crafts, crumbs, sewing, thrifted!

hoping for bags and bags of … bags.

I was recently invited to become a committee member for a humanitarian group. Their goal this year? To help people locally. By sewing stuff. Invitation accepted!

Several years ago I spent some time volunteering locally at a domestic violence shelter. So when we were brainstorming at our first committee meeting, the shelter immediately came to mind. We came up with the idea of “welcome bags” for children who enter the shelter. When a family first enters the shelter, Mom has lots of paperwork to fill out and lots of talking to do with the shelter staff. It can take a long time. Kids who enter the shelter will receive a welcome bag as soon as they walk in the door, filled with items to occupy their time while Mom sorts out the details of their stay.

Since this group has no budget to speak of, we came up with an idea for making the bags for free (aside from the cost of time and thread). We are sewing bags out of people’s donated jeans (or other pants made from sturdy fabric, such as canvas or corduroy). I designed two bags—one for girls, one for boys—made entirely out of denim for the project.


The girl bag uses the bottom half of each pant leg, the back pockets, and the waistband from one pair of jeans.

The boy bag uses the bottom half of each pant leg, back pockets (or side cargo pockets—the committee chair’s cool idea), and strips of denim for the bag tie and back strap.


Here’s the simple two-layered back strap for the boy bag.

I wanted to make these bags as simple as possible to sew so even beginners could join in. And really, who doesn’t have a pair of jeans that have been hanging unworn in their closet for six, eight, or twelve months (or, for us clothes hoarders, two years)?

The bags will be filled with items that are age and gender specific. We’ll have bags for 2-4 year-old boys, bags for 12-14 year-old girls, and for everyone in between. Still in the planning stage, we’re not quite sure what will go in the bags just yet. Cheap, clever ideas are welcome.

Our goal is to sew and gather contents for the bags over the summer, and then present as many bags as we can to the shelter in the fall. Interested in joining in the fun? If you are, you could participate in a number of ways:

  • Sew bags (instructions available)
  • Donate denim or other sturdy fabric pants
  • Make toys to fill bags (we need toy makers and ideas for making small, inexpensive/free toys)
  • Gather supplies to fill bags (coloring books, crayons, pencils/pens, and journals to start)
  • Donate toward the purchase of items to fill the bags

I am so excited to be a part of this project. When I volunteered at the shelter, I remember the faces of children walking through the front door for the first time. It was heartbreaking. It didn’t matter their age—innocent preschooler or tough teenager—you could see it plain as day. They were scared. I believe these bags will help, even if just a little, with the first few moments of what could become a huge time of transition in their lives.

Really, these bags are just a little something. But to a kid who has just fled his or her home with nothing, for children who just left everything they used to call theirs behind, these bags will be something they can immediately call their own. I hope it helps. Even if just a little.

If you want to help—even if just a little—please let me know.

11 thoughts on “hoping for bags and bags of … bags.”

  1. Jenny, I was very moved by the idea of your project and what it will mean to the kids and moms that arrive at that shelter. I wish there had been shelters like that when I was a child in and my mom was in crisis.
    I love your wide, generous, loving heart and how you manifest that into the world.
    I absolutely love the dollar store for toys and craft items that kids like. I’ll take my grandaughter shopping and we will donate items from there.


  2. This is so wonderful of you to do. I had a friend years ago who had to move into a shelter with her kids. The way she talked, the toys they had in the kids rooms as a welcome gift meant so very much to her.
    I want to help, at least a little too. I’m trying to think of ideas. I used to make small I-spy security blanket type things that toddlers might like. Or I could help sew the frisbee or hack e sacks if you just need labor.


  3. This is another awesome idea, Griffin. I had actually thought about asking people to crochet hacky sacks, but I don’t even know how to crochet! I had no idea you could use fabric to make them. Right up my alley. Thanks again, smarty pants!


  4. Several years ago, my fourth-graders and I filled backpacks for children entering foster care so they would have something belonging to them in the new environment. We included a teddy bear, coloring book, crayons, and toothpaste/ toothbrush. Thinking more about it now, I’d probably do a notebook and pen, washcloth/ soap/ towel, and the tons of leftover Happy Meal toys we seem to collect in our family.
    AND I love love love the greens and blues in the quilt behind your denim bags!


  5. Jacque, I love this idea too. It hadn’t occurred to me to ask businesses for donations. I would love to hear more about what you and your daughter put together. We are still at the beginning, so please, tell me everything! 🙂
    Thank you for the offer!


  6. Griffin… DUH! What a great idea–I even have a step-by-step tutorial for making a fabric frisbee. On this blog. The fabric frisbee takes pennies to make; it’s perfect for this project. Thank you so much for connecting the dots!
    Keep those ideas comin’ if you got ’em…


  7. Griffin is right, coming from my experience. If you ask for specifics, many stores or organizations will contribute. They especially like it if a small card with sponsor names will be dropped in the bag. (The moms will pay attention to those later.)
    My daughter had an ongoing community service work similar to this, and we filled shoeboxes for kids, tailored to the age/gender. Even did some for srs at the nursing homes, and some for Katrina victims. I’d be happy to share what worked for us if you are interested. Kudos for a great idea, and for pushing forward to achieve it!


  8. Frisbees! Maybe if you work with a sponsor, they’ll give you some printed (advertised) frisbees for free, provided they’re allowed to use them for nonprofit deductions?
    I dunno. I’ve never been good at the whole technicalities of this kind of thing.


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