wood crocheting needles with pink yarn in shape of heart on white background

Photograph By Melica / Adobe Stock 

5 crafty ways to give back

These five projects will boost your craft skills and give something back to your community

If you’re a crafter, you probably have enough handmade hats, birdhouses or pottery doodads to last a lifetime. (Or two.) Instead of figuring out where to store more stuff, why not exercise your crafting muscles for your community? Whether your tool of choice is a crochet hook, a sewing machine or a pair of knitting needles, there are myriad ways to create handmade goods that provide warmth and comfort to people in need.

One important note before you start: Direct giving to hospitals, nursing homes and shelters can be tricky. Handmade donations must often meet strict guidelines, and a charitable crafting group can help you negotiate the rules. For example, hospitals usually accept fibre-based handmades only if they are scent-free, crafted from specific materials and safe for patients. Join a group that works with volunteer coordinators to find out what an institution really needs. And if handmade items aren’t accepted, consider giving a cash donation instead.

Infant with knit octopus from Sarah's Knit bits

1Get crafty: Crochet an octopus for a preemie

In 2013, Danish crocheters began making octopus toys with curly tentacles to comfort tiny premature infants. Today this worldwide movement has a Canadian chapter that donates these little miracles to 15 NICUs across the country (including two in the GTA). Each toy takes a few hours to make and requires only about 40 yards of yarn.

How it helps: The octopus toy’s curly tentacles mimic the feel of the umbilical cord in utero, giving tiny preemies something to hold so they won’t pull out vital IV tubes or monitoring cords. Plus, parents are encouraged to hold the toys before they’re placed inside the incubator, so their little one will know their scent and feel comforted.

Get involved: Join the Facebook group Octopus for a Preemie Canada. Hospitals have extremely strict rules for these toys, and this group works closely with them to ensure donations meet requirements and are accepted. (Photography By Sarah’s Knit Bits)

Woman wearing plaid shirt and knit cap sitting in bed reading book

2Get crafty: Knit a hat for an adult fighting cancer

This is a terrific way to use up your yarn stash. You can knock off a simple hat made from odds and ends in just a few hours, while you’re watching TV even. Hint: Ribbed hats are great, as they fit a range of head sizes.

How it helps: Hospitals can be chilly, especially if chemo treatments have robbed you of your hair. A simple cap keeps the chill away and makes a patient feel cared for.

Get involved: The Toronto Knitters Guild has a link to pattern suggestions from Mount Sinai Hospital, which accepts donations of hats, PICC line covers, shawls and more. Princess Margaret Hospital and many other cancer centres in the GTA also accept knitted donations. Try contacting the Get Well Gang, Angel Hugs or another charitable knitting group for locations near you. (Photography By Rawpixel.com / Adobe Stock)

young girl in blue shirt lying on colourful quilt

3Get crafty: Make a blanket for a child experiencing illness or trauma

Your scrap bin is calling! Create a blanket in any size, and you’ll be giving a warm virtual hug to a kid who needs a little extra support. “Blanketeers” for Project Linus Canada can donate quilted, sewn, knitted or crocheted blankets to kids from newborn to teen.

How it helps: Named for Linus, Charlie Brown’s blanket-toting buddy, the project provides homemade blankets to seriously ill and traumatized children. The blankets offer a feeling of security to kids who are coping with sickness, home loss or other crises.

Get involved: Project Linus Canada has 44 local chapters, including ones in Toronto and York Region. Visit their chapter page to find one near you. You can also donate your fabric or yarn stash to your local chapter so blanketeers with limited resources can participate. (Photography By PeopleImages / iStockphoto)

A colourful assortment of knit mitts and socks

4Get crafty: Knit a pair of warm socks or mittens for a person experiencing homelessness

Yes, it’s summer. But winter is coming and in Toronto, it gets brutally cold—every year, vulnerable people freeze on city streets. But just a few hours of knitting time, using a simple pattern and warm yarn, can mean the difference between life and death for a person experiencing homelessness.

How it helps: The StreetKnit Project collects knitted clothing—hats, mittens, scarves, sweaters and socks—and provides them to homeless outreach programs in the city. Men’s items are in high demand, but women’s and children’s items are also accepted.

Get involved: Head to a StreetKnit meeting on the last Tuesday of the month at the Annette Street branch of the Toronto Public Library. (Photography by sauletas / Adobe Stock)

A mentor teaching another woman how to crochet

5Get crafty: Volunteer to mentor others in your favourite craft

Making is way more fun when it’s shared. It’s even better when you can pass along the joy of sewing, beading, pottery or whatever makes your heart sing to people in your community.

How it helps: Sistering offers programs that support at-risk, socially isolated women in Toronto who are experiencing homelessness or precarious housing. Craft workshops, from weaving to knitting to jewelry making, are just one of the forms of support they offer, and volunteers are always welcome.

Get involved: Contact Sistering at (416) 926-9762 to find out how to become a volunteer. The organization also runs two social enterprises, Inspirations Studio and Spun Studio, where their clients sell artisan wares. It’s a great place to support makers, and find beautiful handmade treasures. (Photography By ashtproductions  / Adobe Stock)