What do you do?

My outreach was a sewing project connected to the sewing group I belong to, a group called Florida Sewing Society (FSS). We made large sized tote bags for the homeless to carry their belongings in. Workrooms donated their surplus fabric to our sewing group. The recipients were very grateful to have durable totes to secure their personal items in, as opposed to plastic grocery bags.

How much work is involved?

Anyone with a sewing machine could easily complete a tote bag in under an hour from cut out to completion. A member came to one of our meetings and suggested we start this tote bag project. She brought along the pattern with some pre-cut fabric pieces and showed us how to put the totes together.

I have included a keynote presentation of instructions with pictures to show how easily this simple project can be implemented.

How long have you been doing this?

Our sewing group has been supplying totes to a homeless shelter for around one year.

What cost is involved?

A sewing machine. For the most part, we worked with fabrics that had been donated for free from workrooms. There is lots of surplus fabric out there!

Use the Neighbourhood App to ask your neighbours if anyone has any fabric they would like to donate to a good cause.

Find a local workroom or furniture upholstery shop. See if they have any surplus fabric from old projects.

Put a blurb in your local paper. Most sewers like to tidy their sewing room now and then!

If you purchase fabric, you can make approximately two large tote bags from one yard of fabric. Prices of fabric vary.

Have you had a good response?

The recipients were very grateful to receive the tote bags. Many homeless people don’t have suitcases, so a sturdy shoulder tote is a great help – the larger the better.

Sewing with others fills a social need for me. After my husband died, my daughter encouraged me to join FSS. Participating in this sewing group, I always feel good about contributing to the community in a practical and useful way.

Are there any issues which have arisen?

Are there any issues which have arisen?
Just meeting the demand! Another good place to drop off totes is at local food banks, as they use them to pack items for customers.

Sewing Patterns: Totes

Click here for a simple pattern.

Click here for a short video showing how to make totes out of old jeans.