Sarah Ely is 20 years old, loves horses, arcade games and rap music, and lives in Cleveland with her mom and dad. She recently learned how to sew. Her mother, Joyce, decided to start her off on a simple project and Sarah chose to make a present for her friend Kristen Kirton. Like Sarah, Kristen was born with Down’s Syndrome. She bravely battled leukemia from the age of three, and in November 2009 Kristen and her family learned that the disease had returned. Sarah seized the opportunity to send her friend a gift of comfort in the hospital: a handmade pillowcase.
Sarah’s gift was just one instance of a larger community effort called The One Million Pillowcase Challenge, organized by American Patchwork & Quilting and supported by quilting shops around the country. The idea is to make and donate pillowcases — tangible gifts of comfort, encouragement or inspiration — to others in need. To date, over 120,000 pillowcases have been donated and the challenge will continue through the year, so Etsy members have the chance to make a big impact. (The Quiltsy team has already sent pillowcases to Haiti.) Women’s shelters, homeless shelters, hospital patients, nursing homes or soldiers can all benefit from your participation.
To get started, search for a quilt shop hosting One Million Pillowcase Challenge events in your area. If there isn’t a shop near you participating, don’t worry — you can watch a step-by-step video and download free patterns. Creativity is certainly encouraged if you wish to use an original design. Once your pillowcases are complete, you can refer to a list of suggested charities or find a local organization that inspires you. American Patchwork & Quilting is tallying the total number of pillowcases donated, so be sure to visit their website to enter the number you contributed. You can upload pictures to their gallery as well, and mention your Etsy profile or shop.
Jill Mead of Quilts and More and Lisa Schumacher of AllPeopleQuilt.com will appear in the Virtual Labs on Monday, July 26 at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the project, answer your questions and demonstrate a simple technique known as the roll-your-own “burrito” method.
And August 23, our regular Etsy Labs’ Craft Night will be devoted to pillowcase making. We’ll be donating our pillowcases to Housing Works, a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Their mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses to sustain these efforts. Housing Works will be providing the supplies we’ll use to make the pillows — donated textiles from their ten thrift shops. The finished pillowcases will be donated back to Housing Works. It’s craftivism, full circle!