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Topic: Has anyone ever organized a sewing day for Little Dresses for Africa?  (Read 3119 times)
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« on: February 23, 2010 07:59:44 PM »

I got a bug in my ear about sewing little pillowcase dresses to be distributed in Africa (or wherever there is a need). I've found two main websites with information, littledressesforafrica.org and dressagirlaroundtheworld.com. I showed these to my church's secretary and she seemed really excited. She's going to bring it up in staff meeting, and if the rest of the staff is interested, we'll have a sewing day at church. There are instructions for easy dresses, prayer dolls, and pants/shorts for little boys. Stuff for sewers and non-sewers. I'm looking for experience, or just ideas to make it run smoothly. What's a good time span? Would snacks and/or coffee be a good idea or just get in the way? Should we have a goal or just wing it? Any ideas for garnering interest? How would I go about getting items donated from local stores (like elastic, bias tape, thread, etc) or shouldn't I bother?
I have three sewing machines I would bring and several of my friends at church have already said they would help and/or bring their machines. How should I handle borrowing sewing machines/irons/ironing boards and what if something goes wrong or something gets broken?

« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2010 08:17:48 PM »

Oh, and I'd like to do this regularly, like every few months. Any ideas for a cute name for the event or the group if we form one?

« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2010 05:31:49 AM »

Hi Dooney -
As a matter of fact, I have organized several sewing bees at my church to make the pillowcase dresses for LDfA.  (I was even lucky enough to travel to Africa last summer with LDfA to help distribute the dresses.  What an AWESOME experience!!!)  Anyhow, to answer some of your questions:
I've found that a good time span is about 3 hours.  Depending on the # of workers you have, that will give you plenty of time to make several dresses.

I usually don't bring refreshments due to the possibility of spills / stains on the fabric, but if refreshments are something that's traditional with your group, by all means go ahead and have them.  However let me say that when we have a sewing bee in between morning and evening worship services, the ladies do bring a sack lunch and eat before getting down to work.

To drum up interest, maybe you could print off some information from the website and put signs up around your building and have an article published in the bulletin.  And definitely, word of mouth!

I never set a goal.  Whatever we were able to finish, we were able to finish.  Sometimes ladies took some to work on at home in their free time.  I did have a deadline for when I needed them back so they could be sent (or taken) for distribution.

I didn't ask for donations from stores, but I did from friends, family and church members.  MANY people have 'stashes' of elastic, thread and bias tape that they'd be happy to donate to a good cause.  Others are willing to buy a few packages as part of their contribution to the project. 

To get the pillowcases, I make regular trips to the thrift shops all year long and buy colorful pillowcases in good condition - bring them home and wash them and they're as good as new!

As far as the machines, irons, etc... go, I've asked people to bring their own and I've never had any issues with anything getting broken.  Usually people use their own machine because they're familiar with it.  Other items to ask people to bring:  cutting mats, rotary cutters, scissors, pins.  Encourage everyone to label their supplies somehow. 

Good luck with this project.  It is truly a very good cause!  Let me know if you have any other questions.
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2010 06:22:26 AM »

I've never personally organized one of these, but I think the best way to get supplies donated is to go to a local store in person and ask to speak to the manager. You probably have a good chance to get at least a discount, as you're not doing anything really controversial.

Also, if the church buying the materials is tax-exempt, see if you can get the form from whoever is in charge of your parish's finances
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« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2010 04:31:54 PM »

I just saw this and I would love to do this.

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« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2010 06:24:47 PM »

I don't have any experience with this organization in particular, but I have gotten in kind donations from stores. This was when I was with the Girl Scouts and asking for paint donations. (Your mileage may vary.) I found that having a letter explaining the project and a very detailed list of what I needed helped a lot. I made sure that I could pick up and transport the materials after donation. Smaller, locally owned businesses were able to help more, but some chains function more like franchises. Each manager or owner may have a small monthly or yearly budget for charitable donations. If they can't make an outright donation, ask if they can give you a discount or something. It might help to call ahead so that you know when the manager will be in. I always wore my GS uniform, but that doesn't really apply here. It might help to have more information about Little Dresses, especially pictures. Don't forget to send thank you notes, maybe with photos of the finished dresses! (I wish I had been better about this part, actually.)

Umm, you might have figured this out already. It sounds like you might have had a few sessions already. How did it go?

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« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2010 07:20:55 AM »

We have a sewing day once a year.  This year I wanted to make the dresses but it didn't work out.  Ask your church if anyone has gently used pillowcases they can contribute.  You may not need the bias tape if you can just make a casing there instead.

Most of the pillowcases I got were solid, not prints.  I thought I'd give them to the preschool at church to decorate & then we could make the dresses.

Sewers are very generous people.  We have used each others irons & ironing boards with no mishaps.  If someone doesn't want anyone to use their items, they just leave it at home.  But we NEVER share sewing machines! (put big laugh here!!)

If prep work can be done before the session that makes everything easier.  Prep work would be cutting out the sleeve area & across the top.  All your sewers will be at different levels & this is a good project to have beginners learn from with minimum help.  Having prep work done will save you from trying to explain all the steps over & over again.

Have a few already made.  Experienced sewers can probably figure it out from them.

We don't have snacks either but everyone bringing a lunch we can eat together when we are finished is very nice.

Please, please tell us how it goes or went!  It encourages us all!

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« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2011 10:04:56 AM »

Thank you all for the tips in this thread! My work is allowing me to set up an afternoon in the office, and I'm going to be using a ton of the tips listed in this thread. Smiley

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