The Giving Challenge: Giving Back in Bags

Hi everyone! My name is Tiffany and I’m so excited to be here for The Giving Challenge! I’ve been sewing for about five years now and truly love the joy it brings to not only me, but to those around me too. When I saw the Instagram post asking for writers for this month’s theme, I knew I wanted to jump in and write about a plan I had to give back to our small military community.

Tiffany, a woman with shoulder-length brown hair, and her daughter pose in front of a white picket fence that surrounds a pond. Tiffany holds her daughter on her left hip as they both smile into the camera. They are wearing matching off-the-shoulder sweaters made from gray fabric with a large-scale white and blue floral motif.

My husband, daughter and I live on-base in a pretty large military town. The neighborhood that we live in is a fairly small, tight-knit community which is incredibly important to us since we live so far away from our family. Military life can be stressful and unpredictable, so oftentimes small acts of kindness can make a huge impact on the families here. In an effort to constantly improve the quality of our neighborhood, each year our residents fill out a survey giving suggestions of ways to enhance our  housing community.  One of the amazing suggestions this year was to install a Little Free Library where families can donate books they no longer need and in turn pick out some new ones for their kiddos.

A Little Free Library box sits atop a post in an open grass common area; a beige house can be seen in the background. The library box is brightly painted: the post is deep, bright blue; the door of the box is red, and has the phrase "Take a book...Leave a book!" printed on it in the same blue used to paint the post. The sides of the box are sky blue. The side that is visible features a red hot air balloon that says, "Oh, the places you'll go!" and an attribution to Dr. Seuss. The roof of the box is "roofed" with black asphalt shingles.

Our family will be moving in just a month and I’ve been trying to think of ways to use up some of my fabric stash before we pack everything up. When I saw our new little library I thought it would be a great idea to make up some little tote bags for the children to take their new books home in. I have an excess amount of woven fabric so I jumped in right away and started sewing up some cute little bags.

Sew a Tote Bag – Easy Beginner Sewing Project

This image is from MellySews and accompanies her free Tote Bag pattern. The image includes text: "Sew A Tote Bag: Tutorial and Free Graphic." There is a bright blue finished tote in the frame, alongside items that could go inside the bag: a box of Staedtler colored pencils, a hot pink water bottle with an orange cap, and a sketch pad. The sketch pad is placed in the outer pocket of the tote bag, which is a contrasting white fabric featured brightly colored Warhol-esque sewing machines.

I let my daughter pick out some fabric from my stash and I chose to use this super simple tote bag pattern from MellySews. I decided to make my bags more square shaped and went with a 14″x28″ piece of fabric for my main bag pieces. I also omitted the pocket (because I’m lazy!).

The cut fabric pieces for three tote bags are laid out in neat piles on top of a gray and white grid cutting mat. All three fabrics feature flowers: one is an all-over large scale floral, the second has a few bright red tulips scattered throughout the overall print, and the third has multiple garlands across the fabric, one of which is a flower garland.

I used my serger and sewing machine and whipped up these three bags in just under an hour! Talk about a quick, satisfying project!

Three tote bags made by Tiffany are laid on a gray and white grid cutting mat. The bags are made from woven fabrics in cheerful prints containing many colors, but pink, mustard, mint green, gray, and off-white are the dominant colors. On top of the third bag is a pink tag, which reads "Please take this bag to carry your new books in! Happy Giving Season!"

I designed these cute little tags on my Silhouette Studio software and attached them to the bags with some string so everyone would know they are free to take home with their new books.

Three pink tags are stacked on a gray and white grid cutting mat. The tags say, "Please take this bag to carry your new books in! Happy Giving Season!"

Then my daughter and I headed out to our little library and stuck the bags inside for their new owners to enjoy!

A colorful series of books are lined up inside a bright blue wooden box. The front door to the box is open, revealing the books, the unfinished wood interior of the box, and a stack of tote bags atop the books.

I can’t think of a better project for this month. Teaching my daughter how little acts of kindness can really brighten someone’s day is a great lesson for this November.  We loved being able to give something small back to this awesome community that we have called home for the last three years.
Giving projects don’t have to be big or expensive to be meaningful: you can always use what you have and give back in small ways too!

Happy Giving Season Everyone!
Tiffany Stewart


Tiffany is a self-taught sewist, a military wife, and a girl mom.  She lives in North Carolina and enjoys sewing clothing and buying too much fabric. When not sewing, you can usually find her reading a romance novel under a warm blanket.  Tiffany can be found on Instagram @mamamadestyle


Dear Reader: Our goal is to build community and make everyone feel welcome. We support crafting as an inclusive and welcoming space for people of all ages, abilities, ethnicities, genders, orientations and sizes. Regarding sewing challenge themes, we ask that you take each challenge as you see it fitting in your life, and express your involvement how you like, at the given time. Our challenges are for the pure enjoyment of participation and the love of community. Extended Mission Page Here.