Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dressing up plain pillowcase dresses...

I recently read a blog where the woman had adorned her plain pillowcase with a cute fabric stencil.  I have been anxious to try it and so recently bought some simple stencils and a bunch of fabric paints.  Then my daughter and I set out to paint some cute things on some solid colored & plain pillowcases.
Kaeleigh helps with the stenciling
They were really easy to do!  We just put a piece of cardboard between the layers, taped the stencil to the dress and used a stippling paintbrush to apply the paint.  Carefully peel off the stencil, dry flat for 4 hours and it's washable after 72 hours.

Finished, they are much more interesting and cute!

Purple butterflies on light pink pillowcase dress

Light pink flowers & dots on a chocolate colored pillowcase

Orange flowers on a denim colored pillowcase dress
Yellow and green flowers on purple dress
Cute right?  Usually I have been adding a coordinating ribbon to the hem of the dress, but for a change, I like the fabric paint.  This would work well too for hiding a small stain on a pillowcase or fabric.

Let me know what you think about these.  I always love to hear feedback.  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

God is good!

We had a great day today!  Kitty came to our church with us and loved the message.  It was really nice having her there.  After church, we came back to our house and were talking about Dress a Girl.  I was telling her how since becoming the local representative for Dress a Girl Around the World, I have prayed that God would let this whole thing unfold at a manageable rate.  That it wouldn't just explode into something really big too fast.  After all, I had heard amazing stories of other reps hosting sewing events for thousands of people in stadiums! (Gulp!) 

Kitty reminded me that Romans 8:28 (Hope I have the right scripture here) states that "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."  Basically that if I am doing this to glorify God, that He would make it work for me.  It is working!

Since actively starting a DAG Facebook page and blogging, I have been getting even more people discovering DAG and our mission to provide a dress to girls all over the world.  I am amazed at how these mediums are generating such great interest!  Just in the past two days, I have had several inquiries either from the DAGATW website or my blog.  In fact, the first one is a woman who may come to our sewing event Saturday, lives about an hour away in West Springfield, MA (my parents live there!); the next is a woman who found the website, then my blog and lives only 2 towns away (she's coming to our sewing event this Saturday!); the third is a woman in Chicago who has been sewing for DAG there, shared it with her MIL who wants to start sewing and lives about an hour away in Wilbraham, MA! (My brother lives there!)  Now I am telling you that God has a hand in this!  It's not just coincidence!  God is good!  I am so thankful for how this is all unfolding for me!

Tomorrow I will share what I have done today!  I copied the idea of another woman who is sewing some dresses for DAG in her area.  Made pretty but boring dresses ultra cute!!  Stay tuned!

Ahhhh, Sunday.

I enjoy Sundays.  Aside from the chaos of getting three kids out of the house on time for church-which is always a challenge-I love looking forward to the message.  Our Pastor delivers great messages in a real world way,  arms us with tools we can use in our lives and he is funny.  I really look forward to church!  We have a great group of people there too.  It's all good.

Today, Kevin's sister Kitty is coming to church with us.  She lives about an hour away and we used to drive to their church before we discovered Cornerstone.  That ups the fun factor too as we get to see someone we love & don't see often enough!

When we get home we have the whole day to do whatever we choose. Today I think I will be sewing again.  With two days off I feel behind now!  So much to do, so little time! 

I am really pleased at all the people who have just discovered Dress a Girl-whether through this blog or otherwise.  I love to share what we do and why we do it.  It makes me feel good and I love knowing what it can mean to a little girl somewhere who has never had a dress of her own.  I love the idea that I can help raise the self esteem of a girl even just a little bit when she feels pretty in a dress.

Last night our elementary school held a dinner and auction fundraiser.  I donated some jewelry which is always popular and also donated a pillowcase dress.  I put my business cards out and inevitably a conversation is started about Dress a Girl!  Some don't know that it is me doing this, others don't know what it is at all.  Then I get to share what we do.  Some are interested in general, some want to know if they can buy a dress, others want to help or know someone that would love to hear about DAG.  Awesome!  It was a fun night.  My husband and I were out without our kids, enjoying the company of other adults we like, good music, good food and it was for a good cause!  Now it's Sunday and we can take a deep breath and relax and enjoy the day and the message we hear.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring organizing & cleaning time

I would love to spend the day sewing my pillowcase dresses for Dress a Girl today.  However, with the weekend looming and the fact that I hate to clean on the weekend, I feel compelled to do some major cleaning today.  With all that I have been doing this week, I haven't had time to do any significant cleaning-just pickup.  My jewelry studio is a disaster, the whole house needs another vacuuming and there's dusting.  I always like to do all my dirty laundry catch up on Fridays so no one can complain of not having clothes they want for the weekend.

Then there is the basement!  We are in the process of framing it out for a few new rooms.  It's exciting and daunting.  We cleaned out part of the basement & reorganized some to clear the "rooms" we needed to finish.  There is still lots to be done.  It is crazy how much one collects over the years!  I think I have too many hobbies!  I was a very active scrapbooker when we lived in Salt Lake City, UT.  Haven't really done very much since we moved back to Connecticut-nearly 8 years ago!  But, I would really like to again!  Can't part with all the stuff I have-alot-as I know what I spent on it all!  Ugh!  Then there is the soap making supplies, painting supplies, etc.  Then we come to my sewing stuff.  Used to be a relatively small area (except for the fabric in dressers).  Now it is taking over my basement!  I need to get a handle on it!

Besides all the cleaning and organizing, I need to move a bit around in the basement so that I can get to areas where we are putting walls up tonight.  My husband ordered tons of insulation for the ceilings and walls and that could come in today.  May have to go pick that up too.  Once that arrives, the push will be on to get it installed.  So, there are things I really need to get done in the basement-today.  Finish painting the cement 1/2 walls with Drylok so walls can be put up in front of them.  Finish insulating the heating supply duct that we started two nights ago but haven't finished yet.  Oh boy! 

As much as I really want to sew today, clearly this will have to be a day off from that!  Priorities today are organizing and cleaning-then those basement projects!  Better get off my computer and get started!  Tomorrow maybe-after my photography class and before the school auction/fundraiser.  There's always Sunday~

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Start your engines (or sewing machines!)

Ladies, the Gordon College trip to Nicaragua was a huge success and has prompted a ripple effect!  One of the professors that went on the trip is going to Honduras in May and is asking for dresses for that trip.  She doesn't have an exact number yet, but we are starting with assuming 100 pillowcase dresses.  There are actually two groups going so we will wait and see how many we actually need.  However, couple that with the 10,000 dresses we are sewing for David Wagner of Father's Heart Ministries & well, yikes!

So, if you can sew and would like to help a great cause in providing a dress for a little girl internationally, please help!  We need lots of dresses!  Which also means we need lots of pillowcases & sheets, elastic, ribbon and bias tape! 

Don't know how to sew and want to help?  There are lots of ways! 
  • Do a pillowcase drive among your friends, neighbors and co-workers.  Wash them as they come in and then drop them off with me.  
  • Come to our next sewing event April 1st at Cornerstone Church in Cheshire.  
  • Start your own sewing circle or event.  
  • When going to yard/tag sales, ask if they'd donate sheets, pillowcases or fabric to our DAGATW.
Thanks for stopping by and please consider helping.  Even sharing this blog with your friends via Facebook or email will raise awareness and possibly prompt someone to help out!

Have a blessed day!  (And start your engines!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Girls blessed in Nicaragua

My niece, Mary, returned home on Sunday from a week at a CICRIN orpahange in Nicaragua on a missions trip with her school, Gordon College.  They brought 180 pillowcase dresses with them and she just emailed me her pictures of the dresses she handed out to the girls in the orphanage they visited and worked at.  They divided up the dresses and each of the students carried some in their luggage. 

Here are Mary's pictures:
Fabric I purchased for dresses!  Sew cute!
More fabric I purchased for dresses...
Actually started as a pillowcase...
More fabric I purchased-beautiful girl!
Purchased this fabric too-love it!
What a beautiful bunch of girls!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Magic elastic & ribbon threader! A must have!

I found this at my local Michael's store in the sewing notions section and paid a whopping $1.99 for it. I figured it was a good investment if it worked and an inexpensive experiment if it didn't.  Joann's sells one just like it also-a little more expensive there.

This is what it looks like hanging on the display. It's made by Dritz as you can see in the bottom right corner.
And here it is out of the package, just a long, flexible, plastic stick that is thicker at one end and tapers to a thinner size with two openings at the other end.
So all you do is thread your ribbon through the casing into the two holes at the end, then run the thicker end through the casing and out the other end. I was able to run an elastic or ribbon through the casing of a dress in seconds. I now own about 5 of these- great for our sew fests-things move way faster!!!

Borrowed the pics from "Hooked on Needles" blog...

Dress sizes...

I have had a request to know how to size the dresses we are making.  Here is a chart from Rachel, head of DAG, on recommended sizing...

Keep in mind an average pillowcase width is 22" and if using fabric that means 44" total width before you sew into your tube or pillowcase.  If you are making a small dress, the width doesn't need to be 22" wide.  I sometimes use my smaller widths of fabric for the little girl dresses-maybe 16-19" wide before doubling.  

 Size Chart for Dresses based on length...

Size 2—16”
Size 3-- 19”
Size 4-- 22”

Size 5—24”
Size 6—26”
Size 7-28”
Size 8--30”
Size 9—32”
Size 10—34”

Size 11—36”
Size 12—38”

Keep in mind, once a dress becomes too short to be a dress, it works as a cute top with shorts, skirt or pants.  Dresses can also be worn with a shirt underneath.  Hope this is helpful-comment if you have any questions!

These dresses are made with vintage fabric given to me by my cousin Cheryl.  Cute huh?

Life is just a bowl of cherries...

Cherries fabric
Today I started sewing the fabrics given to me by my cousin Cheryl.  First fabric is vintage white with cherries on it-cute!

Cute right?

 Here's a close-up of the fabric-looks very little girlish to me!

Cherries dress~~~SEW CUTE~~~~
Added a little red grosgrain ribbon ties and band at the bottom-simply beautiful!

This is perfect for a baby as a dress.  It is 18" from the top of the chest to the hem.  It will fit a child up to 2 years old. 

However, worn as a shirt, it will fit a girl to 8 years old as the ties are adjustable!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sheets, sheets, & loads of donated fabric!

Today I spent most of the day cutting sheets, sheets, and more sheets into various dress sized "pillowcases", then serged many of them together to into the pillowcase form.  It is unending!  I have so many sheets!  I am feeling a bit buried in sheets!  It's a wonderful "problem"!  And of course we need so many more!  I am using them for dresses and some for making into bias tape.  If you have some that you don't really use, consider donating them.  I really would appreciate it!

Today I also tackled a box of fabric that my 2nd cousin Cheryl sent to me a couple of months ago.  I know, I am a little slow. LOL!  The pillowcases are easier (there is less to do in order to make them into a dress), so I tend to work with those first.  However, since my husband and I are currently framing half of our basement into a finished space, I am losing precious storage space and have to work through all my boxes!  And when I pull those boxes out of all the "hidden" places in our basement-Holy Cow do I have alot of boxes!  My husband nearly had a stroke when he saw how the piles grew as I consolidated it all into one area! ;)

Anyway, in the box that Cheryl sent me was yards of fabric that she intended to sew into cute clothes for her little girls. (They are now graduated high school and college!)  I am guilty of it too.  I have dressers (yes, plural) full of flannels and fleece from years of making tons of pajama pants for the kids and plenty of fabrics from other well intended, never gotten to projects!

So, maybe you are in the same situation as Cheryl and I?  Maybe you have fabric laying around from those projects you meant to do; quilts never started or finished; clothes for the kids that they'd never wear now that they are older and it's not cool to wear something mom made unless it's Halloween (my kids).  Let me know and I will be happy to take that fabric off your hands and you can know it is going to a good cause.  Cheryl's fabric was cut into 49 dresses today!  Just awesome!  Oh and all those sheets too.  I am going to be busy!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spreading the love

It's Sunday evening and tonight we had dinner with my father in law and his significant other.  They asked about Dress a Girl and what's new.  I love to share what is starting to happen here in Connecticut and the Northeast!  They had no idea how busy we've been and how big things are getting.  I told him that I'd driven 180 dresses out to Boston so his granddaughter, Mary, could bring them to Nicaragua for me!  He was very proud!  They themselves just came back from Costa Rica last week.  Had I known they were going in advance, I would have sent a few dresses with them!

I showed them pictures of the dresses and of the little girls of Uganda in them.  They were touched by the pictures and asked if we just buy the dresses or do the stores donate them. (I thought I had told them all of this, but you know they are busy and have a lot of their own stuff going on so I can't expect them to remember my stuff too!)  I explained that most of our dresses are made from donated and gently used pillowcases from folks that want to help and have extra sheets and pillowcases they aren't using.  They thought they might have extra sheets and pillowcases-who doesn't?!  I asked him if I could email him a letter that he could share with his friends asking for donations.  "Of course!" he said!  He wants pictures included of those cute little girls receiving and wearing our dresses.  So tomorrow morning, I will be drafting a letter complete with pictures and sending it along!  He felt that his friends would be more than happy to help our cause!

It's so fun to talk about DAG!  It's easy when you love what you're doing!  Spreading the love!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Step by step construction instructions...

I have included a new page on this blog that gives step by step pillowcase dress instructions.  It's located near the top of my blog.  Just put your mouse over the words "Pillowcase dress instructions" and click!  Or go to this link:

There are two basic ways to make simple pillowcase dresses.  Both start off the same and then there are two options: 1)  use grosgrain ribbon for the ties or 2) use double bias tape for the ties.  One is not necessarily easier than the other and both are really cute.

Of course, embellishments can be added once your basic dress is constructed.  Many add pockets or ribbon trim, ric rac, lace, ruffles etc.  It's okay to leave it basic or embellish all you want!  Remember, if a little girl has never had a dress, even a plain one will make her smile!

Several women have asked me what they should do to not so pretty colored pillowcases or not so pretty pillowcases.  Keep in mind that sometimes just adding a bright color to a brown pillowcase will make it darling!  And although we may not care for some patterns, colors etc-different cultures may think it is beautiful!  So do your best with whatever you have and believe that some little girl will love it!

There really are no set rules.  You don't even need to follow my instructions.  As I find more and different dress instructions, I will link them.Fire up those sewing machines & let your creativity take over!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Missions, Construction & Tie-dying!

My niece, Mary, is a Junior at Gordon College in the North Shore area of Boston.  Back at Christmas time, she suggested that I get in touch with her schools Director of Missions.  She told me of a trip they were taking to Nicaragua to an orphanage to help build homes on the property.  So I contacted the school and explained what Dress a Girl was all about and asked if they could bring pillowcase dresses to the girls there.  Long story short, they said yes they would like 125 dresses for Nicaragua and more for a team of kids going to the Dominican Republic!  I was so pleased!  I drove up to Boston's North Shore a week ago and delivered 180 dressses to them.  Mary is currently in Nicaragua and due back in a few days.  I asked her to take lots of pictures and can't wait to see them when she returns!  I will post pics as soon as I get them!

So, how do these dresses get made?  I am not the only one making these pillowcase dresses!  After starting our sew fests at our church, our local paper ran an article on what I was doing.  My goal in talking with the Cheshire Herald was to increase awareness, get people excited about DAG and motivate them to donate pillowcases & fabrics.  The article focused too much on me I think, but did raise awareness and generate donations.  Once we started sewing, many of the ladies at our church brought home piles of dresses in a particular state of construction.  For example, Maureen, likes to feed pieces of elastic through the casings in the top of the dresses.  She pins it in place and then brings the pile back to church to hand them off to Marie, who then tacks the elastic in place.  I then get the piles back, pin double bias tape on both arms to create the ties and I give the pile to Georgia who sews the bias tape on.  I get the piles back, sew on a tag and it is done!  We have a great team of about 6-8 people that move these dresses through the process.  This keeps the dresses constantly being made in a team effort even if we don't have a sew fest planned each month!

In addition, the article that ran in the newspaper and all of my Facebook posts have generated lots of interest and donations.  I received two older sewing machines from an elderly woman in town who just didn't need to have extra machines in the house.  Several women called and asked if they could come over and see what the dresses looked like and get a mini-lesson on constructing a pillowcase dress.  These women are now making dresses on their own in their spare time!  Just awesome!

I also received a call from a friend whose 9th grade daughter wanted to learn how to use her sewing machine.  She offered to hold a DAG party and invited friends to bring pillowcases and learn to construct a pillowcase dress.  Eleven girls came with two pillowcases each and we had alot of fun
as I showed them how to make the dresses and use a sewing machine.  By the end of the night, each girl made at least one and felt good about what they were doing.

I have received alot of sheet donations and many are white.  Sometimes these are not quite as white as they should be.  The fabric is still good, they are just dingy looking.  Once they are washed, I am cutting them into dress sizes and serging them into a "pillowcase" shape.  I put out a call for help on Facebook for a group to volunteer to tie-dye the dresses.  Two friends called asking if they could help.  One is planning a Cheshire Newcomers & Neighbor Club children's event to tie-dye the dresses.  The other offered her kids help tie-dying dresses once the weather is a little warmer!  I am thinking this may be the answer to re-using slightly dingy or discolored fabrics!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day one as a introduction to Dress a Girl CT

Hello!  Welcome to my Dress a Girl Connecticut blog!  My name is Janine and I am the Connecticut state representative for Dress a Girl Around the World.  

Dress a Girl was founded by Hope 4 Women Intl. in October of 2009 under the notion that every girl should own at least one dress.  We transform new & gently used pillowcases into beautiful dresses for little girls.  The dresses are then given to someone traveling to a country where there is a girl in need.  As of today, about 19,000 dresses have been made by someone like yourself and distributed to little girls in 36 countries.

I discovered DAG (Dress a Girl) in August of 2010 when a woman at my church sent out an email inviting me to a sew-fest at our church.  She had heard about DAG from her SIL who found it on the web.  She included the official DAG website so I clicked on it!  As I read about the mission of DAG & looked at all the photos of the precious girls being blessed with a "new" dress and the smiles on their faces, I knew I had to help.  After all, I knew how to sew.  Couldn't be that hard, right?   

We were asked to clean out our linen closets and bring in any gently used pillowcases.  I got to thinking that it is really easy to make a pillowcase.  So, if you're cleaning out your linen closets and getting rid of pillowcases, what would you be doing with your sheets?  How many "pillowcases" could be made from a single sheet?  Surely I should collect sheets too.  How about folks who have fabric in their basement from projects they thought they'd get to and never did?  I should collect cotton fabrics too.  You can see how this snowballed for me.  

I started thinking if I collected these things on my own, that I could get a great jump start for the sew fest that was coming up in September.  I decided to put out an email to all my friends and family locally and ask them to drop off new or gently used sheets and pillowcases & cotton fabrics in a bin I'd put in my driveway.  Then I got to thinking about all my "Facebook" friends.  I posted a call for the same on Facebook.   

I called my friend at church and began to tell her what I had done and all the thoughts I had racing through my head.  She laughed and told me her reaction was the same when she looked at the website.  She had her own personal reasons for wanting to help these little girls.  She confided in me that she didn't know how to sew but once she saw the website, knew God would lead someone to her that would help make the whole thing happen.  She thought it was me.  Together we came up with lists of what we needed to have to pull this off.  I decided to get folks excited about the sew-fest, they might need a visual so I went out and bought a 2-pack of pillowcases.  I left one untouched, and made my first pillowcase dress with the second.  It was SO cute!!  I brought them to church and hung them in the lobby for all to see.  The response was overwhelming as I had hoped. 

People really started bringing in the pillowcases and sheets then!  Every week, our bin would be filled and I brought them home to be washed.  I stockpiled them in my basement until our sew fest.  During that same time, the bin in my driveway was filling every day!  I was touched by how many people were not only cleaning out their closets, but going out and buying new sheets and pillowcases for me!  I had set a personal goal to make 100 dresses on my own through the donations I received before the sew fest.  I did it and in addition, we started about 300 dresses on our first day.  We had 25 women and young ladies come out to help!  

In November, I knew I couldn't let it go so I signed on as the CT state representative for DAG.  We have had several sew fests since then and more people keep volunteering to help.  I have been asked to speak to audiences and congregations about DAG and hope to continue to do this.  My goal is to start many smaller groups of sew fests to help us make dresses.  

Making the dresses is only one part of the DAG story.  We also need to get these dresses to girls in need.  I have no resources to ship and shipping is expensive!  What we try to do is look for people traveling to third world countries that would be willing to take a bag/box of dresses and distribute them to little girls.  There is no cost for the dresses, we only ask that you take pictures of the girls in the dresses and email them to us so we can post them on the DAGATW website.  It inspires us to keep collecting and sewing for the girls.  Together we can bless little girls all over the world!

In February, I was asked to speak briefly at a Christian Conference by the New England Prayer Center.  It was my hope to spread the word about DAG and generate some interest in our cause.  Well, mission accomplished!  David Wagner, founder of Father's Heart Ministry was the emcee and he asked me if I could get him 10,000 (yup-TEN THOUSAND!) dresses by July that he could bring to Africa to a very large orphanage there!  GULP!  I said yes!  We now have women all over the country sewing for this trip!  What a blessing he is to us and the little girls of Africa! 

So, this is a general overview of what Dress a Girl is.  I hope to keep regular postings of what I am doing  and hope that if this is something you are interested in that you will contact me for more information.   Here is the official DAGATW website-take a look!

Thanks & Be Blessed!