Sewing Questions-trying to Help Some Homeless Kids

Updated on December 01, 2009
V.R. asks from Eureka, CA
21 answers

My 9 year old son and some of his friends, along with the moms have been helping out a woman who feeds and drives 40 homeless teenagers to school every day. We usually sell some hot chocolate cones, snowman/reindeer poop stocking stuffers to raise money so that each teen gets a Christmas present.
This year, the woman that helps the kids has told us that they desparately need blankets. It rains a lot where we live but doesn't freeze or snow.
My specific question is this. Myself and the other moms have been trying to think of a way to "make" a sleeping bag." We don't have quite enough blankets donated yet but when we do, we plan to sew two blankets together, kind of like a sleeping bag. We don't have the money or time to put a zipper in each one so we will sew them all the way around and about halfway up and put them inside a tarp (if we get 40 of them.) We want to fold the smallest tarps we can find in half and zip tie it closed with the two sewed together blankets inside.
Sorry for the book here. We got a lot of afgan type blankets donated and are not sure how to sew them together. No one wants to wreck their machine by sewing the tarps to the blankets but we're not sure it would wreck them. Also, we wanted the blankets to be taken out to wash occassionally so weren't sure about sewing them to the tarps.
The kids sleep in bushes and that is the reason to have the tarp below them and on top of them. We just need logistical help here on how to make this idea work.
Also, need ideas on how to sew the afgans together. I thought of putting them beteen two flat sheets and trying to tie it like a quilt somehow but am not sure that would work???
Also, trying to think of a way that the kids can roll up the whole tarp/blanket business in the morning when they wake up and tie or tape it closed like when you roll up a sleeping bag. I thought of little pieces of rop but think they might get lost.
Sorry, I couldn't be more concise.

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So What Happened?

For all of the women that offered to help, I live in Eureka, CA. You can send me a private message. I am leaving to go to Joann's right now to look at the blanket tape.

Featured Answers

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L.M.

answers from San Francisco on

I am not in any way a seamstress, so I have no helpful ideas. But I wanted to thank you for doing this. The world needs people like you!

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E.P.

answers from San Francisco on

HI , i would like to help out if I can with this project . It was hard to visualise all the stuff and how to sew etc . I dont know why you couldnt sew the blankets together and make a sleeping bag shape with them . Same with the tarps . I would use velcro instead of zips maybe and maybe make a strap with velcro to sew on to the tarp to roll it up ?
I presume you are arround Berkeley as this is a Berkeley post?

More Answers

E.D.

answers from San Francisco on

Great cause. Good for you and your son. I think that the way to get the two sacks(inner and outer) to stay together, yet come apart would be to sew or tie ropes or strings or bungies to the bottom of the inner bag and have them come through a small hole in the bottom of the outer bag and then they can be tied so that they join the two sacks and at the same time can be used to roll the bags up and tie them so it can be stored and transported easily.
______V_______V____
[.............................]
[.............................]
[.............................]
[.............................]
[__________________]
The V's represent the ties on the bottom of the inner bag and the spaces would be the holes on the outer bag to pull the ties through.

Call me at ###-###-#### if you want more info. or e-mail me direct at [email protected]____.com
E. D.

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P.W.

answers from San Francisco on

I agree with Helen about the fleece -- fleece was my first thought. But if you are saving money by using donated items, specifically afghans, then I guess you don't want to buy fleece. (There are really cheap fleece blankets at Target and probably Wal-Mart.) I'm not sure what exactly an afghan is, and why you only have donated afghans, so I'm not sure how to respond. If the afghans aren't too thick, I don't see why a decent sewing machine couldn't sew them together. If you want the inside to be washable, you could sew the two parts (afghan and tarp) separately, and maybe sew on some snaps to keep the two parts together. Or not. You could just have two separate parts. I would just sew them together the same way you sew any two pieces of fabric together. And I would use rope. If the rope gets lost during use, so be it. I've been on enough kids' field trips, and many of the sleeping bags have no ties and are just thrown in a heap anyway. Kids don't care.

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W.M.

answers from Sacramento on

V.,
I praise you for helping. If you sew the blankets together along the bottom, you can put some heavy duty flat material, or make your own out of scrap, and sew it into the seam so that the kids can roll them up and tie them off.
If you make them long enough, they may be able to tie them to the straps on their backpacks so their hands are free.
If you take material, say a three inch strip, fold it in half long way, then iron it flat. Then open it up, and fold the two sides in and iron them also. You should then have one long piece of material that would require a seam and you have a strap.
W. M.

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S.L.

answers from Fresno on

To keep them rolled up you might consider sewing webbed belting in the bottom of the tarp in the seam. I would sew 2 pieces in. One piece a few inches long and the other piece long enough to wrap around the rolled up blanket and tarp. on the ends of the webbing sew on plastic buckles that snap together (here's a link to what I mean in case you're not sure http://www.itwnexus.com/side-release-buckles.php) I would sew two sets in about 8 inches apart so it would look like a rolled up sleeping bag with fasteners.
The webbing and buckles are usually sold really cheaply at most hardware stores.

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G.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi V.,

I don't have sewing skills, but since these kids are minors they should get first priority at a shelter. Do you have one locally there? Foster care is another option. Just thinking out loud here.....maybe I can look online for you to see if there is something local for you.....? Child protective services are possibly another contact that can get them off the streets?

V., I went online and here is what I found:

Eureka Rescue Mission: ###-###-####

Eureka mutiple Assistance Center program (Gary Bird) ###-###-####

My prayers are with you all,
Gail

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A.F.

answers from San Francisco on

Dear Vicki,
I am a quilter and I once used a heavy wool blanket as a kind of "batting" between two plain cotton pieces. I it worked really well and the quilting part was no problem. I even think simple grid quilted is going to be faster than tying it. It was a gift for my sister in law who uses it as an outdoor baby blanket. She commented that it is very warm and keeps the cold from the ground and even a bit of dampness away from the kids. Good luck, A.

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H.D.

answers from San Francisco on

You may want to go to one of the bigger sewing shops like Joanne Fabrics and look at the "no sew" fleece. They can cut you pieces the right size and you don't have to sew them any more than that if you don't want to. They come in different patterns and colors and they are very warm. You could sew them on two sides to make a sudo sleeping bag. You might even get a discount if you tell them what it is being used for...
Would love to quilt with any women that are interested. Good luck on your project...let me know if I can help in any way. =)

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F.S.

answers from San Francisco on

My sister in South Dakota started a non profit called "Sew Special" and sews for preemie babies and homeless babies.
They were able to get professional sewing machines donated to them. They make funeral gowns out of donated wedding dresses whereas before the hospital could only put them in an old baby blanet. Perhaps you could contact a sewing machine company. I think my sister and her group uses Surgers. I am not sure if that is how it is spelled. What about contacting a t.v. station so they can do someting about your group on the news and get help for all the homeless teens. Where are you located? What do the kids eat, etc? Praise God that you are all helping them and they can go to school. Can't they sleep in the school gym at night? Prayers for the kids and your son and his friends and all the Moms like you.
F.

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P.M.

answers from San Francisco on

OK, without some info, I'll try to take a stab at this. I've made lots of stuff over the years as a props artisan for theater and had to improvise and figure weird stuff out, those are my credentials! :-)

I am picturing tarps with grommet holes along the edges so they can be tied down and knitted afghans. My thought is this: to make a bag out of the afghans, instead of using sewing machines (which is likely to cause frustration of the highest order for this kind of fabric) why not get some similar weight yarn and a big darning needle and do a blanket stitch around the edge to hold it all together (you might even be able to just fold a blanket in 1/2 if it's big enough). The kids could be very helpful with this. Once that is done, the tarps with their grommet holes could be laced to the afghan bags, then unlaced to wash. You could even add grommets if you want, the tools for that are readily available at a hardware store and fairly easy to use, once you have the hang of it (you just need a hammer, in addition to the tools in the kit). You could even include grommet holes at the bottom for your rope tie idea- then the ties won't get lost because you can just attach them/tie them to the grommet holes. I'm stressing the grommets because they reinforce the holes in the tarp, which will eventually tear through if not reinforced. Oh, and if you had sheets (you can maybe get them cheap at a thrift store) you could fold those in 1/2 and stitch them to include those as bag liners (maybe also laced at the top for ease of removal) then those could be washed more often than even the blankets, which may take a long time to dry, plus providing another layer for warmth. I wish I could draw you a little picture but I hope this helps!

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P.R.

answers from San Francisco on

One concern I have about going ahead and using the afghan fabric is that it will not wash very well, or may take special soap and washing methods that may not be available to these young kids. It may vrteat mor problems that it is worth. Fleece would work so much beter. But I know you can only use what you have.

One other thing about the tarps, I have had tarps where the water does seep through because the "weave" was too open (esp the blue ones). If any one of these kids has experience with a preferred brand, then use that. For different sized tarps, camping stores sell groundsheets for placing under tents to keep the water out, and I find they are just the best. They come in different sizes, and have grommet holes (usually) in the corners. Strangely enough the best brand I use for that is ... Eureka tents.

Best of luck.

Regards, P.

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M.P.

answers from San Francisco on

How about using some velcro? Maybe between the tarp and the blankets - that way the tarp and blanket could be separated. You have to sew the velcro strips on or else they will come off with moisture. And for tying the whoel thing into a bedroll, how about sewing on ties to the top, let them fold the whole thing in half lengthwise and then roll and tie? What a great bunch you are. I need to find a way to contribute like you do. Where are you located, I wonder.

GOOD LUCK -
M.

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X.L.

answers from Sacramento on

V.,

I wish we were closer, I am on this mission currently as well, but I believe all the homeless I am in the process of helping are adults... I have some plastic painters tarp, it was purchased at Lowe's I believe, but I am sure you can find it at most home improvement stores, its thicker, thicker than some tarps out there, and its HUGE, when unrolled, it will make mass amounts of plastic sleeping bag type tarps, i would also pick up a roll of twine or nylon string or even some red heart yarn (you get a full pound for about $6) and sew it into the bottom of the plastic tarps for tying, don't sew the blankets in, if they can't wash them they will get left behind when they get to dirty to bare, as for sewing afghans together, if they were knitted or crocheted the best way to put them together would be to run a single crochet around the outside of 2 sides, call around and see if any of your girlfriends crochet, if not its a really easy stitch to learn! Good Luck on your mission, I hope some of this was helpful! Feel free to email me if you need anymore help! [email protected]____.com

X.

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C.L.

answers from Sacramento on

Hi, I just finished making a raincoat and the only thread that would work was very thick and strong. I think you should sew the tarp separately from the blanket so that the blanket could tuck inside. Maybe there can be buttons and loops on top of both so that the can be linked together when the kids are asleep. Maybe a denim or leather needle would work for the tarp? You can sew on velcro tabs so that the bags and tarps can be rolled up. I am not sure about the afghans because I don't know exactly what you mean. Where I live there is a sewing store that sells bags of cheap zippers but it is still time consuming to put them in - maybe velcro as well for the sides?

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K.I.

answers from San Francisco on

Blanket tape will work. Depending on the afgan it can be a little hard to work with though. With an afgan the easiest thing would be to crotche the sides closed. You local yarn store or michaels might be able to connect you to some one who could do that.

I would not sew the blanket to the tarp. They do not wash well and it starts to decrease their ability to repel water.

For warmth there also are space blankets that deflect warmth to the body. They are like mini foil tarps. They are what peopel carry in survival kits. They are not real expensive.

Last your tieing up problem... When you are sewing the blankets it is possible to attach elastic loops or rope on the bottom end. Then they will not get lost and they are their when you need them. It does not take a lot more time or cost.

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P.C.

answers from San Francisco on

This is a great idea! I'm dying to know where you live (I have a husband who lets me do nutty things without too much grumbling as well :)). If you're not too far away, I'd be happy to work on getting some blankets to you (my guess is that other Mamasource mamas might be able to collect some as well). I think the way to go would be to aim to get 40 comforters donated - give the afghans as "bonus" blankets - but not try to get them sewn into sleeping bags. They're not that warm, and they don't generally wash well. I think the zip-tied tarp thing is a great idea as well, but don't sew them to the blankets - they should be able fold them separately from the sleeping bag, or use them as make-shift tents if desired. It's really quite amazing to me that there are 40 teens in one area, and no one has been able to find them shelter in a church or other building - so sad! :( Let me know if I can help! :)

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J.M.

answers from Sacramento on

Sticky velcro the sleeping bags to the inside of the tarps!
If you sew just the tarps together, just use a sharp (read: new) needle with a hole big enough for the thread you're using. Shouldn't have any problems. Then just use a few pieces of sticky velcro to adhere the sleeping bag inside!
My church mades blankets for homeless kids and they're so grateful! Awesome idea!

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G.R.

answers from Sacramento on

It sounds like a job for blanket tape (the ribbony edging that goes around the edges of blankets). You can get it in rolls, pre-pressed, or use strips of fabric and press them your self. If so, press the edges on the long sides under, then fold it in half lengthwise and press the fold. The result is a v shaped piece of fabric that you place around the blanket edges. For maximum durability use a zig zag stitch or even use double needles to make a row of zigzags. For attaching the blankets inside the tarp, maybe some Velcro or snaps. You should have one of the kids call stores to get supplies donated. People have a much harder time saying no to children for this kind of thing. Keep up the good work!

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M.S.

answers from San Francisco on

Here are a few ideas off the top of my head:

- Perhaps a local fashion school would loan you the use of their industrial machines, which would allow you to sew the heftier materials.

- Fusing web?

- Hot glue for the tarps?

- Wide elastic loops attached to the bottom (feet end) of the tarp - I just purchased a sleeping bag with these - very handy!

- velcro flaps for sealing up the bags

- Also, get tarps in colors that blend, ie camo, brown or green, so that the kids are more hidden when sleeping.

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D.S.

answers from San Francisco on

God Bless all of you for your efforts!
I know that if you put one of the foil blankets that people use for the snow or cold... the kids can cut them up and they keep your feet warm in the shoes as well as hands.
Hav eyou contacted a church to see if they will help you get the blankets and even help you put them together.
Good Luck. I am not in your area but will see if I can find any family that can help. Nana Glenda

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