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Sewing things for refugees: DIY ideas

If you’re of a sewing persuasion and would love to put your skills to good use to benefit refugees, please do! Who knows, it might even fill a bit of time during any lockdown or shielding period. There’s lots you could make that would be hugely appreciated, and our 4 suggestions are below. If you could get a sewing circle, a Mothers’ Union or a WI on board, all the better. (And if you’d like to knit or crochet children’s soft toys, we have a separate page here.)

Before we begin, we just ask 2 things:

  • Please pay close attention to quality. We’d much rather have one lovingly made item than 30 which have been quickly made and won’t last. Also, people lose a lot of their identity and dignity in the process of becoming a refugee or asylum-seeker – so owning something beautiful, which a stranger has lovingly made for them, can be surprisingly touching and affirming for people who have so little.
  • Stay COVID-safe – When you’ve completed your sewing, please put it in a plastic bag/bin liner and tie off the top. Leave it somewhere untouched for one week before you pass it over to us. If others are working alongside you, please combine all your work so that we can do fewer collections! Thanks.

1 – Play mats

Sew something for refugees

Many asylum-seekers live in communal accommodation, so there isn’t much private space. Sitting rooms (if any) and kitchens are shared, or the asylum-seekers go to drop-in centres. That’s why they love to have a mat they can carry with them, that they can be sure is clean, for their baby/child to sit on.

Design guides and suggestions 

  • About 4 feet square/round
  • Needs to be washable
  • Must not contain choke hazards
  • Something pretty and interesting; if made of different fabrics, ones that go well together… Something you’d be proud to put your own baby on!
  • Slightly padded makes it comfy, and/or it could be textured to help baby learn through their senses
  • How about a large circle with a drawstring? When it’s time to tidy their toys away, you just pull the string and it acts like a large bag
  • Or for slightly older children, you could make an imagination mat featuring things like roads, houses and different spaces
  • How about a games mat? Perhaps with snakes and ladders, ludo or even chess – if you’re up for the challenge!
  • Similarly, outdoor pic-nic mats are really appreciated, especially as it helps with social distancing.

There are lots of ideas and even free patterns online. Try starting with Pinterest!

2 – Bags

3 – Washbags

Oilcloth is very ‘in’ now, and easy to get hold of, so we’d really appreciate a way for people to transport their toiletries (they have to move on quite often and need a way to carry their stuff). We need some for men, some for women. Ideally something big enough to hold shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste & brush, and soap. There are:

 4 – Sewing kits

If you don’t have many clothes, then you need to be able to repair the ones you have. Little sewing kits are very much appreciated, and there are lots of ideas online. For example, you could make a little bag/box (or buy one) and fill it with some or all of the following. A glass jar works well, too!

  • A pack of pins and a pack of needles
  • Threads in different colours, especially the obvious ones like black, white, red and navy
  • A small selection of buttons of standard sizes and colours (like white shirt buttons)
  • Strong iron-on tape for rescuing trouser and skirt hems that have come down
  • Plain iron-on patches for repairing tears
  • A box of safety pins
  • Scissors don’t have to be part of the kit, but some would be welcome.