In 2013, we were onto a great thing. Or, at least we thought we were until the simple matter of postage costs intervened. We conceived of the idea of bringing the community together to sew dresses from used pillowcases for the American-based Little Dresses for Africa charity.
We were up and running before we were knocked out by the cost of mailing the dresses to the charity’s headquarters in America (from where they are shipped to Africa). We ultimately mailed two boxes containing 12 dresses each at over $50 a box before we began stockpiling the dresses in hopes of sourcing more economical transport.
Well, more economical transport finally arrived in the form of Wanda Ariano’s suitcase. She, along with husband Mark, flew to Canada in late June 2015 with 39 Little Dresses in tow.
Before we tell the end of the tale, let’s take a few minutes and revisit our involvement in this most amazing of projects called Little Dresses for Africa.
Wanda and Claire Pendrigh Elliott got together in early April of 2013 to test drive the dressmaking which yielded promising results.
Step Two: April Workshop
Later in April, a group of nine was invited to Helen Seiver’s in Capel to see how the dressmaking would work with a larger group of participants. Again, the results were encouraging. Claire even made a video that beautifully captured the spirit of the workshop. You can see it right here.
April workshop participants Billie Griffiths and Judith Zwickl were beautifully photographed and appeared on page 11 of the June 6, 2013 edition of the South Western Times.
In collaboration with the Stirling Street Arts Centre, two public workshops were offered. The first was in July (21 participants), and the second was in October (12 participants). Here is a mosaic of snaps from the July workshop.
Twenty-four dresses were mailed in two shipments to the charity’s headquarters in America. We received the following generous response to our first shipment:
“Thank you so much for the help with Little Dresses for Africa. They are just beautiful and the article and inserts that you sent are so great. What a classy job you did. Thank you so much for your influence and for following through and with such class! The kids will love them and we are grateful!” (Rachel O’Neill, Little Dresses for Africa, Michigan, USA)
Little Dresses proved to be a contagious idea. Not only were dresses being made at the Art Partners workshops, but participants continued to contribute to the cause. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Ann Simpson’s exceptional contribution of handcrafted creations!
We eventually had a collection of 39 more gorgeous dresses before the long-awaited transport solution arrived in the form of Wanda’s suitcase.
Getting to America in 2015
The 39 dresses were squeezed into a suitcase and taken to Toronto, Canada via Dubai.
In Canada, Louis Ariano (Wanda’s dad), a long-standing supporter of Art Partners and a master of packing and postage, boxed up the dresses.
The box was then mailed from a Canada Post outlet in London, Canada across the border to the organisation’s headquarters in Michigan, USA.
Generous Community Support
Little Dresses for Africa proved to be an amazing community project. Our involvement was only curtailed by the cost of postage.
Special thanks to everyone who sewed, and who supported others to sew. Thanks to Claire Pendrigh Elliott for enabling us to get started, and for pulling together the wonderful video. Thanks to Helen Seiver and the Stirling Street Arts Centre for hosting the workshops, and to Louis Ariano for covering part of the postage for the 39 Little Dresses mailed in 2015.
Thanks also to Linda Evans and Robyn Harris who mobilized staff from the Critical Care Unit of Bunbury Regional Hospital to contribute to earlier postage costs.
And, thanks to photographer Carensa Watts for rehabilitating some of our file photos for this post.
Seeing Things Differently
Everyone who participated in this wonderful community project probably shares the same sentiment: the humble pillowcase will never look the same again!