Introduction: How to Host a Quilt-in Event

We work with a group of several women who have been working on using our craft skills to benefit local, and sometimes international, charity organizations.
We call ourselves “The Crafting for Charity Club” and one of our major events each year is to set up a “Quilt-In”.
By the way, we’re trying to win the sewing machine so we can do more crafts for the charitable organizations in our area so your vote would be VERY MUCH APPRECIATED!
At the annual Quilt-In we set up organized chaos to get a bunch of crafters together and make quilts for various groups in need.
At our last event we were able to make 15 quilts in 12 hours which were given to homeless people in our area.
We thought it would be wonderful if we could share our tips and tricks so others can plan events in their area of the country.
Who wouldn’t want a handmade quilt when they’re at a low point in their lives?

Step 1: Select a Site

You will need a location with:
·Lots of space
·Access to several outlets
·Plenty of tables to set up in stations
·Easy access parking, loading and storage
Site needs to be available for use on the weekend.

Step 2: Plan Your Dates, Times and Advertising

·We recommend that this take place sometime between October and December.
It seems that people start thinking of doing charitable work during this time period and it’s easier to get volunteers.
·We have had a great deal of success doing our event over 2 days.
We have chosen Friday night, after work, and Saturday all day.
This seems to work well because some people like to go ahead and do this right after work then have the rest of the weekend free.
Also, since we plan to work all day Saturday we give people the opportunity to come in from out-of-town to work for a significant period of time.
By the way, this is a great activity for kids!
·Contact your local television and radio stations.
Many will advertise your event for free.
·Make up flyers that can be given to churches, grocery stores, and craft stores.
We have found that many corporate entities are very willing to help you with advertising and supporting your event as long as it doesn’t cost them anything to do so.
Also, if you are planning on having regular meetings for other tasks, this is a great time to let people know about your organization.
·Make sure you include your list of needed supplies on the flyers.
(Be prepared for the flood of supplies that will come in!)
oMake sure you contact your local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
They can get badges for helping with events like this.
If you give them enough warning they will overwhelm you with support.
oContact your local high schools and student clubs.
Many of these students are looking for things to fill up their college applications.
It looks really great if they can say they helped with an area Quilt-In.
(Be prepared to write a letter of recommendation for students who come so it can be included in their school files.)

Step 3: Gather Your Supplies

This is another area where the flyers can come in handy.
We have had a great deal of luck gathering supplies from Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
You may have to pay a small fee for some of the supplies but you’re still helping a good cause.
We have been able to negotiate special rates because we were buying lots of supplies.
Plan for a place ahead of time where you can store your donations.
I can’t emphasize this enough!
You are about to be overrun with local crafters and old women who want to clean out their craft room. YOU WILL GET DONATIONS!
In fact, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place to get together with a small group and do some general sorting prior to your actual Quilt-In.
This is what you’ll need for supplies:
·Twin sized bed sheets (backing)
·Scrap fabric (for quilting)
·Sewing thread (for the sewing machines)
·Yarn/Embroidery Floss (to tie the quilt top and back together)
·Large eyed needles (for tying the quilt top and back together)
·Rotary cutters (for cutting your quilt top strips)
·Rotary cutter mats (for cutting your quilt top strips)
·Scissors (cutting thread and evening edges)
·Iron and Ironing Board – have at least one of each.
·Boxes (for storage, sorting and moving the supplies around the event)
·Door Prizes (these can be anything you can gather or make to give out during the event)
You will notice that batting is NOT listed. We have been making our quilts without batting for various reasons.
1.Expense: Batting is very expensive and it’s hard to find someone willing to donate it.
2.Customs: If you’re sending the blanket overseas, customs will rip open the quilts and ruin all your hard work.
3.Cleanliness: If you’re giving these to the homeless there can be significant problems with bedbugs, fleas, and lice.
It’s really better to avoid the batting so they don’t have a place to nest and flourish.

Step 4: Prizes

We have found that it really keeps people going if they know they might get a prize of some sort. Typically, we go to garage sales, flea markets, and clearance aisles throughout the year to look for “cute” things we can give out as prizes.
If you have connections or if your group has the money you might even be able to get some nice gift certificates.
Some of our favorite prizes have been small items that club members have made and donate to the cause.
The items don’t have to be expensive but it’s a small way to say thank you for being here.

Step 5: Setting Up Your Site

Plan for at least 3 hours to set up your event so you aren’t rushed. There is ALWAYS going to be something you forget. (It’s Murphy’s Law!)
We have found that it works best if you have stations.
This will give you the organization you need to help the event run smoothly.
The stations we have are:
  • Cutting/Sorting
  • Sewing
  • Tying
  • Ironing
  • Food/Break Area (we will talk about this later)
  • Supply Area (this is where you centrally locate scissors, thread, yarn, and other shared supplies.)
  • Prize Area (we will talk about this later)
My attached image shows you how we plan and set up the room for working.
You may want to take pictures of the room before the event so you can better analyze how things did and didn’t work for you for future events.
Make sure you have signs to put on your stations so everyone knows where to go next.

Step 6: Running the Event

There are a few things you will want which will make the event more enjoyable for everyone.
  1. Ask for people to RSVP – It really makes it easier if you know how many people are showing up with sewing machines.
Also, you can plan for inexperienced crafters and kids if you know who is coming and when.
You don’t need to be a stickler for times.
  1. Food Area – When we start planning the event we usually set aside a small amount of money to pay for plates, utensils, coffee and donuts.
Some of our participants have been willing to bring in snack food for everyone.
We never promise food because we don’t want to overwhelm our participants with an extra task but we usually have one or two regular members who are willing to bring in some chili to keep everyone there at the event.
Having some food available is a definite plus but you don’t want it to become too much of a focus.
  1. Radio – Playing holiday music really gets everyone in the mood. It also relaxes people and makes it easier to talk to a room full of strangers.
  2. TV/DVD Player – This comes in handy for the kids.
We’ve been able to locate a place with a large screen that has really entertained the kids. However, it will work just as well if you can set up a TV with a DVD player for when the kids get bored.
Bring an assortment and let the kids pick!
  1. Registration Sheets/Door Prize Tickets – It’s important that you get the names and contact information of everyone there.
Also, if your group plans on taking pictures, include a checkbox that asks for permission to take and use their photographs.
It may seem like a small thing but if your group starts to grow this will become vital.
As far as the Door Prize Tickets go, we have been making our own.
We have punched out some mittens that are joined together.
They each have a hand written number on each of them.
When the people come and register, have them take their mittens.
One gets torn off and put into a bowl and the other stays with them.
Cheap, Easy, and Effective!
  1. Put up directional signs – Depending on your site, you may need to have signs telling people where you’re meeting.
  2. Pre-cut some strips for quilting – There are going to be quite a few people arriving who are all ready to go.
 If you don’t have something for everyone to work on it really puts a damper on things.
If you have some strips pre-cut then people can start sewing right away.
You can have someone assigned to doing this when you do your initial sorting.
  1. Give people instructions – We’ve made a PowerPoint presentation that we use to help people understand the process.
We have a little set of simple, clear instructions that explains where everyone fits in the process.
  1. Designate a Ring Leader - We have found it necessary to designate someone as ring leader.
Make sure your ring leader wears comfortable shoes and has plenty of rest.
You will be called upon to do everything from training participants, tracking down supplies and directing participants to necessary tasks.

Step 7: Making the Quilts

This part has been separated into several steps to better fit the Instructable format.
By the way, we photograph all of our quilts as they are finished. It gives everyone a chance to cheer and share in a sense of accomplishment.

Step 8: Making the Quilts: Step 1

The fabric is sorted into similar weights and styles.

Step 9: Making the Quilts: Step 2

The fabric is cut into strips 3” wide. The length doesn’t matter.

Step 10: Making the Quilt: Step 3

The strips are put into boxes and taken to the people at the sewing machines to be sewn into long strips.
Mix up the colors so there is variety in the quilt top. The seam allowance for stitching on this and most quilting projects is 1/4".

Step 11: Making the Quilt: Step 4

As boxes fill up with sewn strips, people will get the boxes and take them to the backing and tying tables.
The strips will then be cut to fit the backing being used for that particular quilt.

Step 12: Making the Quilt: Step 5

Once the top is ready to be put together, everything is put back in the box and taken back to the sewing machines to be stitched side -to-side to make the top.
Make sure you keep the strips and backing together at all times since these are custom fitted.

Step 13: Making the Quilt: Step 6

Once the top has been sewn together it will be given to someone so it can be tied to the backing with yarn.

This is an area that most children are very good at doing.

Step 14: Making the Quilt: Step 7

Once the backing and top have been tied together it will need to be taken back to the sewing machines for the edges to be finished.

Step 15: Clean Up!

Every great event has an end and you need to plan for wrapping up your Quilt-in.
·We have gotten our clean up down to about 1 hour by having a few things ready.
oHave lots of empty boxes ready.
oBring magic markers to label boxes.
oStart boxing up quilts as they are made and label them for distribution.
·About 1 hour before your event ends, start moving people toward boxing up and cleaning items.
oAny quilts that are partially finished should be put into a box by themselves.
oYou can either save the unfinished quilts for the event next time around or ask for volunteers to finish them off.
We have found that carry-over is helpful for the next event. It gives you more tasks to start off with.
Make sure your boxes are clearly labelled!
oYou may also want to plan a meeting time for members to get together to finish off the partial quilts if you don’t wish to have carry over.
·Make sure any heated items are unplugged so they can start to cool for transporting.
oGive away extra food to whoever wants to deal with it.
·Do yourself a favor and have carts to load the supplies up and move them into storage!
·Depending on the requirement of your event site, you will want to bring brooms, vacuums, dishtowels and other cleaning supplies. Remember – you wouldn’t want someone to leave your home messy.
·It’s most useful if you put the tools into a separate box from material, yarn, thread, etc.
oTake your supply boxes and put them into storage.
oPut the finished quilts in the vehicle of whoever is in charge of distribution.
Now go get a massage and rest up for next year!!!
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