Saturday, 17 November 2012

How sewing helps to ‘Dress-a-Girl around the World’

On Thursday, I went to a super ‘charity sewing day’ held at the lovely sewing cafe, Cordial and Grace in Clifton, Bristol to make a 'pillowcase' dress for the ‘Dress-a-Girl around the World’ charity.

L-R: Louise Horler of Sew Scrumptious and UK co-ordiator for dress-a-girl, Me and Jen with our dresses
Once again – thanks to Twitter!  And to Jen of My Make Do And Mend Year who came across this event in the first place and let me know about it. 

I *promise* to try and curb my enthusiasm for twitter as I’m sure you’ll get sick of me saying – oh twitter this, twitter that. Especially if I start putting #infrontofeverything.

But, for now. Twitter ROCKS! Anyway... Back to the event!

The day was organised to coincide with Cordial and Grace’s first birthday (Happy Birthday to you!) and co-ordinated by Lousie Horler of Sew Scrumptious and Maria, who owns Cordial and Grace.

Finished design
Stamping the plain pillowcase

Louise runs the UK arm of the ‘Dress-a-Girl Charity’, which was founded in America and is part of Hope 4 Women International who have been ‘bringing dignity to women around the world since 2006’Louise joined up after reading about the charity in Sewing Magazine last year.

Me concentrating
The idea is that every girl deserves at least one pretty dress no matter where they live. The dresses are made from pillowcases and are pretty and simple to make. They are then distributed to young girls in Malawi, Kenya, India, Ghana and Uganda.

I had a plain white pillowcase that I wanted to make ‘prettier’ so hit upon the idea of decorating it. I wanted to use things I had at home, and as luck would have it I found a pretty butterfly stamp and thought that would work with the fabric ink pad I use on my ‘Do What You Love’ bags. 

I remember being advised to put the pad on the stamp and not the other way around as I wanted a nice print. So I gave it a go! *phew* it worked. So I printed away..and was really pleased with how it turned out!

Jen concentrating
After heat sealing it (basically ironing over the design - I used a piece of old cloth in between to avoid getting any paint on my iron). Packed it in my bag and set off for the bright lights of Clifton village to meet Jen. We thought it was a perfect opportunity to meet!

The cafe was a hive of activity when I arrived, and Jen was already there, wearing a very fetching fur coat. A carboot purchase apparently. Looked good. 

We had to wait a little while before some machines were available. The day was running from 11.00 - 21.30 and we’d booked the 15.30 slot to use the sewing machines for free. Was great to see so many other ladies had turned up to make dresses to.

Was no matter though as it gave Jen and I a chance to chat and enjoy our drinks. (very good Americano coffee from their deliciously bright orange coffee machine. Excellent choice of colour!) Didn't have to wait long, and we were escorted downstairs to the 'sewing parlour.'

A really smart set up. We were each give a machine and a pattern to follow on how to make the dresses. Thankfully Louise and Maria where both there and able to give advice and help during the process. I hadn't realised how different it would be using a machine other than my own! 

‘Um where’s the ‘go slow’ setting?’ I asked – having one on my machine so I don't go too fast!

Maria, of Cordial and Grace
- helping me

Discovered It was all down to foot pressure - so I had fun going 'fast - slow - fast - slow' (you get the idea) until I got the hang of it!

I also discovered that I can’t actually sew AND chat at the same time! 

Nope. Not me. Jen seemed to have this down to a fine art – sewing and happily chatting away. Me - I had to concentrate. ;-) so much for this multi-tasking business.

Had a few ‘unhappy machine moments’ but the lovely Maria sorted that for me. Thank you!

Jen seemed to finish hers in no time at all, and had to go, so I stayed on to finish mine and was there for maybe longer than I expected! (I really, really enjoyed it though!). But I did it!

Was really pleased with it. And I hope a little girl somewhere is going to get lots of wear out of it. ;-)

At the end of the day 21 dresses had been made – and some had gone home with their ‘makers’ to be finished off. I had a great day and met some very lovely people!

Also discovered the dresses have another message;

Looking at the Hope 4 Women site there is an even more important message that the dresses can give. Apparently, it can portray that theses girls are well cared for and being looked after by an organisation which, just might dissuade possible predators. And hopefully offer them some protection.

What kind of predators I thought? Well (again using info from the Hope 4 Women website) ‘these are vulnerable young ladies who live in a society where they have no value—where they are used as slaves—where they are abused and preyed upon and no one considers this to be unspeakable injustice’.

No value? I just couldn't imagine that. Like they are a ‘commodity’ and not just a little girl?

It hadn't occurred to me that these young ladies would/could actually be directly linked to the ‘Fashioned for Freedom’ event I went to on Monday evening.

So, I really hope that the dress I made, and all the dresses that have been so far really do help. It’s so much more than ‘just a pretty dress.’ 

And maybe, just maybe the fact I printed butterflies on the pillowcase I used, somehow represents a ‘freedom’ they might not have had without this charity?

Want to get involved and make some too?

You can get the patterns from Louise's site Sew Scrumptious here – or why not set up your own day and get some friends together? I know that Su Senior – (A Love What You Wear participant) is going to make some. Yeah!

Dresses hanging in the window of Cordial and Grace. Yep was dark when I left! ;-)


  1. It is so hard to imagine living in a society where you had no value. Do you know of this organisation which I blogged about last month?
    Great job with the dresses. Love those butterflies x

  2. Thanks so much for blogging about 'Dress A Girl'. It was lovely to meet you and your butterfly pillowcase was gorgeous! We have now collected over 3,000 dresses in the UK which is amazing. Hopefully get lots more though!! x


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