Sew Your Support

Sew Your Support

Sew Your Support

Zambia, one of the world's most destitute countries, is the home to approximately 1.1 million children who have lost either one or both parents due to the devastating toll of AIDS. American Friends of Cecily's Fund, a nonprofit organization that works through Cecily's Fund of the United Kingdom, enables these Zambian children to attend school, afford necessary fees and purchase supplies required for their classes. After high school, the nonprofit helps teach the children to educate others about HIV and AIDS.

Since the establishment of the British-based Cecily's Fund in 1998, it's become the largest non-governmental organization that directly provides educational support to impoverished Zambian kids. The nonprofit was formed by Cecily Eastwood's family, honoring her for her efforts to care for children orphaned by AIDS. When she was 19 years old, she went to Zambia to spend a year teaching. Cecily was killed, only months later, in a road accident. The Cecily's Fund logo is based on the picture she used to sign her letters home.

As a partner of Cecily's Fund, American Friends of Cecily's Fun works to inform Americans of the overwhelming impact of AIDS in Zambia. The American charity was established in 2005 by Wyche Fowler, after he visited the Cecily's Fund program in Zambia earlier that year. Both the U.S. and U.K. sectors share the same vision: "A Zambia where children orphaned or made vulnerable themselves as a result of HIV and AIDS can pursue their education, become self-respecting, independent adults and contribute to Zambia's economic, political and social development."

Volunteers and donors are very valuable to the ongoing efforts and existence of Cecily's Fund and American Friends of Cecily's Fund. And the volunteers and donors are very precious to the lives of the children in Zambia.

You Can Help!

Sew News has teamed up with American Friends of Cecily's Fund to help raise money for the cause with Operation Orphan Education. We're asking you to create a reusable grocery tote bag to send to AFCF, where they'll be auctioned at events and the money raised will go to help the children. Send your bag to: American Friends of Cecily's Fund, 120 Boston Post Road, Rye, NY 10580.

Throughout the year, we'll keep you updated on the money raised by the American Friends of Cecily's Fund. Our goal is to send them 1,000 totes by next year. Please help us reach this goal by encouraging your friends, family, coworkers, local Girl Scout troops and retirement communities to sew totes for the cause!

Download the free Grocery Tote pattern (below) and optional AFCF machine embroidery design or AFCF line art logo (to create appliqués, hand embroidery or other embellishments). And join our Operation Orphan Education group to connect with others and upload photos and stories of your totes! For more information, visit and join the Operation Orphan Education Group.

For more information on American Friends of Cecily's Fund, visit

Grocery Tote

Sew your support for Operation Orphan Education by stitching a quick, handy and earth-friendly tote that's perfect for stowing in a purse or pocket for trips to the market. All donated totes will be auctioned to raise money and awareness for American Friends of Cecily's fund.


  • 1/2 yard of light- or mediumweight fabric
  • All-purpose thread
  • 1/2"-wide double-fold bias binding (optional)


Use 1/4" seam allowances unless otherwise noted.

Download and print the Sew Your Support tote pattern.

From the fabric, cut two totes on the fold.

With right sides together, stitch the tote side and lower edges. Zigzag- or serge-finish, pink or bind the seams.

Pinch the bag lower corners, aligning the side and lower seams (1). Stitch across the short edges to box the corners, and then finish the seams. Turn the tote right side out.


Fold each handle of one tote side 1/2" toward the wrong side; press. Fold the remaining tote handle short edges 1/2" toward the right side; press.

To create the handle seams, lap the opposite handle folds, enclosing the raw edges. Stitch close to each folded edge (2).


Serge-finish or bind the bag upper edges (3).


One of a Kind

The grocery tote is a great blank canvas for creative touches and add-ons. The more special you make your donated tote, the more money it could raise at a Cecily's Fund event.

  • Download the exclusive Sew Your Support embroidery design from Embroider the design on the bag to help spread awareness about the cause.
  • Add a handy pocket to the bag interior or exterior.
  • Use recycled fabrics or garments to create a truly "green" tote. Or make the tote using eco-friendly or sustainable fabrics, such as hemp or organic cotton.
  • Give a tired T-shirt a new life as a tote. Center the tote pattern over a premade stable-knit screen-printed shirt front and cut through both fabric layers.
  • Customize the fabric by foiling, bleaching or adding other embellishments.
  • Use decorative thread to serge the tote upper edges.


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size of cecily's bag
could not enlarge to 250% on my printer/computer so sent hubby to copy place. it came back huge at 250%. WHAT IS THE FINISHED SIZE OF THE BAG???
glad to participate
I iwll be making a few of these bags. I read the article in SewNews and thought I'd do it - got my second reminder with the new issue of Creative Machine Embroidery...I have downloaded all the information and files - am ready to go!
Could have made it easier for us
I print out the pattern and it says to enlarge it by 250%. My printer won't do that, so it's now a trip to the library copy machine. Would it have killed you to tell us the final dimensions for each part of the pattern? My tote may end up huge or small, compared to what you are expecting. And my motivation would have stayed a lot higher than it is now.
Free Embroidery Design Link
Here is where you'll find the free embroidery design:, also mentioned in the story above.
embroidery design
Download the exclusive Sew Your Support embroidery design from
Free embroidery design
This sounds like a great cause, so I decided I definitely wanted to make some bags. Since I have an embroidery machine, I thought it would be a great idea to use the free downloadable design mentioned above, but I could find no link to download it. I contacted customer support via e-mail a week ago, and still have not received a response. I guess this is why Sew News Magazine is the KMart of sewing magazines...
Go Green
I do a lot of sewing and have a lot of leftover fabrics. I plan to use muslin to make blanks of this bag and using the crazy quilt applications, make a sturdy bag that will be self lined when I am done. What Fun!!!!!!! I can bag up some scraps and give to each of my friends and we can all have fun! Thanks
Do they need to be THIS pattern? I have some different patterns that I love, could I use those and send them in?
upgrade this
I made this 'lined'. I sewed two together, they are stronger, especially if you are using plain cotton. Decorator fabric is out single.


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