Sewing for Orphans

One of the projects that I’ve really wanted to do for a long time is to have things made for the orphans in Tam Ky. I’ve made a few things and we’ve been lucky enough to have people donate clothes, toys, books and money that we brought along on our last two trips to the orphanages.

But I always wanted to make it bigger than me just sewing a few things for a handful of kids. That’s where you come in.

Affectionately known as The Tinies, we worked with them at the Home of Affection.

As part of our Pho for Three fundraiser, I’m heading up a charity sewing drive to get quality, handmade items to these kids I love so much. There are five things, in particular, that I’m asking for: shorts, dresses, messenger bags, pencil pouches and simple diapers. Depending on your time, sewing abilities, spare fabric, etc. you can pick whichever one you want to make. With more than 100 kids ranging from newborn to 17 years old, there’s plenty of opportunity to help.

Here’s the nitty-gritty for you:

  • Sewing starts now! I will need to receive items by September 30, 2012so they can go back with a friend who is stateside in September. She is currently living in Tam Ky and will be doing some transporting. Otherwise, items will be shipped via DHL (cash donations to cover that cost are welcome) and brought with us if we are able to return in Spring 2013.

    Teresa, Lan and baby at the Tam Ky Baby Orphanage
  • You can send them to me directly, please email for the address.
  • Items should be sewn with the intention to hold up under heavy use. The kids don’t get new things very often, so they need to wear well.
  • If you are interested in donating something else (shoes, jackets, blankets, quilts, cash), please contact me to make arrangements.

Don’t forget to grab the logo if you want to participate!
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I know the hardest part can sometimes be deciding on what to make, so to make it easier I’ve found some great tutorials that make the projects do-able for all levels of sewing. If you have other tutorials you’d like to see shared, let me know. Who doesn’t love finding a new and awesome tutorial?

Messenger Bags:

Basic Messenger Bag from mmmcrafts
Not-so-big Messenger Bag on Sara’s Sew Sweetness blog
The Megan Everyday Bag from Modkid Patterns

Pencil Pouches:

Zippered pencil case from Sew4Home
Pencil-shaped pencil pouch from Gwenny Penny
Zakka-inspired pencil pouch from Noodlehead

Shorts and Pants:

Basic elastic-waist pants from Dana Made it (pattern here)
Banyan shorts from Figgy’s Patterns


Popover Sundress from Oliver & S (free pattern here)
Dress a Girl Around the World dress pattern from Totes by Sandy


Simple triangles of cotton: Easily made by taking a 25-inch square, cutting it into two triangles and finishing the edges (serger or turned seams).

The Children of Vietnam (NGO) works to provide formula for these babies. This little guy was one of my favorites–always happy! He has since had his cleft lip and palate repaired thanks to donations.

For each of the next four weeks, I’ll be posting my own tutorials on making each of these items as well as sewing up as many as I can.

Thank you so much! I really can’t do this without each of you. I honestly believe that one person can make a difference, but it’s so much better when it’s a bunch of us working together. If you have any questions at all, please ask in the comments below or email me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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  • sue smith

    not appropriate for here

  • Diana Ouk

    Is this still ongoing?

  • Lorraine Henrietta Lau

    Hi teresa, not sure if this is still active but i was googling and came across what you do. i was thinking about this idea for quite awhile but not sure how to go about doing it. I have a small label and i thought instead of giving money to manufacturers i was thinking of looking for the less fortunate children who have no homes to give them jobs with sewing. all simple stuff. basically i would rather pay the children who need the money rather then manufacturers out there. any ideas? You could contact me directly via thanks so much! its always great to see people help the unfortunate ones. i myself do charity whenever i travel and its always so heartwarming and good for the soul.

  • vero

    Hi there!
    I live in France and would love to help. How could we proceed?

  • Cheesey G

    I am sure you will be getting lots of items for infants. Is there something the teen would like?

  • Salma

    Oh this is just what I need to get started in sewing again!

  • Mandi Eschenbach

    This is awesome!  I wish I knew how to sew!

  • Candice Luts

    I will be doing this! I have used the “Dress a Girl” tute before. It’s a good one! I would love to send some dresses, and hopefully a couple messenger bags, but I’m having trouble following your email link. Contact me at cdfraley85 (at) hotmail (dot) com. I’m so exited to participate!

  • Anne Kendall

    Are there any particular sizes that are especially needed in clothing, especially in little boy’s things?

  • Beth Marmorstein

    Would cotton knits be okay too – for dresses and/or shorts?

  • Anotheryarn

    At the guild meeting you mentioned that the messenger bags should not be huge because the kids use different sized notebook/paper/books. Could you share an ideal size for the messenger bag (also strap length)?

  • Joysewandsew

    Can I make dresses by another pattern? I have a very simple pattern but it does have two buttons, or do you want them the same

  • Melaniejbishop

    I just got home from from spending the day with my 2 grandchildren. I sew them something every week. I used my search engine to find “Sewing for a cause”. I have loads of fabric so I will sort out in the morning what I can whip up in the next couple weeks. I am looking for another cause or charity to sew for. Maybe a long term one. One where I have to mail the stuff is okay. But if someone knows of something around the Seattle (Washington) area that would be fabulous also. I love sewing for my grandchildren but they really are not in need and I feel like I just want to do more.

  • Lee Monroe

    Love this project! Found you through Laurie Wisbrun. My Mom and I are making messenger bags and diapers!!

    • Teresa Coates

       Yay! Thank you! If you have any questions on the diapers, since they aren’t your typical American diapers, do ask. Just email me: teresa AT

  • Lisa

    If I make diapers can you explain turned seams. Is tha sewing rightsides together and turning it back out and close hole?

    • Teresa Coates

      What I mean is a rolled seam, rather. Sorry! It’s just the tiniest of hems (or serged) around the raw edges of the cut square. Super simple!

  • Handicraftpassion

    Hi I am from Singapore and I would like to participate in this.  However I am only good with doll making.  Will this be ok?  

    Please reply to my email : handicraftpassion@gmail:disqus .com



    • Teresa Coates

       We’ll work with it… I’m sure the kids would love new dolls, too!

  • Kassandra

    Amazing, amazing! I’m thinking this could be huge… imagine kids in home ec – learn basic sewing AND humanitarianism! Spreading the word to all who will listen :-)

    • Teresa Coates

       Thanks, Kassandra. I would love for the idea of volunteering and humanitarian work to spread far and wide. However people can participate is awesome, whether it is by sewing, by volunteering or by donating money. Everything makes a difference.

  • Dale Anna

    Hi Theresa!
    I would be delighted to help out and to make some dresses for the little girls. I have soooooo much fabric and I have been looking for a ministry to become involved with. Please email me at:

    • Teresa Coates

       Done and thanks so very much! See, you were just storing that fabric up for a reason. That’s been my justification: I WILL find a use for it. :)

  • Kellileeann84

    I would like to make diapers and dresses! I live in Colorado when would I need to mail it to you by? what kind of fabrics do you need for the diapers? and cotton for dresses?
    here is my email-

    • Teresa Coates

       Mail ’em a week before the end of the month and we’ll be good. Woven cottons or linen/cotton blends are best because of the heat and humidity.

  • Elnora Chambers

    Look forward to participating in your wonderful sew along, Teresa! Bless you and your kids for all of your good work for these children!

    • Teresa Coates

       Thank you, Elnora! I feel blessed in  many ways and grateful to have so much enthusiastic help in doing a little good in the world. :)

  • Terri

    I’m trying to link to your email address.  I have a bunch of bags that I would love to give.  you can e-mail me:

    • Teresa Coates

       thanks so much! can’t wait to get your bags—so appreciate your help!

  • Peggietarr

    What a wonderful joy to see this post.  My son and his family are in Viet Nam now, and have been there for about 6 years.  They adopted my second grand daughter, and, like you, fell in love with these little ones.  They live in HoChiMinhCity now, and have an organization called Tiny Hearts of  Not trying to advertise..just excited to hear of this fundraiser.  I have pinned it to Stacy’s board(my daughter-in-law)  They have Hope Teams come over from here I wish ya’ll could meet.  Is Tam Ky close to HCMC?  I love to sew, and would love this project.  I  will be emailing you later for an address.  God Bless your family.. 

    • Teresa Coates

       Your kids have been to the orphanages in Tam Ky that we used to volunteer at! In fact, there are pictures on their Facebook page of kids I recognized. How amazing is that!?!

      Will definitely be in touch!

      (and Tam Ky is in the middle of the country, HCM is in the south, Ha Noi in the north)

  • Kristy

    Delighted to have found your blog and share about your outreach. Looking forward to reading and learning more! :)

    • Teresa Coates

       Thanks so much, Kristy! Glad you found me, too. :)