Tuesday, April 24, 2012

little dresses for Africa

Have you read Kisses from Katie?  It's an amazing story of a young woman who allows her life to be used for healing and redemption in Uganda.  Katie is only 18 when she first goes to Uganda as a kindergarten teacher.  Before the year's out she's started a non-profit (Amazima.org) to provide education and basic needs for hundreds of children and become mother to a house full of girls.  You can't help but be inspired by her book, which was published last fall.  Just to be clear, Katie is a Christian whose faith is central to the story.  As person who also follows Christ, the book was a powerful reminder of God's heart for those who suffer.

a little dress for Africa

Kisses from Katie was our book club read this April.  Not more than 2 chapters into it I was determined to make pillowcase dresses to send over to those children.  And why not do it at book club?  Reading a book like Kisses from Katie has the possibility of making us feel like we can't do anything of significance to relieve such suffering.  Maybe making a few dresses is not all that significant, but you have to start with something.  Start with helping one person or two or five.  Most of us in book club don't sew, but I was hoping to find a little something for everyone to do to contribute.

My friends were all very excited about making dresses!  We would send the finished dresses to Little Dresses for Africa, a registered non-profit who gets them overseas into the right hands.  I tracked down a pillowcase dress tutorial put up at LBG Studio during a sew-along she did years ago for this very charity.  This tutorial is designed to sew dresses from yardage - perfect!  After rummaging through my stash and picking up $13 of bias tape and elastic we had the makings of five dresses, five little emissaries of hope and love.

 Little Dresses for Africa

Well, we had a blast!  I had set out a lot ahead of time and studied the pattern, but what really made the night was the very simple goodness of it all.  Sewing with friends is always good.  Sewing with friends to bless others - even better!  The only part I was worried about was the cutting.  I knew I needed to teach someone how to use the rotary cutter and how to cut the pattern in different sizes so that I could focus on other tasks.  I demonstrated once and Rachelle totally took over.  First time rotary cutting and she cut out 4 dresses with no mistakes to speak of, even catching that those sheep shouldn't be upside down (I've done that kind of thing SO many times, myself).   Who takes so easily to rotary cutting, including how to fold the fabric?   It was a blessing.  That, and I told her she's obviously destined to be a quilter.  (I think she'd rather make a dress for her daughter. Silly, silly.)

Book Club turned Sewing Night

My friend Rachel was tasked at the ironing board.  Erin stuffed elastic and pinned bias tape to bind the arm seams.  Laura sewed all the side seams with that cool overcast stitch, and I did other random sewing.

trying to hold down the giggles 

A friend who couldn't be with us at book club came over last night and put in rolled hems to finish them off.  Do you know about rolled hems?

the Rolled Hem foot

This is the presser foot.  It makes a very tiny hem without having to do all the pressing/folding prep work.  Plus, I think it would be more durable than a traditional hem too.  Thanks, Heather, for helping me figure that little foot out!

we made 5!

So here we are!  That night we made all 5 dresses in about 2.5-3 hours between just the 5 of us.  Pretty bad for a sweatshop, I know, but pretty good for your average book club, right?

girl perfect

I used fabrics that I hadn't loved for quilting, but that I thought would make sweet dresses.  The sheep fabrics are from Laurie Wisbrun's latest collection from Robert Kaufman and that over-sized floral is from England Swings by Rebekah Merle for Timeless Treasures.  This pretty pink print is a Paganelli design that surprised me with a purple background when it arrived in the mail.  It's absolutely girl-perfect!  Little Dresses for Africa requests a range of sizes, so we made XS - L according to how much fabric I had left in each cut.

all the pretty colors

Now I get the pleasure of mailing them out this week! 

46 comments:

  1. i had a pillowcase dress party, too. i blogged about it here. http://www.stitched-together.com/2009/09/pillowcase-dress-party.html

    we made six dresses at the party. i was hoping for more, but we did have fun making them. i made a few extra on my own (and a couple people sent some my way too). super cool org and they have a something for boys called 'britches for boys' - i think.

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  2. Rachel, that's so great. That book has been on my list for a while. I love how God lays on our individual hearts an idea to show love to each other. You know the 5 girls who receive these (and quite likely, they will be handed down to others once used and grown out of!)- they are going to feel so special! Don't you just wish you could see their sweet little faces when they realize that pretty dress is just for them?!

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  3. Rachel! I knew there was a reason I liked you so well, besides your freakishly amazing sewing abilities. I love, love that Katie. She has inspired me in so many ways. In fact, she is one of the reasons that we have decided to adopt a child. One person cannot fix the orphan/poverty problems of the world, but one person can change the life of one child (sometimes many!) Those beautiful, colorful dresses will just shine on the sweet African girls who get to wear them. Well done! This post made me so happy.

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    1. Oh, how wonderful! Yes, I hear that Katie is a blogger, but I haven't visited her blog yet. Congratulations on your adoption!

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  4. What a great idea and certainly noble cause. Wonderful work, ladies!

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  5. Well done book club girls! Five dresses in one go is not bad at all!
    I'm currently knitting baby jumpers for newborns in Ethiopia. We're nowhere near the numbers of Little Dresses, but I'd say we're not doing bad for a nation of 5 million inhabitants either. Every little helps!
    P.S. I love the presser foot for rolled hems, apart from the fact that I just don't seem to be able to make it work with the side seams, they just won't fit in!

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  6. That was a lovely blog entry! Well done on making such beautiful dresses.

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  7. great idea Rachel! I should definitely do this with my fabric that I seem not inclined to use but needs to be loved. I'm sure I've got plenty of supplies to get them all going.

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  8. What a great idea! At school our learning and Whanau (community) value this term is Character with the idea of 'being of service to others', I think I'll ask my students if they want to have a go at some of these dresses.

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  9. What fun! They look really good.

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  10. They all look so cute! Love the colour and fabric choices =D

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    1. Thanks. It was fun to get to choose them all and then have help with the sewing =)

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  11. Fabulous dresses for a wonderful cause!

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  12. Those dresses are so beautiful! Talk about time well spent.

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  13. These dresses are going to make some little girls very happy, keep up the good work.

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  14. Thank you for sharing this post! I love your work and am happy to say I love your heart as well! My daughter is in Rwanda this semester studying. She told me the kids and adults wear tee shirts that are x rated.....companies sending their cast offs to places where the people don't know what the sayings mean. She and her classmates bought up as many as they could and burned them! So glad to know some of those precious little faces now will be wearing adorable dresses!

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  15. what a fun idea! i will suggest something like this for our next guild meeting! i can't wait to sew next to you in june! xoxo

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    1. me too, me too...about the June thing. ;)

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  16. How fun and what a wonderful project! I'm thinking this might be the perfect way for me to get to make some of those cute little girl dresses that my boy-dominated world doesn't allow.

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  17. I've been wanting to read the book and after I saw the post, I asked a friend to borrow it. She kindly dropped it in my box today! I'm thinking of using some of my fabric to make dresses as well. It would be such a worthy way to lessen my stash and put it to good use. Thank you for the pattern link.

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  18. What a great idea! You're right, you may not be able to do everything, but you can do something! Inspiring!

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  19. Beautiful work for a beautiful cause. Wonderful!

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  20. How Awesome!!!! You totally inspired me to do the same with my friends! Thanks!!!!

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  21. Fab dresses! I have that little foot but have never had luck with it. I finally gave up-I must be doing it wrong.

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    1. It was a tricky foot to wrangle for sure. My friend looked up a Youtube video that really helped, but I don't have the link. It seems to me that it'd be easier to roll a hem before closing the side seams. Does anyone know?

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  22. This is really great Rachel! You are right that sometimes the needs can be overwhelming and it can feel like we can never do enough to help. But each little girl who gets to wear one of those sweet dresses will be thrilled and blessed by your work. Thanks for sharing about this charity!

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    1. You're welcome! It was nice to do "something". Maybe someday to do more.... You never know.

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  23. So cute! I can picture the beautiful girls who will get these!!

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  24. Okay, you know, you are horribly inspirational! And I mean that in the best way :) You make gorgeous quilts, have your do. good stitches bee, are enterprising with your online classes, make darling dresses for girls in Africa...what can't you do? I know you keep saying you're not superwoman, but I think you must be in disguise. I will be picking up that book pronto and making some dresses as well. Thank you for the inspiration, you are my favorite out there (in blogland).

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  25. What a neat thing to do, and have joy doing it! And such a nice variety of dresses - well done!

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  26. I love this story-beautiful!
    Our small ''Stitch & B.... '' group [5 of us] made dresses for children in Haiti where a colleague of ours volunteers . With a generous donation from a friend's deceased mother's stash we were able to complete 75 dresses.
    They were a joy to make knowing how much they would be appreciated.

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  27. Really lovely dresses! Such a generous thing to do, thanks for sharing that!

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  28. Thank you so much for sharing this, Rachel! I am looking forward to making some pillowcase dresses for the cause!

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  29. I have always admired your generous spirit. I appreciate that you always use "good" fabric even on your charity projects. The girls who get to wear those dresses will be blessed.

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  30. what size is the pattern shown and how many inches to add to increase the size

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    1. The pattern I've linked to is a a size "small". I added 5" to it to make size medium and 10" for size large. On the Little Dresses for Africa site there are guidelines for sizing that I followed.

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  31. Hello! This is Rachel O'Neill, Founder of Little Dresses for Africa. Thank you so much for your beautiful work and help with these dresses! Having just returned from Malawi on Saturday, trust me, the dresses are received with joy! "We're not just sending dresses, we're sending hope!" Love and thanks, Rachel O'Neill

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  32. Adorable dresses -- very generous of you!

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  33. I absolutely, positively love this idea! But I kind of have a little love affair with Africa. :) That book has been on my "to-read" list for awhile now so I am glad to know it is good. I had a life long dream of going and made it to Botswana in 2005...I hope to make it back again someday. As Rachel said above, I am sure these little dresses are such a blessing. I might have to whip up a couple myself this summer.

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    1. Oh, you'll LOVE it Amanda. It's such a powerful book. I'm actually buying it for my mom for mother's day since she expressed an interest when I shared some of it with her. Maybe you and your sewing group could make dresses together!

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  34. This is such a great idea! The dresses are adorable, and I love that you and the other women collaborated to make such an amazing gift!

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  35. This is so much fun. I found out about it on a friend from Puerto Rico facebook. She was going to sew in connection with a friend in Missouri. I told her that I wanted to do some. So, I went to the store and got fabric and bias tape, let some genealogy friends know and they dont sew (two are men) but they sent money to help and I just recluted two more friends to sew. One in Puerto Rico and one in Iowa. So far I made 3 dresses and have material for 17 more. I do add my own touch to the dresses but I think that all of they are so pretty and can imagine the smile of the child while sewing them. God bless you all! Miriam

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  36. Do you know what program she went through, or how she ended up able to go to Uganda and teach? I would love to do the same thing. I'm 23 and working on my degree in English, and I know this is a longshot, but I thought I would ask if you had any other information about it! :)

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    1. To get her whole story, I'd get a copy of her book Kisses for Katy or use her website Amazima.org. I bet you could contact her directly there!

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