you can have a good day as friends and getting stuff made for the charity of your choice!
A twist headband like this might be a good choice if you make the band extra wide so it fits more like a turban.
A simple fringe scarf from a soft polar fleece would be a good project to make too!
Other ways to help
Maybe it’s not the season for you to be sewing for charity. That’s okay! Here are some other ways that you can contribute to sewing charities. They’re every bit as important as making all the things.
- Donate: sewing charities have costs! Money to cover shipping expenses and supplies will always be a needed thing.
- Donate your fabrics: If you have extra fabric in good shape, many sewing charities will happily take and use them. Always ask before you unload boxes of scraps! Sew Mama Sew has a great list of places to donate fabric.
- Shop for fabric: I know ladies that show up at JoAnn on fleece sale days solely to buy fabric to donate to Project Linus. If you’ve got an eye for a deal, this can be a great way to help out sewing charities with this needed part of the process.
Projects you can sew for charity
So now that you’ve got some places in mind where you can use your sewing talents for good, let’s talk specific projects.
You’ll find each of these projects is:
- Takes little fabric
- Highly repeatable
And to me, each of those things is important when you’re wanting to help others through your sewing. With that little drumroll, here’s some fab projects to keep in mind when you’re sewing for charity.
Sew a drawstring backpack
A great all-purpose bag for kids’ sports or school
The 7 minute DIY zipper bag
Lightning fast, made from scraps and useful for holding so many things
Make a hat from a sweater
An easy way to make several hats from 1 old sweater
So I’m curious. Do you sew for charity? Tell me in the comments: what are your favorite organizations that you know of that turn your sewing skills into helping others?
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.