A Love Letter to Girls of the World

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.

This is where we're writing to you from: Bunbury in Western Australia. Image by Rob Cox

This is where we’re writing to you from: Bunbury in Western Australia. Image by Rob Cox

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.

The group of dressmakers on October 11. Photo by Rob Cox

The group of dressmakers on October 11. Photo by Rob Cox

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.

Judith and Ann at the machine. Photo by Rob Cox

Judith and Ann at the machine. Photo by Rob Cox

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.

Checking the size. This pillowcase will make a medium-sized dress when complete. Photo by Rob Cox

Checking the size. This pillowcase will make a medium-sized dress when complete. Photo by Rob Cox

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.

Placing the arm hole pattern. Photo by Rob Cox

Placing the arm hole pattern. Photo by Rob Cox

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.

Creating the casing. Photo by Rob Cox

Creating the casing. Photo by Rob Cox

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 raw edge where the pocket was can be zigzagged. Photo by Rob Cox

The raw edge where the pocket was can be zigzagged. Photo by Rob Cox

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.

Lining up the bias. Photo by Rox Cox

Lining up the bias. Photo by Rox Cox

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.

Judith sewing on the bias. Photo by Rob Cox

Judith sewing on the bias. Photo by Rob Cox

Embellishments

Bits of leftover fabric (from cutting out the ‘pocket’) can be used to make real pockets.

Fabric from cutting out the pocket can be useful. Photo by Rob Cox

Fabric from cutting out the pocket can be useful. Photo by Rob Cox

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.

Olivia holding her dress alongside Nicole. Photo by Rob Cox

Olivia holding her dress alongside Nicole. Photo by Rob Cox

This is Laurel who spent her time ironing bias.  What amazing dedication to the task!

Laurel ironing bias. Photo by Rob Cox

Laurel ironing bias. Photo by Rob Cox

Here is Marlene in action at her machine.

Marlene at her machine. Photo by Rob Cox

Marlene at her machine. Photo by Rob Cox

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.

Selection of finished dresses. Photo by Rob Cox

Selection of finished dresses. Photo by Rob Cox

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.

Sophia proudly wearing the dress she made for you. Photo by Rob Cox

Sophia proudly wearing the dress she made for you. Photo by Rob Cox

Love to you all from Carmel, Beth, Wendy, Marlene, June, Carlene, Ann, Judith, Louise, Nicole, Olivia, Sophia, Gabrielle, Laurel and Wanda

12 thoughts on “A Love Letter to Girls of the World

  1. Rob Cox

    This shoot was a lot of fun! It’s wonderful to see so many people of all ages involved in producing these colourful dresses for such an important cause. Congratulations all round!

    Reply
  2. waferal

    Art Partners doing their bit for equality and empowerment, not only for women but for all those who face discrimination in their lives.

    Reply
    1. Art Partners Post author

      Always great to hear from you waferal. Thanks for your encouraging words. We have achieved a lot in five years, but there is clearly so much more to be done!

      Reply
  3. Mark Sadowski

    Wow, Art Partners never fails to amaze and astonish with depth, variety and value of projects underaken. And of course, a superb write-up supported by quality photos. Well done to all involved, including workshop participants.

    Reply
    1. Art Partners Post author

      Thanks so much Mark for following our narrative via our blog posts. It’s amazing what can be achieved when people with varied skills and abilities come together to support each other!

      Reply
  4. Rachel

    This is great. We are so proud that you chose to honor girls through our organization. Your work is beautiful and I know the girls will be honored by your gift. Thank you so much and God bless. Love, Rachel ONeill Founder and Director Little Dresses for Africa.

    Reply
    1. Art Partners Post author

      Dear Rachel, How lovely to hear from you. We are delighted. Thank you for keeping up the contact and staying in touch to encourage us. We too are honoured. Love from the entire crew at Art Partners

      Reply
  5. Irene

    Dear Art Partners, Thank you for fun projects that are step by step replicable; smiles, stories and artwork that are shareable; heartwarmers like tea cozies that are fabulously wearable (whether you’re a teapot or simply a crackpot like moi); so many on camera moments that are immeasurably pleasurable… but most of all a community of beauty, caring and love that transcends space and time making it all that much more treasurable. Thank you for being Ever Green with heart and imagination. Xox you are an inspiration to me!

    Reply

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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