Creating a home by hand.

Using Our Skills for Acts of Service

One of the most delightful things I’ve discovered through having this blog and being part the sewing/quilting/crafting community is how so many of us use our skills for Acts of Service to help others.  From the women who sew and donate quilt blocks, quilts, pillowcases and pillowcase dresses to knitters and crocheters making hats for preemie babies, chemo patients and others to everything else imaginable… we are doing it.

So today, I thought I’d share one such Act of Service that I completed this past week in the hopes that it will inspire others to share their skills, whatever they may be.

For the past several years, whenever we travel and stay in hotel I collect the shampoos, conditioners, etc that are provided in the hotel room. Once I’ve got quite of few collected, I drop them all off at either a women’s shelter or homeless shelter.

This past spring, when we were on one of my husband’s work contracts, I decided that rather than just drop them off in bulk as I had been doing I would make up “kits.” I purchased small toothpastes and toothbrushes to add to the other toiletries and then divided them all up into brown paper lunch bags. The kits were very well received when I dropped them off at the homeless shelter in the town where we were staying at the time so I decided to do it that way again once I had more collected.

So when we were on this last contract in L’Ancienne-Lorette, QC I was making up kits again… but the more I looked at those brown paper bags, the more they bothered me. I thought… “How would I feel if I arrived at a women’s or homeless shelter and someone handed me a brown paper bag of stuff?” I might feel disposable just like that brown paper bag. And that thought really bothered me because no one is disposable.

And then one day last week when I was cutting out fabric to make a couple of small Christmas gift bags, I realized that the pattern I was using would be the perfect size to fit all those toiletries in. So I counted up how many brown paper bags I had, went through the box of fabrics that travels with me and cut out 5 more bags and sewed them up at the same time I was sewing the Christmas gift bags.

I finished them Friday afternoon. We arrived back in London (Ontario) late Saturday and because it was the long weekend I had to wait until Tuesday to call to make sure this kind of donation would be welcome and to find out where to drop them off.

The pattern I used to make them is from my all time favourite fabric designers: Me and My Sister. I just love the bright, happy fabrics they design.

Me and My Sisters Pattern for Gift Tablerunners and Gift Bags

The pattern calls for 1 fat quarter for the bottom of the bag and 1 fat quarter in co-ordinating fabric for the top of the bag but I found that by cutting carefully, I was able to get two bags from 2 fat quarters… like those in the middle of the photo below.  The three bags at the top of that photo were cut from two pieces of fabric approximately 20″X20″… so slightly bigger pieces of fabric than a fat quarter.

Photo of 7 Gift Bags Completed

These bags would also be a great way to use up large print fabric that you love but haven’t been able to figure out what to make with!

I did make one change to the pattern.  I added a lining to make them sturdier and give them a more professional looking finish inside.  The lining also prevents the contents from showing through when using a lighter coloured fabric.

The little Cherub bag pictured above and again below is my favourite of all of them and I was really tempted to keep it for myself but instead I’ve taken these photos so that I can duplicate it sometime in the future.

Photo of the front of the Moon and Sun gift bag
Close-up of the front of the gift bag.
Photo of the back of the Moon and Sun Gift Bag
Close-up of the back of Moon and Sun gift bag.

And here are the 5 bags that I delivered to the local women’s shelter:

Fabric Gifts Bags filled with toiletries

Many women arrive at women’s shelters with nothing more than the clothes on their back. It is my hope that through this one small Act of Service the next 5 women to arrive at the shelter might have their spirits lifted knowing that someone took the time to make them something pretty.

If you have performed an Act of Service lately, please share in the comments so that we can all be inspired to use our skills to help others.



  • Vickie Horsfall
    September 7, 2013 7:37 pm

    What a wonderful gift for someone facing a difficult time. Thank you for your generosity and sharing this great idea! ~Vickie

  • Charlotte Matthews
    September 7, 2013 9:39 pm

    I crochet afghans and make quilts for our Wounded Warriors and our Veterans at both Camp Pendleton and Loma Linda Veterans Hospital in Loma Linda CA. I do the same for the babies at Camp Pendleton ~ along with flannel wash cloths, receiving blankets and occasionally a blanket, afghan or nightie for a big sister.

    With the fabric or quilt blocks not good enough for the quilts I make puppy pillows for the local Animal Shelter and stuff them with the scraps I would normally throw away. I make them various sizes for big and small dogs/puppies and cats/kittens. For the larger sizes I sew channels in them to keep the fabric from shifting.

    I have a friend who helps me and most of the material is kept at my house. She also sews quilts for her church.

  • Linda
    September 8, 2013 7:07 am

    I make smaller quilts and practice my skills. These are donated to Children’s Aid or nursing homes. When I get good enough I’ll donate to Wounder Warriors I’m hoping. Also I collect scraps from my quilting group and the closest Thrift Store to make and stuff dog/pet beds for the locl vet and animal rescue group. I’m learning lots and the quilts and beds are cute an useful.

  • Karen
    September 8, 2013 9:26 am

    This is simply a WONDERFUL idea! I make clothes for a nearby foster care closet, pillowcases for cancer patients, and now I will be making these great little bags of comfort and love. My husband travels several times most months so I will be having him collect the little courtesy bottles of toiletries.

  • kathleen babbitt
    September 8, 2013 12:25 pm

    I belonged to a smocking guild and we made little smocked gowns for babies that died during child birth. I have also recently made a quilting square for the boston quilters . they were making quilts for all the injured runners from the marathon. I also work with the linus project and make quilts for that group. I love putting my talents to work to make others lives easier. it brings me so much joy!

  • wendy
    October 1, 2013 8:40 am

    what a lovely thing to do, I’ll bet they were very well recieved. I haven’t been doing any charity crafting recently at all, I just don’t seem to have the time. I really should get on that.

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