Ontario university student learns to sew 'winter bundles' for people experiencing homelessness

Emma Weller’s sewing machine has been working overtime.

“I have been making ‘winter bundles’,” she tells CTV News Toronto. “So hats, mittens and neck-warmers to hand out to the homeless in Ottawa, Toronto and in Kingston. I thought, with COVID, they’re suffering more than anyone.”

With a reduced school and hockey schedule, the 18-year-old Carleton University student from Keswick found herself with some downtime and decided to use it to help others. She dusted off her grandmother’s sewing machine and got to work on her new hobby.

“I don’t sew, actually,” she laughs. “I learned from YouTube tutorials.”

Weller says her passion for social justice issues is what motivated her and fueled this project.

“I thought it was really important, even if I didn’t know how to sew, to just try,” she says.

“(Emma has) always been charitable and kind and doing all sorts of things and offering her time, so it’s no surprise for her to be doing this,” Corrine Weller, Emma’s mother, tells CTV News Toronto. “What’s different this time is the notoriety she’s getting for it.”

Weller started a GoFundMe page to help with the project. She had a goal of raising $100, but quickly the donations amounted to more than $2,500.

“That has been funding this entire thing. So all the materials, all the resources, everything like that, all my thread to do it so that has been a huge help,” she says. “I couldn’t do it without the people who donated.”

The “winter bundles” include Emma’s sewing creations, along with other useful items.

“I provide two water bottles, also hand-warmers, wipes for like sanitation with COVID, tissues, socks, two pieces like granola bars, a piece of fruit and then my bundles,” Weller explains. “We loaded up our two wagons and we walk the streets of downtown.”

While Weller has experience helping those experiencing homelessness, she called this year’s project an eye-opening experience because the need was so great.

“It was very overwhelming. It opens your eyes more to see how much people are truly suffering,” she says. “I was grateful to see it, but it was also saddening. But that’s why I’m doing this.”

It’s a gift of warmth and comfort that Weller hopes to be able to keep giving for years to come.

“Whether it grows into something bigger or just stays me in my dorm room sewing, it’s something I think I want to make like a seasonal thing, because people never not go cold,” she says.

“It’s not something every 18-year-old wants to do, or thinks to do on their own without being encouraged by a group or a school,” says Corrine about her daughter. “You know, it’s doesn’t take much. Very little can help very much.”