Last updated Feb. 27, 2018
What is the Duffel Bag Project? Why did we create it?
Numerous members of the Maryland Chapter of the American Sewing Guild, ASG, expressed an interest in working on a community service project which would serve the people in our state. The Chapter Advisory Board, CAB, and the Neighborhood Group Leaders, NGLs, under the guidance of the Chapter President, Stephanie DeAbreu, considered many options. When Stephanie proposed making duffel bags for children entering Foster Care, we were hooked. She told us that when a child enters the foster care system and must be relocated from their home they are given a plastic garbage bag for their belongings if they don’t have a suitcase of their own. This heartbreaking fact touched us deeply. We feel no child should have to equate their belongings with trash, so we decided to do what we do best – sew.
In 2017, our Chapter sewed 300 bags.
The Department of Social Services was contacted and we worked with them to develop a duffel bag which would replace the garbage bags and give the children entering Foster Care a sturdy bag for their possessions. The enthusiasm displayed by the Maryland ASG members has been inspiring and contagious. We have even been contacted by non-ASG groups who volunteered to help us make bags. One of those groups, the Treasured Piece Makers, helped the ASG members make and donate 300 bags in 2016, many more than the 250 we had promised. Now we are on track to make 300 bags again in 2017. Children who are using the duffel bags have told their Social Workers that these are “the best bags they have ever received.”
How the project works
The duffel bag was designed by Carolyn Pesterfield, with input from several members whose suggestions helped her simplify the design and instructions. Samples were made and torture tested. We found the best prices on the best supplies, hand cut each bag, and put kits together to distribute to our members. Then the sewing begins. Maryland ASG members have been sewing the duffel bags at Neighborhood Group (NG) meetings and workshops being held throughout the state. Our project has also been adopted by a non-ASG group, the Treasured Piece Makers.
How is the Project being funded?
The project has been primarily self-funded through the extreme generosity of Maryland ASG members. Each year we have a "Stash Sale" where members donate their unwanted fabric and sewing supplies, and other members buy them on a "pay what you will" basis. Last year the members' generosity totaled $3,600 for this project! In all, we now have enough to pay for the supplies needed for the 300 bags we promised to make in 2017.
If anyone would like to make a monetary donation, it will gladly be accepted. The Maryland Chapter of the ASG is a 501c.3, tax- exempt, non-profit organization. For a copy of our Determination Letter contact Carolyn Pesterfield at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can I host a workshop?
Yes! Contact Carolyn at email@example.com if you would like to host a workshop in your region. Workshops require a 4-to-6-hour time slot and at least one of our Bag Ladies who has previous Maryland-ASG-duffel-bag-making experience. Local quilt shop workrooms are perfect for this purpose and the owners have been very enthusiastic about sharing their facilities with us. Libraries and churches often have appropriate space as well.
I can't attend one of the workshops you have scheduled, but want to make a duffel bag for the project. Can I do so?
Yes, all members are invited to make a bag or two or more. Contact your Neighborhood Group Leader to find out how your NG is participating. If you don't belong to an NG, please check out this web page for your nearest NG, and/or please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Also, we have Bag Ladies who will work with you, one on one, while you make your first bag using your own sewing machine. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Our chapter has worked with vendors and donors to obtain appropriate materials to construct sturdy bags. Kits, containing all necessary materials, have been assembled for the bag maker’s convenience and are available to all sewers. If you choose to purchase materials on your own, please read the supply list included in the instructions found on this web page, and make the bag according to the instructions. It is important we maintain the quality of the bags by sewing them as instructed using materials which have passed our “torture test.” The last thing a child needs is a bag which splits open or is easily damaged during normal use. When the bag is completed, please contact Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange delivery or pickup.
I would like to sew something for this project, but do not think I can sew a duffel bag. Is there anything else I can do?
Yes. We welcome donations of pillowcases, in gender-neutral colors and prints. Chapter member Sara Cormeny has used this photo-illustrated tutorial from the website twiddletails.com to make pillowcases and recommends it: The "Magical Pillowcase" Tutorial (PDF).
Can you tell me a little more about "why duffel bags"?
We think this video from former foster care child Charell Star Charleston gives a great angle on what motivated us to get involved:
Carolyn has generously provided the instructions for making these bags, as a free download from our website. Click here for the PDF file.
Thank you to:
All our members who have given and continue to give generously of their time and effort to make these duffel bags.
Materials donors: G Street Fabrics, Kane Supply Corp., Vicki Bozick of Tomorrow's Treasures, Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts, Elizabeth Windsor, Bobbie Horwitz, Sue Hoge, and Carolyn Pesterfield;
Instruction testers: Barbara Meger, Stephanie DeAbreu, Bobbie Horwitz, Sara Cormeny, Suzanne Brinks, and Sue Hoge;
The Duffel Bag Committee Members: Bobbie Horwitz, Sara Cormeny, Stephanie DeAbreu, Char Goodman Hansen, Anita Lister, Laura O'Connor, Carolyn Pesterfield.
Workshop Bag Ladies of the Crofton NG and the Maryland Chapter.