Sewing dresses, lives together
By KALEY CONNER
The constant whir of sewing machines filled the gym at Celebration Community Church in Hays, accompanied only by the sound of friendly chatter.The ringing of a bell changed all that — the sewing machines fell silent, and the sewers operating them erupted in applause.”That means a dress is done,” Connie Eigenmann said, a big smile on her face.A group of nearly 20 women gathered at the church Saturday morning as part of the ministry’s inaugural Little Dresses of Love campaign. Women from several area churches have united for the project, which will send handmade dresses to young girls in Third World countries.
The simple, brightly colored frocks will be included in shoe boxes the church is assembling as part of Operation Christmas Child, a national ministry that sends holiday gifts to needy children across the globe.Many Ellis County churches will participate in the gift drive, which will culminate with a collection next month. Inspiration from the project came from an international ministry called Little Dresses for Africa, said Vera Haver, who organized the project with Eigenmann.
“This year our goal is 1,000 by Nov. 1, and I see us meeting that easy as far as the dresses go,” Haver said.The project started a month ago, and approximately 500 dresses already had been completed prior to last weekend’s “work day” at the church. Finished dresses covered tables and hung on the walls.Haver said her sister, a resident of Colby, single-handedly finished 200 dresses for the project.
“Once you catch the fire for it, it’s just crazy,” Eigenmann said. “Some of these ladies would stay up all night long sewing dresses.”At the front of the room, a large pile of scrap material for the dresses continued to shrink.
“It’s beautiful,” Eigenmann said.Haver got the idea for the project at a quilt show this summer. She always has loved to sew and was looking for a way to expand Celebration’s quilt ministry.
“This is so awesome,” she said of the work day, “because we don’t take time out anymore to enjoy each other’s company. We’re always all so busy. This is an opportunity for women to just take a day and get to know one another, and at the same time serving God.”Eigenmann is quick to admit she’s not an expert sewer, but she has been involved with Operation Christmas Child since she moved to Hays five years ago. She also sponsors several children overseas and knows how much the dresses will be appreciated.
“Every year, they send me a picture of the girls,” she said of her sponsored children, who she visited in Africa last summer. “Sometimes for three years in a row, the girl is wearing the same dress. That’s the only article of clothing they’ve had for three years.
“So these dresses will definitely be cherished.”
Something as simple as a homemade dress also could serve as protection for the young women who often are left to raise their siblings if their parents die of AIDS or other prevalent diseases, said church member Sandy Bangle.”If they have a nice dress like this, their chances of being raped is far less, because they think they’re being well taken care of,” she said. “It makes a huge difference.”The women took a streamlined approach to last weekend’s workshop, dividing into several work stations.
Some women hemmed the dresses, while others inserted elastic and bindings for the straps. Non-sewers also were put to work matching fabric and adding embellishments.”That’s what personalizes it,” Eigenmann said. “So many hands touch it.”
March 06, 2013 – Ortonville- Nicole Holbrook was joined by about 50 seamstresses and tailors of all ages on March 3 at Hillside Bible Church in making 77 dresses that will be sent to Africa.
Not everyone in the group knew how to sew, but the ones without that particular talent cut fabric and pillowcases to assist in the project for the non-profit organization, “Little Dresses for Africa.”
Holbrook, a Goodrich High School senior, learned about the organization from one of her teachers. While she already had a community service project planned for her senior graduation requirement, she knew she wanted to take on the dress project as well.
“This is right up my alley,” she said. “It’s something God laid on my heart. The organization gives hope to teens and little girls in Africa and is a great way to share the gospel with the children receiving (the dresses) and the people making them.”
Holbrook approached Hillside Youth Pastor Ken Tison and they talked to the Hillside congregation. Over the course of more than a month, donations of fabric, pillowcases, and other materials began rolling in. Holbrook bought a pattern and then used cardboard to make more of the simple pattern for the dresses, which will fit children sizes 3 to 8. The group then worked until Sunday evening cutting, sewing, and ironing the 77 dresses.
“I am so excited and ecstatic that we made that many dresses,” said Holbrook. “We’re not actually done making them. A lot of the ladies are still really excited and will be making dresses at home throughout the month of March.”
Little Dresses for Africa is a non-profit Christian organization based in Brownstown, Mich. According to their website, littledressesforafrica.org, their mission is “to provide relief to children of Africa, by distributing dresses to little girls, primarily in African villages, but also other countries in crisis. Because of the widespread AIDS pandemic, little girls are often left to be the primary care givers of their young siblings. It is our hope that in delivering dresses to these young girls, that a seed will be planted in their hearts, in the name of Jesus, that they are worthy.”
Holbrook hopes to send 100 dresses to the organization to send to Africa, and she would also like to take dresses to Belize this summer when she goes on a mission trip there with the Hillside youth group.
- Take note: Your children are watching! Thanks, Abby!!! Good Job!
By Randi Bjornstad
Published: September 16, 2012 12:00AM, Midnight, Sept. 16
For nearly a half-century Jacquie Ghormley has either been making new clothes or remaking them to fit. Some of the clothes have been her own. Many more have been refurbs created under the business name, “Alterations by Jacquie.”
It’s not exactly a business with a high profile.
“People always come in and say, ‘How long have you been here? I’ve never noticed your shop before,’ ” Ghormley said. “I tell them, ‘I’ve been in business a long time, and I’ve been here at 29th and Willamette (in Eugene) for 4½ years.’ ”
Unobtrusive as they might be, tailors with the skill to make others’ clothes look better on them have always been around. The latest version of the local Yellow Pages lists nine businesses under “Alterations.” The number was about the same 20 years ago.
It might not be in the future.
“I believe there’s only one school left in town — Willamette High School — that still teaches sewing and cooking,” said Ghormley, whose first sewing lessons came from her mother.
“She taught me from the time I could hold a needle,” the 72-year-old seamstress recalled.
“And she always sewed for me and my sister, who’s 13 months younger. My sister is bigger-boned than I am, so when we were kids people always thought we were twins — maybe because Mom always sewed identical dresses for us.”
However, her sister apparently lacked the knack and the patience for sewing.
More than once, as adults, Ghormley has gotten a box from her in the mail.
“I think, ‘Oh, good, a package from Judy,’ and when I open it, it’s mending she needs to have done.”
On Tuesday, the white Janome sewing machine purred as Ghormley created a new elastic waistband on a simple black knit skirt, with three other projects waiting their turn on the sewing table.
New waistbands are a frequent alteration, because elastic inevitably loses its stretch over time, she said.
Hems also play a big role in alterations. But so do taking in and letting out seams, lengthening or shortening sleeves and tweaking an OK fit to create a great one.
Lately, Ghormley has been doing a lot of shortening of tunic-length knit tops, “which must be all the rage in stores right now, but people think they’re too long.”
Dresses to be worn for weddings are a staple of her business, because “they almost always need alterations to make them look right,” Ghormley said.
“Sometimes a bridesmaid will come in and say, ‘This is the dress from hell,’ but when I get done fitting it to her figure, it looks completely different.”
Ghormley usually doesn’t do alterations on bridal gowns these days, because a torn rotator cuff in her shoulder makes it too painful to lift yards and yards of heavy fabric.
During the 10 years she worked as an employee at Alterations by Vicki in west Eugene, “We often would have two people work on a bride’s dress, one to hold onto all that material and the other to do the stitching.”
In the past few years, though, Ghormley has branched out a bit. After her mother died, she found a nice quality fur coat in a closet and wondered what to do with it, since wearing real fur has become anathema to many but it didn’t seem any more respectful of the animal to discard the garment.
So Ghormley turned the old coat into a stuffed teddy bear, which still sits in a place of honor atop an antique wood wardrobe in her shop.
It’s actually caught on.
“I have four coats waiting to be turned into keepsake teddy bears,” not intended as toys but heirlooms to be handed down through generations, she said. Extra fur from the mink, rabbit and shearling coats become additional bears and rabbits that she has available in her shop “for adoption.”
Occasionally, she gets a job she just can’t take on.
“One day, right before I was planning to leave on a trip, a woman called saying she had a tent that needed sewing,” Ghormley said. “I told her to bring it in, but when she came and I looked at it, my saner self took over. I probably could have done it, but since I was going to be gone, I referred her over to another (seamstress) I know who does more of that kind of thing.”
Although she continues to sew to augment the family income — she and retired husband Bill Ghormley especially enjoy cruises and road trips — Ghormley also has turned her sewing skills in another, completely altruistic direction.
Ghormley first participated in a nonprofit program called “Little Dresses for Africa,” started by a woman in Michigan, that has provided more than a half-million ingeniously simple, pretty sundresses made from surplus pillowcases to young girls all over Africa.
“It became too expensive to send the dresses back to Michigan so the program could send them somewhere else, so now I do them on my own and look for people who are going to places where the children can use them,” she said.
“I used to go to thrift stores to buy good-quality pillowcases, and now people who know I do this just bring them to me.”
She also makes simple pants cut from cotton knit T-shirts — she can finish one in 15 minutes or so — to send to boys in places where clothing is needed.
“Last year I put together 30 kits of dresses and pants and gave them to the sewing instructor at Willamette High School,” Ghormley said.
“Her students did them up, and they were shipped to Dominican Republic.”
The garments were distributed to children in a poverty-stricken slum called Barrio Blanco, which came to Ghormley’s attention after The Register-Guard published stories about Eugene resident Ron Zauner, who started the nonprofit Providing Opportunity for Self Improvement in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, and who has spent the better part of a year using donated funds to build 18 new houses there to replace decrepit shelters without floors, sewers or running water.
How long she can keep up the busy pace of her business and her charitable activities, Ghormley doesn’t know.
“I keep saying to myself, ‘How long am I going to do this?’ ” she said. “And I always say to myself, ‘One more year.’ ”
Five young ladies are modeling dresses fashioned in a service project at the Silver Creek Reformed church in German Valley, ILL Alivia, Breanna, Kaylee, Adeline, Lacey, In the back are JoAnn and Waya, silver Creek Women’s Ministries SEcretaries of SErvice
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