Thursday, August 4, 2011

Little Dresses for Africa

This whole adventure began when Mere came across a brilliant ministry that serves the children of the world by making dresses... out of pillowcases! With a little girl of her own and lots of enthusiasm, Mere wanted to learn to sew and help others along the way.... and so we teamed up... Ali and Mere for:
SewSweetTv. a way to share our passion for sewing with you and spread hope to wonderful little people all over the world.

Check out the Little Dresses for Africa ministry at:

Here's how we made our first little dress, and we hope it will
 inspire you to start sewing too!

Pins, 2 yd ribbon (3/4"-1"), tape measure, thread, scissors,  pillow case/fabric, and a sewing machine.

First of all, the website uses pillowcases as the fabric for the dresses, and since we had some extra fabric lying around, we decided to use the pillow case as template. Thus, we started with a piece of fabric folded in half and laid a pillow case on top.

Then, we cut out our standard pillowcase sized fabric and folded inside out (right sides together). Then we ran the other long edge (opposite of the folded edge) through the sewing machine and made a 1/2" seam.

*NOTE* If you are joining this tutorial with a pillow case, you would simply cut off the closed short end of the pillow case and you would be at the same step!
Next, with the fabric right side out, use your fingers to make a 1/4" fold at the hem of the dress. 

 Then, fold the same hem one more time to hide the finished edge and pin. You are welcome to use an iron if your fabric does not fold easily, but it's usually not necessary. Continue this process until you have gone "full circle" around the bottom of your dress.

Using a straight stitch (or fancy programmed stitch if your machine allows), start at the seam that you created on the long edge and sew around the hem of the dress, removing pins as you sew.

 Now, turn the dress inside out so the seams lay flat and fold lengthwise. Cut an arm hole about 4" from the top of the dress and about 2" in from the seam- a rectangle with a curved corner. Now the dress has symmetrical arm holes! Now using the same hemming technique, you will finish the arm holes with the hidden seam. Fold over 1/4" and smooth with your fingers, then fold it over again and pin. The curve will naturally fall into place.

Lay the dress flat on the table and fold in 1/4" at the top of the dress like we did for the bottom hem. Press and smooth with your fingers. 

Take that seam and fold down, hiding the unfinished edge, and compare to the width of your ribbon. You want to be sure that your ribbon will easily fit through the "casing" that we've just created. Pin in place and repeat for the other side of the dress. Then sew one straight seam across the front and the back.

Flip your dress inside out and inspect for incomplete seams. Take a safety pin and attach it to one end of  the ribbon and use it to feed through the ribbon casing at the top of your dress. Tie the ends of the ribbon along the shoulders and ta da...
a sweet little sundress for a little girl lady-to-be in Africa. 

To size your dress: (length from the shoulder to the hem)
Small = 2, 3, 4, (16-22")
Medium = 5, 6, 7 (24-28")
Large = 8, 9, 10 (30-34")
XL = 11 and above (anything over 35")

When possible, dresses should be sized as Small, Medium, Large and XLarge and rolled into a 2 Gallon ziplock bag, when possible, for easy distribution.  Please mark on the outside, the number of items included and the size in each ziplock, if possible.  (Example:  12 size medium dresses) Please include a self addressed envelope if you would like notification that your dresses were received. Tax deductions for shipping are available on their website.
  Little Dresses for Africa
    24614 Curtis Drive
    Brownstown, MI 48134

Our dress below is shown with pockets with a little SewSweet flair, so check out our next tutorial on adding pockets to any project.


For a video tutorial for this project check us out on YouTube!


  1. What a great project. I don't sew but you two may have inspired me with this to give it a try.

  2. @cintexas So glad we have inspired you!! Your comment made our day! This is a great starter project and for a great cause! Good Luck and keep us updated on your progress! We would love to see some pictures! :)