Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Service Project: Tips for Hosting a Successful Pillowcase Event

Back in January, I published a post describing a sewing class my daughter took at our local Joann Fabric and Craft Store.  In this class, the students cut, ironed, and pinned the fabric they had selected and brought with them to the class.  My daughter absolutely loved this class, especially because she had an opportunity to use a sewing machine. There is a great deal of useful information in the January post mentioned above, including a link to the incredibly helpful Missouri Star Quilt Company Tube Method Tutorial.  I also added photos with the instructions I followed when making one of these pillowcases.  I invite you to check it out!  The purpose of this post is to describe our Pillowcase Event and hopefully provide tips for readers who wish to host their own successful Pillowcase Event.

  • As I learned more about making pillowcases, I discovered the American Patchwork and Quilting (APQ) 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge.  Their website provides free patterns, a charity list, and teaching tools I found to be invaluable as I prepared for this event.
  • Knowing I wanted to divide our girls into groups for this project, I invited family members to join us for this meeting.  Six adults were available to help, and it is important to note they are all currently registered Girl Scouts.
  • I divided our nine girls into three groups and assigned two adults to each group.  Wanting the girls to work with different people, I made sure they were not in a group being supervised by their mom or grandma.  I also separated all the sisters across the different groups.
  • This event was held at my house.  There were three stations: one in the family room, one in the kitchen, and one in the dining room.  Each station was equipped with the following:  iron, ironing board, flat surface large enough to allow girls to pin the fabric (table or kitchen island), another table and sewing machine, scissors, seam ripper, pearl head straight pins, pincushion, thread, bobbin, and fabric. We were able to borrow these necessary supplies from the families in our troop (with the exception of the fabric).  *If possible, it is a good idea to have an additional sewing machine in case you encounter technical difficulties during the event.  (We needed three sewing machines, and we arranged for someone to bring a fourth.  We actually ended up needing that extra one). 
  • Earlier in the school year, the girls agreed to spend some of the money they earned during the cookie sale to purchase fabric for this service project.  I shopped during sales and used coupons when I could to purchase enough fabric for each girl to make one pillowcase.  We decided to donate the pillowcases to Cincinnati Children's Hospital.  We spent about $45 on fabric which ends up being $5/pillowcase.  Since the stitches are not seen when using the tube method, we did not worry about matching the thread to the fabric.  I happened to have spools of thread from past family projects, so our troop did not have to buy thread. 
  • To make this particular pillowcase, you need a 27" piece of fabric, a 9" piece of fabric, and a 2" piece of fabric.  The ladies at Joann's allowed me to use the table in the fabric department and their super sharp scissors to trim the selvages and straighten the edges of the fabric.  I highly recommend taking the time to prepare the fabric prior to the meeting.  It is well worth your time and effort! 
  • Based on recommendations made by APQ, the machines were threaded and bobbins were full and loaded before the girls arrived at the meeting. 
  • To eliminate any disagreements over the fabric and to avoid wasting time during the meeting, the fabric was numbered and randomly assigned to the girls.

  • As I previously mentioned, sisters were assigned to different groups, so my two daughters were not going to be working together.  I asked one of the girls in the third group to come over about fifteen minutes early.  She joined my two daughters, and they ironed their fabric before the rest of the troop arrived.  Please continue reading and I will explain why this worked well for our troop.
  • When the girls arrived, they drew numbers to randomly assign the fabric.
  • After saying the Girl Scout Promise, we watched the Missouri Star Quilt Company Tube Method Tutorial.  I had planned to have one of the more experienced sewers in our group of volunteers to give a brief overview of sewing machine basics, but in all the excitement of the day, I completely forgot!  Some of the girls had never used a sewing machine before, so this presentation would have been beneficial. 
  • After watching the tutorial, my daughters and the girl who came to the meeting early started pinning their fabric.  At the same time, a second girl in each group ironed her fabric, and the third girl either helped one of the other two or waited patiently for her turn.  Once the first girl started sewing, the second girl started pinning, and the third girl began ironing her fabric.  This system worked well for our troop.  If we were to do this again, I would set it up the same way. 
  • When the girls finished, they were asked to work on an endangered animal crossword puzzle and word search.  This helped us gear up for the Junior Animal Habitat badge they will earn at our next meeting and during our Zoo Overnight in May. 

  • Although we ran into some technical difficulties with one of the machines, and two of our nine girls had to rip out side seams and begin again, this project went very smoothly.  Everyone had completed their pillowcase before the meeting was scheduled to end.  We even had time to snap a couple pictures.
  • Not only is this is great service project, it could satisfy a number of badge steps (For example, you could make it work for the Brownie Philanthropist badge or for Step 2 of the Junior Independence badge). 
  • We ordered sewing machine fun patches from Council so the girls would remember this event.

At Cincinnati Children's Hospital
This project could not have happened without the help of our willing and knowledgeable volunteers.  HUGE thanks to Amy, Mandy, Lynne, Sam, and Vicki for sharing your time and talents with our troop!  Many of the girls and their parents expressed interest in making more of these pillowcases at home to give as gifts and to donate to other organizations.  While it did take a lot of time to prepare for this event, it was worth every minute!  Thank you for reading.

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