Dear Girls of the World,
We thought about you the other day. Not individually, of course, because according to the United Nations, you number 1.1 billion! There are many of you. You’re definitely a force to be reckoned with!
We not only thought about you, but a group of us got together to honour your special day – the International Day of the Girl Child.
We know the world is a hugely challenging place for many of you. From our small corner of the privileged world, we simply can’t pretend to understand many of your challenges and struggles. We would be disingenuous if we said we did.
Many of us only know of the acute situations that affect many of you by seeing images from places including Syria, Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa and now, Haiti. We also know that many of you are denied equal opportunities, and basic human rights to nutrition and education.
We don’t want to dismiss any of your challenges and struggles, but we want to tell that we’ve been thinking about you. We also want to tell you what we did on October 11, the International Day of the Girl Child.
Where We’re From
First of all, we’re writing to you from Bunbury in Western Australia. It’s a small city on the South West of the Australian continent.
What We Did
We got together in the afternoon of October 11 at the Stirling Street Arts Centre to honour you by contributing to an American-based project with international resonance: Little Dresses for Africa. This project – that we hooked up with in 2013 – encourages people to sew dresses from new or gently used pillowcases. The finished dresses are then shipped to girls in Africa by the American charity.
We’d thought we’d show everyone how we made the dresses so they too can participate if they wish.
But first, special thanks to photographer Rob Cox of oxy images who visited us on the day to capture these images. Ann Simpson did much of the preparation for the workshop. Ann, together with Judith Zwickl did most of the demonstrations for us. And, several members of the Bunbury Patchwork and Quilting Group provided a variety of supports at the workshop.
What You’ll Need for a Medium-Sized Dress
- A new or gently used pillowcase (cotton is best). Check the next section for information on pillowcase size.
- Two strips of double-fold bias tape. Each strip should measure 38 inches long (approximately one metre per strand). The double-fold bias should measure almost half an inch wide (approximately 1 centimetre) once it is folded and ready to pin in place.
- Two strips of elastic. Each strip should measure 7 inches long (approximately 18 centimetres). We used elastic that is a quarter inch wide (approximately 5 millimetres).
Choose a Pillowcase
We had a wide variety of pillowcases donated to us by our friends at Stirling Street Arts Centre (they were offered to them by Tony O’Dea of Lorraine Lea). So, first step is to choose a pillowcase. A medium-sized dress will measure 24 to 29 inches (approximately 61 to 74 centimetres) when it’s complete.
Cut the Closed Seam
Using your scissors, cut across the closed seam (narrow edge) of your pillowcase. This opening is now the top of your dress.
Cut the Arm Holes
Using a pattern (available here from Nancy’s Notions), pin it to the top edge of the pillowcase and cut an arm hole. Repeat this for the other side of the pillowcase.
Make Casings for the Elastic
On the top of the front of your dress, make a small hem and then a larger one to create the casing that’s wide enough for your elastic. Using an iron is the easiest way to make these hems. Then stitch to close the casing. Repeat these steps for the back.
Thread Your Elastic Through the Casings
One at a time, thread your elastic through your casing using a large safety pin. Once you get your elastic in the casing, make sure you stitch the edge of the elastic to the edge of the fabric to anchor it. Thread the elastic all the way through and stitch the other end firmly in place.
Hem the Dress
Many pillowcases now have a sort of ‘pocket’ on the end opposite the one you’ve cut. The easiest way to deal with this ‘pocket’ is to stitch it closed. This results in a seam that is several inches up and parallel to the bottom of your dress. If you’re feeling more ambitious, you can cut the ‘pocket’ out.
You can then zigzag the sides and hem the bottom.
The Bias Binding
Taking one strand of your bias, hem both raw edges. Then, fold it in two, wrap the mid-point of the bias around the bottom of the armhole and anchor it in place with a straight pin. Pin the rest of the bias around the arm hole.
Stitch the bias closed (and onto the dress) from one end all the way to the other. Repeat these steps with the other strand of bias.
Bits of leftover fabric (from cutting out the ‘pocket’) can be used to make real pockets.
Pockets are not essential but are a way adding your own personal touches.
A Few of Us in Action
Meet Olivia who is holding her beautiful dress-in-progress alongside Nicole.
This is Laurel who spent her time ironing bias. What amazing dedication to the task!
Here is Marlene in action at her machine.
The Finished Dresses
And there you have it. A few hours later, we had a number of very lovely dresses to show you. We hope you like them as much as we enjoyed making them.
Although we only spent a few hours together on the afternoon of October 11, we did think of you – Girls of the World – and we continue to think of you as the warm glow of the workshop continues to envelop us.
Love to you all from Carmel, Beth, Wendy, Marlene, June, Carlene, Ann, Judith, Louise, Nicole, Olivia, Sophia, Gabrielle, Laurel and Wanda