Sewing Pillowcase Dresses for Donation to Africa


Here are three of six dresses that I made this past weekend. I cut out 12 more which are in process and have material to make another 40. Yes, 40 more!

All of this sewing came about when my recent purchase of a Pfaff coincided with my mother participating in a charity drive to create these adorable pillowcase dresses for donation to an African mission. It got me to thinking about what my first project with the new sewing machine might be.

Last year, I purchased a large quantity of Martha Stewart cotton sheets for my massage practice. The sheets went on a clearance sale at Macy’s (like $8 sheet) and I ended up buying way too many. I have eight of these quality sheets in storage that haven’t even been opened. The fabric is thick and soft, perfect for making a child’s dress.

The project assumes you are using a pillowcase which is then converted a dress (i.e. hence the name, pillowcase dress). If using a pillowcase, you simply cut arm holes, add elastic to the neck, then sew on the bias tape around the arm holes to create the straps.

With a little help from Nancy’s Notions, I learned how to cut down the sheets into useable pieces of fabric to make a dress of the same style. Nancy’s Notions created an online video demonstrating how to make a pillowcase dress and also provides a free printable pattern with detailed instructions.

One full sized sheet can be cut into 6 small dresses (22 x 42). Since the cream color fabric is a bit bland, I’ve altered the pattern a bit by using pink scraps of fabric to trim around the bottom of each dress. I purchased fusible web which I used to apply the no-sew applique treatment to the front of each dress for a bit of added flair. I used double fold bias tape in matching red and pink colors for the ties.

Nancy’s Notions also collects the dresses on behalf of the charity Little Dresses for Africa and will pay to ship the dresses to Africa. Dresses are distributed to orphanages, schools, and churches throughout Africa. The organization has also sent dresses to other countries in need, as well as to the Appalacian Mountains and South Dakota. The nonprofit group has sent over 175,000 dresses to date.

I’m hoping to build up my stash in the coming weeks and then send off the dresses in one batch. My goal is to make at least 50. If anyone would like to use up excess yardage, this is an excellent project!

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