Feature Photos

Library becomes dress factory

By December 6, 2010

READY FOR THE CATWALK — Liv Bess, 4, models a pillowcase dress created during the first "Dress A Girl Around the World" sewing bee last Wednesday at the El Dorado Hills library. The dresses go to girls ages 4 to 12 who live in Third World countries.Village Life photo by Mike Roberts

READY FOR THE CATWALK — Liv Bess, 4, models a pillowcase dress created during the first "Dress A Girl Around the World" sewing bee last Wednesday at the El Dorado Hills library. The dresses go to girls ages 4 to 12 who live in Third World countries. Village Life photo by Mike Roberts

El Dorado Hills librarian and seamstress Therese Schmidt imagines a world where every little girl owns at least one dress. Her mission is to replace the tattered and stained rags that many Third World girls wear with a clean, comfortable “pillowcase dress” and a dose of dignity and confidence.

Schmidt organized the first El Dorado Hills “Dress A Girl Around the World” sewing bee Dec. 1 at the library.

A dozen or so El Dorado Hills women and one virtuous male formed an impromptu assembly line and completed 18 “pillowcase dresses” under Schmidt’s tutelage in a mere two hours, with another 50-or so partially complete in the pileline.

“Dress a Girl Around the World” is a campaign created by Hope 4 Women International, a non-denominational Christian organization that empowers Third World women suffering from poverty, disease and low self-worth.

IRON MAN — Justin Bingham of El Dorado Hills irons ribbons for the pillowcase dresses made at the El Dorado Hills Library. Village Life photo by Mike Roberts

Getting girls age 4 to 12 into a decent dress seams like a good starting point.

The campaign includes a complete online guide for organizing a community sewing bee — complete with patterns, instructions and a list of materials. The benefits for participants were evident on Wednesday, with friends new and old, neighbors and family members working side by side on the simple but attractive dresses, each made from a pillowcase.

Pillowcases make an ideal starting point for the simple dress pattern.  Volunteers are typically assigned a “workstation,” cutting, ironing or sewing.

The whole process is simple enough that sewers and non-sewers can easily contribute. Justin Bingham of El Dorado Hills was the lone male participant Wednesday. He ironed dress straps like he’d labored in sweatshops for years.

“I saw a flier in library and it sounded like fun,” he said. “It’s just cool to be a part of something like this, to help out girls this way.”

Plans for the standard pattern are available on the website. Home sewers can also assemble them and donate directly.

But why not have a sewing bee? Reconnect with old friends and maybe make some new ones.

NEW DRESS, NEW ATTITUDE — Haitian girls try on their new pillowcase dresses from Hope 4 Women International'€™s "Dress a Girl Around the World"€ campaign, which has provided more than 13,000 dresses to girls around the world. Photo courtesy of Hope 4 Women International

Wednesday Youth Librarian Carolyn Brooks, her mom and a couple aunts showed up with their sewing machines, and were busily cranking out dresses. “We go wherever Carolyn tells us,” said Aunt Suzanne Paullin, a retired teacher. “They call us the ‘aunt farm.’”

Schmidt plans on holding another two “Dress a girl”sewing bees in January. She put out a plea for new or gently used pillow cases, cotton fabric in summer colors and thick bias tape.

For more information go to www.dressagirlaroundtheworld.com or call the El Dorado Hills library (916) 358-3500 and ask for Therese Schmidt


Mike Roberts

Discussion | 3 comments

  • Rachel Eggum CinaderDecember 29, 2010 - 3:42 pm

    Thanks for this great article! As founder of Dress a Girl Around the World I love to see those who are working so hard to help us dress girls get publicity. Thank you!

  • RachelJanuary 15, 2011 - 11:06 pm

    Oh what I great idea for charity I love it!

  • Juliet SmithSeptember 30, 2011 - 1:26 pm

    Do you need any assistance getting the dresses to 3rd world countries? I am leaving in early December for a missionary time in Kenya, and having been there before, I know the need is great. I think what you are doing is wonderful! Blessings to all of you!



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