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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Little Dresses for Africa

BERLIN — What was originally a fun Girl Scout project has become something of a mission for local amateur tailors who have come upon a fascinating recycling program of sorts with international implications. More than a dozen women have been coming together recently to convert pillow cases into dresses to be sent to clothe children in the poorest parts of Africa.
Barbara Entwistle came across the service project when she, as an adult volunteer for a Daisy Girl Scout group, derived such satisfaction from it that she began to share the project with friends who did the same.
Last month the group had their first Entwistle party and have slated their next for 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11.
Entwistle got the idea from the sewing website, which sponsors the “Little Dresses for Africa” program. The way it works is the dresses are made and shipped to Nancy’s Notion’s central office and the company than bulk ships the dresses to their final destination. Local groups only pay to ship to the Wisconsin based company, with Nancy’s Notions taking care of the international shipping.
The Little Dresses for Africa program provides a free pattern on line for turning pillow cases into pretty and practical dresses which, depending upon the pillow case size, can fit girls even in their early ‘tweens.
Beyond the service aspect of the project, though, is the opportunities for youngsters to learn how to use a sewing machine and follow a dress pattern. Sewing is becoming a bit of a lost art as the combination of more attractive technology and the fight against gender stereotyping meet a society where it is cheaper and easier to buy rather than create clothes.
Entwistle said that the girls who have so far participated have been exceptionally impressed with the prospect of learning to use a sewing machine as well as to cut and measure cloth.
For she and her colleagues, though, the opportunity to turn the children’s learning project into a social gathering for social consciousness was something they didn’t feel as if they could miss. To that end, they have begun having covered dish sewing events that are open to anyone willing to bring a covered dish and some pillow cases to convert into dresses.
Typically participants meet around 4 p.m. and go almost directly to work. Depending upon how many people bring sewing machines, the work is divided among to make the best possible use of everyone’s time.
Usually around 6:30 p.m. they take a break and have dinner together. This gives everyone a chance to get a little better acquainted with the others and has begun to help build a larger community. After dinner some choose to call it a night and others sometimes stay on to finish up anything or even to make another dress or two.
Entwistle said she has had a lot of success finding really interesting and pretty pillow cases in local thrift shops. One thrift shop worker was surprised at the number of pillow cases Entwistle was taking, saying that people rarely bought any pillow cases let alone so many. As it stands now many of the members, having already donated the pillow cases they no longer use, have taken to haunting the thrift shops for deals.
Moreover, the dresses have turned out so well that Entwistle has been called upon to make some for her granddaughter to wear as a summer dress, other participants have had similar experiences.
The next Pillowcase Dress Party will begin 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11. Anyone interested in participating in the Little Dresses for Africa program or starting their own should call Barbara Entwistle 410-641-0415.