Today’s guest post is written by Tammy Powley, crocheter and blogger at The Crafty Princess Diaries.
Tammy leads a craft club at her local school, and she’s been sweet enough to stop by today and share her tips! This post contains some great tips and also a list of charities that you can consider contacting if you’re interested in starting your own charity-driven craft group.
Have a read, and you might feel inspired to start a craft club of your own!
I am a member of a number of web-based craft groups, and we often get together (virtually) and use our crafting skills to help charitable organizations. While the Internet is a wonderful space to find fellow crafters and fiber lovers, I started to crave the “in person” experience.
However, the only group I could find locally meets at times when I’m working, as all are retirees. This dilemma eventually gave me the idea to start my own craft club. Though my club is affiliated with a school, a similar approach can be taken to create a club at other institutions or privately.
Find your Mission
I enjoy making donation items, and since I am a teacher, I decided to combine these two interests and start a craft club at my school. We are called Caring through Crafting and our mission is twofold: teach club members various crafting skills (crochet, knitting, paper-arts, jewelry making, etc.) and then use these skills to help local charities.
A few months after starting the club, I was lucky enough to find another faculty member who knits and crochets, and we both are now the club’s advisors. During the school year, the club meets twice a month, and we craft like crazy.
Each semester we select a service project. Some of our past and current projects include the following:
- Making fleece blankets and collecting donated items for Save the Chimps.
- Crocheting and knitting snuggles for two animal shelters: Domino’s House and Dogs and Cats Forever.
- Making no-sew blankets, crocheting and knitting wash cloths, and collecting toiletry items for Miss Inc., a women and children’s shelter.
- Making baby hats and afghans for Okeechobee Healthy Start.
- Making various crafts (greeting cards, jewelry, amigurumi, journals) and selling them at a local craft show with the proceeds going to charity.
Straighten out the supply-line
When I first started the club, there was no funding available from the school because I started it in the middle of a semester and everything had already been budgeted. I bought our first batch of yarn and crochet hooks, but it did not take long for us to start receiving donations.
Here are some tips for getting funding and donated supplies:
- Whenever it is appropriate, tell every person you know about your club, especially if you plan to also participate in charitable projects. Word of mouth has been my most successful way to receive donated supplies.
- Many newspapers have small sections where they feature local activities. Contact them about your club.
- Use social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, and Plurk) to help get the word out. Our club has a Facebook page that also helps us keep members up to date with club activities.
- Keep an on-going list of supplies you need, and keep track of spending. This can be helpful when someone asks about what supplies you need.
- Run fund raisers to earn money for your club. Our club makes greeting cards and sells them throughout the school year.
Expect the unexpected
Of course, there was a big learning curve for me when I started the club, and this is an on-going process.
Here are a few challenges to expect:
- Not all donated supplies are going to be useful to you. Sometime you may have to decline simply because you have no use for them, or you may not have enough storage space.
- As far as yarn goes, expect a lot of acrylic, which is actually fine for many charities (since it is easy to care for) and useful for beginners to use as they learn.
- If your club decides to commit to a big project, make sure you are ready to commit yourself to doing all of the work. Lots of times members will have great ideas but are not able to follow through. If you feel you could not complete the project on your own, then you may have to nicely explain to members that it may not be a good fit for the club right now.
- You won’t be able to please all the club members. Some will want to knit and crochet, and others will want to make jewelry. Make a schedule and agenda in advance so members know what activities they will participate in at each meeting.
- These days, families are so busy that there is little time to sit down and teach children how to sew on a button or crochet a scarf. Do not expect to make large-scale projects if you have inexperienced crafters. Items like snuggles and dish cloths are perfect beginners’ projects. Be patient and encouraging when teaching newbie crafters.
The club has turned into a lot of work for both my co-advisor and me, more than either of us had imagined. The emotional rewards, however, are worth all of the effort.
We have seen club members go from learning the chain stitch to crocheting a small blanket for a cat or dog in just a few weeks. Not only do they learn a new skill and help others, but in turn, they help themselves. School is an enriching environment, but it can also be stressful. At our meetings, we have fun and learn and achieve. We talk, joke, and bond as we weave together bits of yarn. Members feel successful and proud of their efforts, and this translates into self-esteem and self-worth that they carry with them forever.