Purpose – Crafting the Community is a volunteering project run by the Textiles Department at the University of Huddersfield to promote and deliver textile craft activities to the wider community. The purpose of this paper is to explore how volunteering can be a powerful tool for enriching peoples’ lives while deepening students’ textile-related competencies through placing their learning in social and communal settings. Design/methodology/approach – Initially the paper will articulate how the project has been developed to bring innovation to the forefront of the curriculum, equipping students with tools for playing a meaningful and constructive role in society. Subsequently the paper will investigate how volunteering can be used to affect real-life changes in homelessness, archival threats and rural transport. Findings – The paper uses a case study approach to realise the vision of Crafting the Community that enables students to put into practice their learning while capturing the imagination of local communities. Social implications – As active players in society, staff, students and external partners create an engaged and interrelated learning experience as an evolving process, mimicking the repetitiveness and structure of the warp and weft of cloth itself. Originality/value – In response to emerging debates concerning the value, relevance and impact of cloth on societies today the project’s aim is to share the course’s own unique philosophy and insight into the importance of a practical and creative engagement with materials and processes in the wider community. This paper would be suitable for academics that who are interested in textile culture and emergent textile volunteering and socially engaged practices in the public realm.