Stitch for Syria: saying goodbye to our cross-stitch challenge

Patterns submitted to Concern's Stitch for Syria Campaign. Credit: Concern Worldwide
Patterns submitted to Concern's Stitch for Syria Campaign. Credit: Concern Worldwide
News13 May 2016

As our Stitch for Syria campaign comes to an end, we look back on two craft-filled months – and reveal exactly how many patterns will make up the final artwork.

Earlier this year we launched a unique campaign, Stitch for Syria. We invited our supporters to take on a cross-stitch challenge to show support for a group of female Syrian refugees in Lebanon, who are using cross-stitch to earn a vital income and deal with the trauma of all they have been through.

A step into the unknown

As we planned the campaign, we faced a tough question – would enough people take part? We knew that the UK public cared deeply about the Syria crisis, and wanted to help. But this was much more than spending two minutes signing a petition or forwarding an email – we wanted supporters to spend hours working away with a needle and thread.

We would need to convince people here just how important craft sessions were to the refugees. Unlike our work giving out blankets, food parcels and school supplies, the full power of the project in Lebanon might not be obvious straight away.

So we let the refugees themselves explain why it means so much.

It’s the one time of day when I can forget my problems and focus on something good. The teachers and the friends I have made have become like family, a reason to keep going.

Stitch for Syria: Amal holding up a cross stitch pattern. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos Pictures for Concern Worldwide
Stitch for Syria: Amal holding up a cross stitch pattern. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos Pictures for Concern Worldwide

Stitches flood in

We waited nervously in the days after the launch. Hundreds of people quickly downloaded the beautiful pattern, which is based on a traditional Middle Eastern design. But what if they never got round to stitching it, or decided to keep what they had made?

There were sighs of relief when stitch number one finally arrived at our office in London. More trickled in over the next few days. Then the trickle became a flood – some morning dozens would land on our doormat. Stitch for Syria was up and running.

Some people sent a couple of patterns, and some sent far more than that. They arrived from every corner of the UK as well as Australia, the US, Japan, Greece, Sweden, and many other parts of the world.

Cross-stitch community helped us spread the word

The campaign was boosted by kind mentions in magazines and on websites, and from dozens of incredibly talented bloggers. And whether they were veterans or newbies, our stitchers were brilliant at encouraging each other on Twitter and Instagram. Likes, shares and kind comments kept the campaign buzzing along.

In fact, the amazing sense of community shared by cross-stitchers around the world has been at the heart of the campaign. Every time we saw pictures of a group sitting around a table stitching together – just like the women at the project in Lebanon – we knew the campaign was working.

Stitching at an embroidery workshop in Lebanon supported by Concern. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Concern
Stitching at an embroidery workshop in Lebanon supported by Concern. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Concern

For weeks, the stitches came thick and fast. And while most people were happy to keep things simple, a few couldn’t resist putting their own twist on the design. These ranged from neon thread and video game references to beads, borders and more funky extras. Our stitchers aren’t just generous – they’re a creative bunch too.

And the final total? An amazing 802 patterns.

Putting it all together

Soon a kind volunteer will be joining the stitches together to make one big textile artwork, which we will take to Lebanon and present to the refugees who inspired the project. We’ll be sure to snap some pictures and blog about the trip, so everyone who sent us a stitch can see the results.

#StitchforSyria may be closed, but the crisis (and our work helping people caught up in it) continues. By supporting Concern, you can hep those in need even more.

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