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National Craft for Your Local Shelters Day {Easy Projects You Can Make!}

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Shelters and rescues are always looking for ways to keep adoptable dogs (and cats!) busy during their stay–and make them more visible at adoption events. To help both goals, National Craft for Your Local Shelter Day was created. On this day, everyone is urged to create crafts that can be donated to their local shelters to help homeless pets.

It doesn’t take a lot of creativity, budget or time to create great crafts that your local shelter can use to brighten the day of a dog or cat. From turning your old t-shirts into a braided toy to creating a simple and easy pet bed, you can make a big difference in a homeless pet’s life!

It’s easy to craft items for your local shelter. Crafting not only keeps little restless hands busy during the hot “dog days of summer” but also helps teach children the importance of caring for all animals, those with and without homes. With just a few dollars and a few hours of work, children can create great gift items for adoptable pets and shelters.

National Craft for Your Local Shelters Day--ideas for easy crafts to make for your shelter

When is National Craft for Your Local Shelters Day?

National Craft for Your Local Shelters Day is held every year on July 21. This national pet holiday was launched in 2012 by Erika Lindquist at Sew Doggy Style, a site that features an array of cute items you can craft for your dog.

“This is a day set aside to give back to local shelters by making items such as toys and beds that bring comfort to animals,” explains Lindquist, whose dog Sebastian serves as a model for many of her crafts.

“There’s been such a strong crafts and DIY movement in the last few years that doing something like this seemed perfect. I’m not able to write a check to my local shelters, but I can most certainly use my crafting skills to make items that are just as meaningful for the animals.”

Crafts can be as simple or as complex as time and skills allow. “Making dog and cat toys is easy enough that children can get involved, too,” says the lifelong crafter. Projects can be as easy as beds made from pillowcases, cat toys, or braided tug toys created from old t-shirts.

Lindquist points out that even the simplest crafts are a boon to shelters whose budgets are already stretched by food and facilities.

For more advanced crafters, “making a vest or bandana for a dog to wear with an ‘adopt me’ message displayed on it will help others know he is looking for a home.”

Lindquist, who also teaches sewing classes, hopes crafters will join together to benefit shelters. “I would be thrilled to hear that people organized craft parties on July 21 just for their local shelters. And I would also hope this inspires others to meet and craft throughout the year, as animals are in need all year long.” Group events can be a way for both skilled and non-skilled crafters to help shelters.  Setting up stations can get everyone into the act, with non-sewers cutting fabric or pinning together pieces while seamstresses take on the job of sewing.

Lindquist suggests that crafters first check with their local shelters to learn about specific needs. “Then get a group of friends together and craft. Make it fun!”

Easy Craft Projects for National Craft for Your Local Shelters Day

pompom craft for dog

Earlier this month, we exhibited at a pet expo. The booth next to us was filled with adoptable dogs from a local shelter, one of many shelters and rescues at the event trying to draw attention to the many great adoptable pets looking for forever homes.

Sometimes pets are overlooked either because of their coloring (black dogs and black cats are often overlooked), their size, or because they’re in a crate or kennel:

adoptable dog in kennel

Getting people to stop and look at an adoptable pet is the first step in getting that pet adopted. Not every pet is right for every potential family but, first, people need to stop and visit a pet.

Especially when it comes to large dogs, it’s often difficult to catch the eye of potential adopters–and that’s where items like “adopt me” vests and cute collar flowers come into play.

Bright colors catch the eye of families and soft collar flowers or pompoms tied to a collar make a dog look friendlier and more approachable.

We went to our local crafts store to find items for crafting projects — and some easy-to-make gift baskets — for our local shelter. Here are a few ideas for your next project:

“Adopt Me” Polo

We saw many, many dogs sporting “Adopt Me” vests at our recent expo and have seen them at numerous adoption events. Shelter staff and volunteers often walk the dogs throughout the crowds, using the vests as a way to let attendees know that this isn’t someone’s pet (at least not just yet!)

But a vest is just one option to help draw the eyes of potential adopters. You can craft an “Adopt Me” bandana or even an “Adopt Me” doggie polo shirt! I picked up a stamp kit especially made for fabric as well as a plain dog polo shirt.

Using the kit, I painted the letter stamps…

adopt me shirt for adoptable dog

…and then pressed the stamp down onto the fabric…

how to make adopt me shirt for adoptable dog

The shirt dried overnight then it was ready to go! This is a super fun craft to do with young pet lovers and a great way to draw attention to adoptable pets.

“Adopt Me” Crate Mat

At adoption events, not every dog can walk around — and cats typically stay in their crate or carrier.

Stamping a crate mat with “Adopt Me” in bright colors is a great way to draw attention to the pet inside the carrier, often hidden in the shadows!

Collar PomPoms

Another item we frequently see at adoption events is the collar flower, a crocheted yarn flower attached to a dog’s collar. It’s often used with large breed dogs to help them look more approachable. (Personally, I’m drawn to large dogs like our two, but one with a collar flower is even more irresistible!)

If you know how to crochet, you can whip up a collar flower in about 20 minutes but everyone–even the youngest dog lover–can create yarn pompoms that can be tied to a dog collar for the same effect.

Making a yarn pompom is fast and easy, even for the youngest members of your family. I used a spatula; for smaller pompoms, you can also use a fork. When I started, I threaded the yarn through a hole in the spatula, leaving about eight inches hanging, so I could later use this to tie off the pompom:

how to make collar pom pom for dog collar

Next, start wrapping. I wrapped 50 wraps around the spatula but the number you’ll do will depend on the thickness of your yarn. When you’re done, gently slide the yarn off the spatula, putting your thumb in the middle of the loops to hold it together:


Now you’ll use the hanging end you started with and pass it through the loops. Use the other loose end that you just cut off to pass through the loops in the opposite direction. When you’re done, bring the two ends together and tie them as tightly as you can in a square knot. With scissors, now cut all the loops apart:

cutting yarn

Finish out the pompom by trimming it so that all the threads are even and form a ball shape, leaving the two tied ends long so that you can tie it to a dog’s collar! (Note: while we love the pompoms for adoptable dogs, we don’t recommend them for cats. Unfortunately cats love to play with yarn and the papillae which make their tongues so rough also makes it impossible for them to get yarn out of their mouths. Ingested yarn can be very dangers–so skip the pompoms and any yarn toys with cats.)

“Clean Start” Gift Basket for Shelters

Don’t have time for crafting a gift? A shelter donation can be as easy as a gift basket!

We all know the challenge of keeping our pet homes clean of pet hair, tracked dirt, and shed fur. Now multiply that challenge by dozens of animals and you’ve got the cleaning work of a pet shelter. Keeping the shelter clean is an around the clock job, not only to make sure the shelter looks and smells clean to potential adopters but to keep the shelter animals clean and healthy.

You can assemble a “Clean Start” Gift Basket for just a few dollars, using both new and used products you might already have around your house. Here are a few ideas for your cleaning basket:

  • pet-safe cleaning products.
  • bleach. Inexpensive bleach is used by the gallon in shelters to disinfect floors, laundry, and more.
  • towels. You can purchase new towels, kitchen towels, and washcloths or hit your linen closet for extras. Do you have some used towels or washcloths you no longer need? Roll these up for your basket; they’ll be put to good use.
  • mops
  • brooms
  • dustpans
  • drain protector (great for keeping dog hair out of the drain!)
  • scrubbing brushes.
  • hand sanitizer.
  • pampering hand soap. Shelter workers and volunteers wash their hands a LOT, including with hand sanitizers. A bottle of scented hand soap can be a welcome change.

You can turn this basket into one the shelter employees will love even more with the addition of a bag of candy!

“Welcome Home” Gift Bags

welcome home bag

After making our “Adopt Me” polo, I used our stamping kit and some inexpensive gift bags to create “Welcome Home” gift bags that will make great goodies for a shelter to give a new pet parent after an adoption. I filled it with products that will welcome home a lucky cat or dog to their new home!

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National Craft for Your Local Shelters Day


Paris Permenter
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