Introduction: How to Enter the Etsy and Instructables Sew Useful Contest

About: I like taking things apart and figuring out how they work. I generally loose interest after that.

Contest results are up!


Welcome to the Sew Useful contest page! Etsy and Instructables have partnered to launch the Sew Useful contest to celebrate our two communities. Entrants will bring their skills to practical projects that make life easier, then share the how-tos.

Because Etsy is a community marketplace for independent artists and craftspeople and Instructables is a web community of makers who share homebrew how-tos, we figured this contest would be an excellent endeavor. Etsy is all about bringing your ingenious creation into the world. When you add the Instructable tutorial, you further help out human kind by passing on the know-how. What better way to live the handmade lifestyle and sharpen your competitive edge?


Singer has kindly offered to sponsor the contest. The top entry in each of the three categories (detailed below) will all be Singer QUANTUM(r) 9940 computerized sewing machines. Additionally, three runners up will receive laser-etched Leatherman Juice S2s and Etsy Labs gift boxes filled with goodies.

The following prizes will be awarded:

*3 Singer QUANTUM(r) 9940 computerized sewing machines;
*3 Leatherman knives; and
*3 Etsy gift boxes.

Contest Instructions:

Here are the steps to enter the contest. Keep in mind that you are not just creating useful items, but you are also documenting the process and making an Instructable. Each entrant may enter up to three handmade, useful items with accompanying Instructable.

We are keeping the definition of "useful" loose because we want to see what you come up with. In general, we take "useful" to mean something that makes life easier for humans. This could be a tool, a modification of some existing object, or an item that has some practical function. It could be helpful to a person who has a specific disability or could be generally functional for anyone.

Since many Etsians may be new to Instructables, Eric, the founder of Instructables, put together a tour here. (If you're unfamiliar with Etsy, check out the Etsy FAQ.)

All entries must....
  • Be a useful object and Instructable tutorial designed and made by you
  • Be posted to the Etsy Group on Instructables between May 14th and the July 16, 2007
  • Be posted on the Etsy site by July 16, 2007 at 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time

To enter, you must...

  • Be a member of Etsy; it's free and easy to register.
  • List your item on Etsy (which costs 20 cents). Click the grey nav button "Sell" on the upper left to be guided through the listing process. If your items sells, there is a 3.5% fee. So long as the item is entered by June 15 and so long as it complies with these contest rules, even if your item is bought or sold, it will be eligible. These fees will be donated to One Laptop Per Child.
  • Tag your Etsy item "SewUseful."
  • Post your Instructable tutorial to the Etsy Group on Instructables. The Instructable you'll submit will contain information about the construction of the object. To add a project to Instructables, read this short tutorial. Once you've submitted your project, you'll need to add it to the Instructables' Etsy group. Instructions on how to add a project to the Instructables' Etsy group are posted here.
  • Provide a link from your Instructable to the Etsy listing with the object for sale.
  • Add the link to your Instructable tutorial to your listing description.

Etsy, Instructables, and the audience (you!) will judge the entries. In the past, we've only used the rating of an Instructable to help break ties between our awesome judges. This time around, we're explicitly using the rating of an Instructable and its total number of pageviews as an input into our judging. We will also factor in how many times an item is viewed on Etsy. So, make sure your project is not only great, but that people are coming in to check it out.

Judging Criteria:

All contest entries will be judged for merit. There will be a winner in each of the three categories:

*The Sew Helpful Award -- goes to the most useful thing that helps others in need;
*The Sew Hybrid Award -- goes to the best combination of sewing and technology; and
*The Sew Educational Award -- goes to the best Instructable tutorial.

Additional Judging Factors:

  • Completeness (photos and text for all important steps);
  • Clear, concise text description including a properly summarized introduction with the motivation for doing the project and the rationale for why the project makes an excellent gift;
  • Clear photographs (2+ megapixel preferred), use macro mode for close up shots;
  • Use of photo-notes where appropriate;
  • List of materials, parts and tools required (if appropriate);
  • Safety notes (if appropriate);
  • Usefulness;
  • Originality;
  • Technical merit; and
  • Style and Aesthetics.

Etsy and Instructables will judge the entries. We take into account the number item views on both Etsy and Instructables, so get the word out about your entries!

Winners will be notified via e-mail on or about July 19th, 2007, and a list of winners will be posted on both and

The Proceeds Will Benefit

We're also working with One Laptop per Child (otherwise known as the $100 Laptop project): contributions will help spread knowledge and tools to communities in developing countries (more on this below). One Laptop per Child is developing an durable, tiny and user-friendly laptop. The One Laptop per Child project's "goal is to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment, and express themselves." Etsy and Instructables are working with OLPC during the Sew Helpful contest.

Entrants can choose to submit their Instructables to the One Laptop per Child project. Then these how-tos may be chosen to be included on the laptop. For more info on how this works, see this Instructables page. Additionally, Etsy will donate all fees from participating listings to OLPC.

Contact & Discussion:

Instructables, Inc and Etsy Inc are the contest sponsors and administrators. To contact us please e-mail: or with subject heading "Sew Useful."

But please check out the FAQ below first! We'll be updating these in response to questions asked on the Instructables' Etsy Group and on the Etsy forums.


Q: Does my entry have to involve sewing?
A: No. There's no restriction on entries. But you'll still win a sewing machine.

Q: What do you consider "useful"?
A: We are keeping this definition loose because we want to see what you come up with. In general, we take "useful" to mean something that makes life easier for humans. This could be a tool, a modification of some existing item, or an item that has some practical function. It could be helpful to a person who has a specific disability or could be helpful to anyone in general. For example: A blanket that's also a calendar, a hat that has tiny speakers built in, a cycling shirt with lots of clever pockets, a tool for cutting your toenails that catches the clippings ... Oh, the possibilities!

Q: Does my entry have to include elements of both tech and craft?
A: It does not have to. But go for it, especially if you've got your eye on the prize for "The Best Combination of Sewing and Technology."

Q: Are collaborations with others allowed? For example, I can't sew or solder. Can I get my seamstress/metalsmithing friend to do that part of the entry?
A: We encourage collaborations, as long as all participants are credited. You have to work out how to share the prize!

Q: How many pieces can I submit?
A: Up to three.

Q: Does my Etsy listing have to include the How-to instructions?
A: No, just make sure to put a link to your Instructable how-to in your Etsy listing.

Q: How do I tag my Etsy listing "SewUseful"?
A: Use the first tag to determine which of the main categories your item fits in. Use the second and third tags to choose subcategories. The rest of the tags are descriptive. One of these should be your "SewUseful" tag.

Q: Do my usernames on Etsy and Instructables have to be the same?
A: No.

Step 1: Contest Rules

Legal Considerations:

The odds of winning depend on the number of acceptable entries received and the decision of the judges. The prizes will be awarded and mailed to the winners. The Contest Administrator is solely responsible for the payment of all prizes. Upon delivery to the winner's address, the Contest Administrator will be deemed to have awarded the prize to the winner with the winner assuming full responsibility for the prize. There will be no substitution for prizes other than as offered. Each winner, and not the Contest Administrator, is solely responsible for all other arrangements, costs and expenses associated with and receiving their prize, including without limitation, any taxes or other fees imposed by a government authority. All participants and winners agree that entering a project into the Instructables website or Etsy website constitutes agreement to the terms and conditions of the Entry rules. Winners will be notified by e-mail on or about June 18th, 2007. The Contest Administrator's decision is final. If a winner fails to respond within 10 days of notification, an alternate winner will be selected. Prizes are not transferable.

Entries made on the Internet will be deemed made by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address submitted at the time of Entry. In the event of a dispute, potential winners may be required to provide proof that the potential winner is the authorized account holder of the e-mail address associated with the potentially winning Entry. By submitting an Entry, the Participant certifies that the Project entered in the Contest is their work, or that they have written legal permission from the property owner. The Participant guarantees that publication of the Entry will not infringe upon any other copyright. Furthermore, they have read and understand the complete rules of the Contest and agree to abide by them.

By entering, Participants agree to release and hold harmless the Contest Administrator and their affiliates, subsidiaries, officers, directors, representatives, agents, and employees, from any and all liability whatsoever for any injuries, losses, or damages of any kind arising from or in connection with, either directly or indirectly, 1) the awarding, acceptance, receipt, possession, use, and/or misuse of any prize awarded herein; or 2) participation in the Contest or any prize related activities, including but not limited to traveling to or from any prize related activity. The Contest Administrator is not responsible for incorrect or inaccurate entry of information including, but not limited to, technical malfunctions, human error, lost/delayed data transmission, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, line failures of any telephone network, computer equipment, software or any combination thereof, Entry materials that have been tampered with, or e-mail or mail-in entries that are illegible, late, lost, damaged, postage due, or misdirected. The Contest Administrator is not responsible for any injury or damage to the Participant's or any other person's computer related to or resulting from participation or downloading any material in this Contest. Entries that have been tampered with or altered are void.

The Contest Administrator reserves the right to cancel, terminate, modify, or suspend this Contest if it becomes technically corrupted or if for any reason the Internet portion of the program is not capable of running as planned, including infections by computer viruses, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes beyond the control of the Contest Administrator that corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, or proper conduct of this Contest promotion.

This Contest shall be interpreted and governed by the substantive laws of the State of California and any applicable laws and regulations of the United States. The Participant agrees that any and all disputes which cannot be resolved between the parties, and causes of action arising out of or connected with this Contest, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, exclusively, before a court located in Alameda County, CA having competent jurisdiction, which Court shall apply the laws of the State of California without regard to any principles of conflicts of laws, and submission of said Entry constitutes acceptance of such laws. Instructables Inc. will handle any and all disputes. The Participant further agrees that no claims, judgments or awards shall exceed the amount of the Contest prize and under no circumstances shall include attorney's fees; nor shall any Participant be permitted to obtain awards for punitive, incidental, consequential or other similar damages or have any damage awards multiplied or increased for any reason.

Step 2: How We Judged This Contest

We judged the Sew Useful Contest using Range Voting, with help from the staff at Etsy, MAKE and CRAFT magazines, and Instructables.

Each judge received a ballot with the following instructions:
Please cast votes, in each of the three criteria, for any of the contest entries.

The three criteria are:
Helpful -- goes to the most useful thing that helps others in need
Hybrid -- goes to the best combination of sewing and technology
Educational -- goes to the best Instructable tutorial

A vote of "9" indicates that the project should win. A vote of "0" indicates that the project should not win. A vote of "no opinion/project not suitable" does not affect a project's standing in that criteria.

For example, if a project should win the Helpful award, vote a "9" for the project in its Helpful dropdown box. If a project is suitable for the Helpful award, but should not win, vote a "0". If you have no opinion, or if the project is not suitable for an award, vote "no opinion/project not suitable."

The actual ballot contained the 126 entries in random order with a drop-down box that defaulted to "no opinion" but could be set to 0-9.

All 28 judges were required to submit their username and email address to authenticate their vote.

As in the Olympics, the average score is the final determinant for each project.
All projects with more than 50% of the potential maximum score are listed below, sorted by average score. Reading across: project name, sum of votes, average score, number of votes, standard deviation, and percentage of maximum score.

Rain or Shine Solar Charger - 108 - 8.3 - 13 - 0.94 - 61%
Envelope Book - 92 - 7.6 - 12 - 1.15 - 52%
Concrete Lightbulb Wall Hook - 117 - 7.3 - 16 - 1.25 - 66%
SewUseful Plushie Personal Boom-box / Goodnight Pillow - 123 - 6.8 - 18 - 1.47 - 70%
Insulin Pump Garter - 99 - 6.6 - 15 - 2.00 - 56%
Screen Printing Machine: Print Faux-co! - 114 - 6 - 19 - 2.40 - 64%
Introducing the Fab-brick (a Sew Useful contest project) - 93 - 5.5 - 17 - 2.60 - 53%

Rain or Shine Solar Charger 124 - 8.3 - 15 - 0.88 - 70%
Fire Skirt! - 176 - 7.7 - 23 - 1.47 - 100%
SewUseful Plushie Personal Boom-box / Goodnight Pillow - 164 - 7.1 - 23 - 1.87 - 93%
Insulin Pump Garter - 100 - 6.7 - 15 - 0.98 - 57%

Rain or Shine Solar Charger - 99 - 7.6 - 13 - 1.61 - 56%
Insulin Pump Garter - 164 - 7.5 - 22 - 1.57 - 93%
Airtight waterproof hearing aid dryer - 116 - 6.8 - 17 - 1.63 - 66%
SewUseful Walker Bag With a Professional Touch - 97 - 6.5 - 15 - 2.00 - 55%
Double Leg Bag - 89 - 6.4 - 14 - 2.31 - 51%
Concrete Lightbulb Wall Hook - 99 - 6.2 - 16 - 2.23 - 56%
Emergency Recordable Bag - 90 - 6 - 15 - 1.65 - 51%
SewUseful Plushie Personal Boom-box / Goodnight Pillow - 101 - 5.9 - 17 - 1.71 - 57%
Screen Printing Machine: Print Faux-co! - 108 - 5.4 - 20 - 2.39 - 61%

Since the solar charger won all three categories, it was awarded the prize for its highest-scoring category, Educational. The insulin pump garter would then have won the Helpful category, but due to close family ties it was removed from contention. (The author will instead receive a Robot t-shirt and a big hug.)

Congratulations again to all who entered- there were so many truly fantastic projects!