Tips on Making Items for Charity
These tips are oriented toward making handmade items for charity, but many of them are applicable to making items as gifts or for yourself. When you make items for charity it is important that they are well constructed because the recipient may not treat them as gently as you would or be knowledgeable about proper care.
If you find these tips useful or have comments or suggestions, I would love to . If you have a tip to share, I'd be happy to give you credit.
- Check with the charity, hospital or other intended recipient group for any guidelines or requirements they may have.
- All materials used should be easily machine washed and dried.
- Acrylic yarns are a excellent choice. Cotton yarn may shrink and is not as good a choice.
- Cotton, polyester and cotton/poly blends are good fabric choices. Avoid fabrics that need a delicate wash cycle or cold water washing.
- Items intended for babies or toddlers should be made of soft materials. The seams and finishes should also be gentle on a child's skin.
- For sewn items, all fabrics should be prewashed to eliminate shrinkage.
- Make sure the item is securely constructed.
- Zig-zag, serge, use pinking shears, or otherwise finish the exposed cut edges of woven fabrics to prevent fraying. Knit fabrics usually do not fray. Cut edges that are completely enclosed (e.g., inside a collar or a quilt) are not subject to the abrasion that causes fraying.
- Finish yarn and thread ends securely.
- For items sewn from fabric, backstitch at each end of a seam.
- On serged seams, either
- flip the item at the end of the seam and serge back in the opposite direction
- serge off the fabric and continue until you have a length of serged thread. Cut the thread 3 or 4 inches from the fabric, thread it into a large eyed needle, and pull the thread tails back through the last couple of inches of the serged seam to secure. Trim the excess thread tail.
- Use a seam sealant such as Fray Chek to secure the cut threads at the end of a serged seam. A visitor to this site reported that Fray Chek may dry too hard to be used on a seam that will be against a baby's skin. Other brands may be more suitable.
- When beginning and ending a piece of yarn on a knit or crocheted item, leave a generous length of yarn to weave in. On most items, I leave 6 to 8 inches of yarn tail to weave in. (Yes, some people consider me paranoid, but I'd rather take an extra few seconds weaving in the tail than worry that the article will come apart in use.)
- Short yarn tails (e.g., one or two inches) frequently work back out when an afghan/garment stretches in normal use. Someone not familiar with knitting or crocheting may just cut the end off until the end is so short that the knot comes undone. Longer tails stay in better because there is still plenty of coverage if the iten stretches and a inch or so of stitches slide off of the end of the tail.
- Some people like to change direction when weaving yarn ends into an knitted or crocheted item. This helps keep the yarn from shifting when the item stretches.
- I have become adept at crocheting over most yarn tails to reduce the need to weave in the ends. Some people can do this with knitting, but I'm still working on that.
- If you are making a tied quilt, see
Tying a Quilt in the
beginners section at Quilters Online Resource.
I recommend 2 strands of cotton crochet thread for tying quilts. It is a economical choice that holds the knots well. Yarn tends to come untied, though some people always use yarn and have no problems. Embroidery floss also works well and comes in a wider variety of colors but costs more. Use 4 or 6 strands of floss. Pearl cotton is a little thinner than crochet thread, so it is a little easier to work with. But it is a little more expensive.
- Instead of binding quilts, the charity groups I work with use the pillowcase or envelope method of finishing quilts. There is a description on the Quilting With Children website, where it is called Quick Turning a Quilt. For a smaller quilt, you don't need a 20 inch opening to turn the quilt. I leave about a 6 to 8 inch opening to turn a 40 by 60 inch quilt. Remember, you have to stitch that opening closed after you turn the quilt. If you have a serger, use it to stitch the 3 layers together and speed up the finishing even more.
- Launder finished items as you might expect the recipient to
launder it. Typically, this may be a warm water wash, regular
cycle, and tumbled dry with medium heat.
If you launder the finished item, any change in appearance will take place and the recipient won't feel they have harmed the item when they launder it. It also helps to remove pet hair, cigarette smoke and other contaminants that someone else might be allergic to.
- Use yarn or heavy thread (not pins or safety pins) to attach sets of items together. For example, a pair of booties, a pair of mittens, a cap and scarf set. Make a large enough loop with the yarn or thread that it can be easily cut and removed without cutting the items it is holding together.
- Provide a care tag with laundering instructions. Use yarn or thread to attach the tag and leave a large enough loop that it can be easily cut to remove the tag without cutting the item it is attached to.