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Enhancing Sewing Kits for Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes

First I'd like to thank everyone for welcoming me in taking over the Simply Shoeboxes blog.  This is the first chance I've got to write a post, but I've been posting photos/quick updates of my Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing on Simply Shoeboxes' Facebook Page.

How much fabric should be included in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox?
I posted a picture on Facebook about adding material and other goodies to the sewing kits we got last year to put in the 10-14 year old girl shoeboxes I'm packing.  There was a lot of interest as to how much fabric to put in, so I thought I'd write a post to report on how much I put in, plus some general thoughts on fabric in shoeboxes.

So, how much fabric should one put in a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child?

Well...I'm afraid there's not a cut and dry answer for that! :)  Any scrap of fabric will help a child in their practice of seaming and hemming.  So even an eight inch square can be useful.  It all depends on how much you have available/can afford,
how strongly it's laid on ones heart, how much room is left in the box you're packing, etc.  Also how think it is will affect how much room it takes up, I choose to stick with basic cotton fabric as while you may not be able to fit as much in as a thin silky fabric, it's easier to sew with for beginners.  One very good question I got was what could be made with a fat quarter, I didn't really know, so I asked my Mom, below are some things we came up with.

With a "Fat Quarter" she could:
    Drawstring bags from fat quarters.
  • Mend/patch clothes
  • Add a ruffle to a dress or skirt that may have been outgrown to make it longer
  • Add a collar to a dress
  • Add Pockets to Clothing
  • Make a head band/covering
  • Drawstring Bags (My mom designed three small size ones that fit in one fat quarter; you can see the instructions here:  How to Sew: Small Drawstring Bags)
  • Pencil Case
  • Doll Clothing
  • "Half" Apron
  • Stuffed Animals
  • Doll
  • Pillow
  • Pincushion
  • Hot Pads
  • Tie Belt
  • Napkin or Placemat
  • Dresser Scarf type item to decorate their home.
With a half yard she could:
  • Any of the above.
  • Totebag
  • Full Apron
With a yard she could:
With 2 yards she could:
  • Any of the above.
  • A-Line Dress
  • Blouse
  • Backpack
To my sewing readers out there...what am I missing?

This is an example of what I added to my sewing kits for my 10 to 14 year old OCC shoeboxes this year:

Sewing notions and fabric added to OCC Shoebox.

I went through some buttons we had laying around as well as some fabric we had in our stash.  Earlier this year I picked up seam binding as it was cheap and thought the lace would give the girls something to dress up something with.  To get it all to fit I had to get creative:

Combining sewing notions to save space in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.

Most of the kits had the pins and safety pins were in these little plastic cases, and I didn't want to throw them out, or combine them.  I ended up figuring out how to nest them...

Sewing Kits added to Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

Sewing kit embellished and added to an Operation Christmas Child shoebox.This is what each kit ended up with-buttons in little holes between inside cases and the seam binding lace out of it's package and folding in the little case with the thread & needles-no room taken up, to leave as much room to fold/squeeze the fabric into.  I decided to go with however much fabric I could fit into the cases of the sewing kits, as my boxes are already going to be near bursting!  For the above kits that was 1/2-3/4 of a yard, and needed rubber-bands for the most part to be sure they stayed shut.  I did have one small kit that I just put in a pack of sample fabric squares, because I loved playing with them as a child, and they could still be used as patches or to piece a small quilt.

I chose to decide the amount  based on what fit in the kit as personally, I try to put a mix of things in, so whatever situation the girl finds herself in and needs/is interested in is covered, at least in part...but that also means I can't always include as much of everything as I'd like. Below is my packing/check list, if anyone's interested:

Girl 10-14 Wish list:
MAIN (try very hard to get)
  • Hygiene:
    • Soap
    • Washcloth
    • Toothbrush
    • Comb or bush
    • Hair bands/head bands/etc
  • School/art Supplies
  • Practical:
  • Fun
    • Stuffed animal
    • Ball (mini rubber)
    • Active/noisy/social toy/game (Cards, checkers, jump rope, puzzle, dominoes etc.)
    • Quiet/calm/solitary toy (Slinky, Rubik's cube, plastic puzzle with sliding pieces)
    • Candy  [Updated 2017:  no longer allowed]

OPTIONAL (as available/there is space):
  • Toothpaste  [Updated 2017:  no longer allowed]
  • Stencil 
  • Eraser  
  • Decorative/mechanical/fun pencil
  • Flashlight
  • Clothes
  • Hat
  • Flip-flops
  • Pretty handkerchief
  • Bonus Items (small top, yo-yo, etc or cup, just something we come up with)
  • Whistles (small plastic ones are great)
You can see some of our completed girl shoeboxes here:  Examples of 10 to 14 Year Old Girls Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes.


Chelle Buskill said...

Well Done :) Love the lists of possible creations.

Sheila said...

This is a great post, Sarah, so helpful and creative!
I liked your list of possible uses for the fabrics and your additional list of what you might pack :)
Very helpful!

gram cheryl said...

I try for 1 1/2 to 2 yards of fabric so they can make a clothing item. I don't include bias tape but do put in some safety pins. Thanks for your list of things they can make.

Rilla said...

Great post. I would add several pencil top erasers.

Sarah said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the post and found it useful! Hopefully I'll have more posts up soon!

Unknown said...

I have been looking all over for this information. Wonderful job! Please tell me where you find the small scissors that really cut. The cheap ones are so flimsy, yours look just right? Thank you so much.

Sarah said...

Glad to help Karen! These came with the sewing kits that I was able to get a deal on at a local dollar store-originally like $11. I might try small school scissors...

Adylaid said...

I know I'm a little late to the party, but I was perusing Pinterest. I was brand new to OCC last year and fairly last minute - I decided I'd collect/craft year-round so I can do more boxes in 2016!
As a suggestion, I'd move toothpaste to the main list rather than the optional one. I believe it's one of the things OCC recommends, and I feel it's quite important. I wonder if they allow homemade toothpaste? Hmmm.

Sarah said...

Welcome to the shoebox packing party Adylaid and to the fun adventure of packing year round!

I chose to put toothpaste on my optional list because with such limited room I can't put in everything I'd like and from what I've heard from a dentist the toothbrush is more important. Additionally, toothpaste, while still allowed to be sent from the US (which it's not in a number of sending countries as it can be difficult to import, delaying delivery of the gifts), is no longer on the online suggested packing items list (http://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/what-goes-in-my-shoebox-suggestions/).

I wouldn't risk homemade, even if they allowed it one of the volunteer inspectors may be confused and remove it, or an customs inspector in the receiving country might have a problem with it.

genealogyangel said...

I find good quality small scissors at Hobby Lobby in their fabric department. As for the toothpaste, it has to have an expiration date of at least a year after the box is packed.

Sarah said...

genealogyangel-thanks for the hint on the scissors!

As far as toothpaste expiration date, the USA OCC website suggests 6 months after collection week, but that is not a hard and fast rule.

Lin K said...

Two notes concerning previous comments: First scissors - since this will be the only pair of scissors this 12-14 yr old will have, I like to get a good quality that will hold up. Two years ago I found 3 pr of name brand sewing shears on clearance (what a find!!) I sewed quilted scissor holders from potholders and added a note in 5 languages that said "Use only with fabric; do not cut paper." Then also included a pr of kids pointed scissors with patterned & solid color crafting paper in a folder. I wrote about making a folder to fit inside shoeboxes out of 12" x 12" patterned card stock in another comment on this site.

Anonymous said...

Lin K what languages did you use?

Lin K said...

The languages that I used for the scissors note: Spanish, French, Russian, Romanian, Ukrainian, and Haitian Creole. I based those choices on where our previous shoe boxes had been sent & also guessing which language someone might know if our shoe boxes went to places where Spanish/French might not be known. We're in FL so often our shoe boxes go south of here (Spanish, Haitian Creole) but we've also had some go to European countries.
I like to add multiple language instructions for games, crafts, and our family greeting (note we place in each box) too.

http://pleasantspringsthings.blogspot.com said...

Where did you find ge little yellow plastic box? What is it? Thanks!

http://pleasantspringsthings.blogspot.com said...

Hello! Where did you find the little yellow plastic box? What is it? Thanks!

Sarah said...

Hi Rebecca! It was what the sewing kit came in, here's a similar one: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Singer-Sewing-Kit-Cool-Case/51984919?wmlspartner=wmtlabs&adid=22222222222040481993&wmlspartner=wmtlabs&wl0=e&wl1=o&wl2=c&wl3=10362166488&wl4=pla-1105782074353&wl12=51984919_10000003288&wl14=singer%20sewing%20kit&veh=sem&msclkid=66ce127b34fb16abc9da48875e9892b0

Lin K said...

As I was reading through the comments again today I thought of a fabric packing suggestion. Fabric can be rolled tightly and a rubber band or 2 holds it together. Sometimes there's space in a box for a roll of fabric but not for a flat piece. And a roll of fabric can be bent around something else to fit in too. Lace: It's fun to lay some flat lace or trims between the fabric layers before rolling.

Sarah said...

Thanks for sharing ideas Lin!

Anonymous said...

If you plan to go through your thread stash to add to your box, test it for strength. If it is too old, it will easily break and not be useful.

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