Saturday, November 24, 2012

Boys in the Background

When I look at many of the photos where little girls are modeling their cute pillowcase dresses my eyes are always drawn to the little boys standing in the background peeking out from a crowd or behind a tree.  Maybe I notice them because I have sons.

Many people have asked me "what about little boys? Can we do something for little boys?" Well what about little boys? Don't get me wrong I LOVE seeing little girls in their new dresses but I also feel called to make shorts for the 'little boys in the background.'  I cannot in good conscience ignore these little boys. 

When my boys were young our favorite adjective was SHARP which was the male equivalent of cute.  “Those are sharp little shorts" I would tell them.  So I decided that I would write a tutorial for a pair of ‘Sharp Lookin’ Shorts.’ These are nothing fancy or complicated to make but they are fun, durable and very easy to make.  Make them special by adding a pocket or a whistle clip at the waist.
Let’s get started!  First off you want to gather up your materials.  So here is a list of what you will need to get started.

1 heavy weight cotton t-shirt
Optional scrap fabric for pattern (I used muslin)
Thread to match
About 20" of 1” wide elastic
Pins, tape measure, scissors, safety pin
Quite often you can find t-shirts left over from an event such as a university or fundraising event.  Remember the seat of these shorts will get a lot of wear and probably get dirty so look for a t-shirt that is dark or a bright color and as heavy weight as you can find.  If you get a chance buy a t-shirt that is extra wide. 
I have a simple short pattern it is an old McCall’s pattern M6099.  My pattern has a couple bites out of it because my cat Zippy likes the sound of tissue paper but that doesn't really matter.  I'll show you why in just a minute.

Basically I only want to have one large pattern piece rather than the usual two pieces so I pin the front and back pattern together at the side seam.  Match the side seam up the best you can.  As long as the top and bottom line up then you’re fine.
The bottom of the pattern will indicate the hem allowance and because we at going to use the t-shirt hem as the hem for the short you can just cut that off or fold it up. 

At this point you can use the tissue pattern OR you can trace the tissue pattern on another piece of paper OR you can trace this pattern on a piece of fabric and use that as a pattern.  Fabric patterns are my favorite because you don’t have to use pins when you cut things out AND fabric patterns aren't attractive to cats.  If you are making a paper or fabric pattern draw around the pattern piece with a fabric marker, and then put the tissue aside.
Your fabric pattern should look like this.  It will last forever.  Be sure to write the size on it in permanent marker.  I'll label mine later.
Now smooth out the t-shirt.  I pin the hems together so that
I can be assured that the legs of the shorts will be the same.
After you do that lay the pattern piece on it.  Be sure to line up the bottom of the pattern with the hem of the shirt.  It might not line up perfectly but that’s okay as long as the edges where you are going to cut line up.  Mine did not line up perfectly you can see a little red peeking out at the bottom from under the pattern.  That’s okay…I promise.

Cut the shorts out.  You should have 2 large pieces that look like this.
Take the pieces apart and you will have to legs. Fold each one in half right sides together, pin and sew the inseam. 
Now turn one of the legs right side out and put them together with right sides together, one leg inside the other like this. Line up the legs and put a few pins in to hold the pieces even.
When you pin the inseams together line the seams so that they go opposite directions they will eliminate some bulkiness and make it easier to sew.  You can sort of see this from this side view.
Match the top edges and pin from the waist on one side all the way down under and then up the other side.  Turn this inside out…ta da there you have a pair of shorts. 
I was going to say “let’s take a break and have a cup of tea” but we are so close to the end let’s just keep going and finish these up. All that is really left is the elastic.
Fold the waist down 1 to 1 ¼ inches pin and press. Zig-zag about the waistline casing but remember to leave a couple of inches left unsewn so that you can thread the elastic through. 
Cut the elastic and put a safety pin on one end and push it in the opening and all the way around and come out the opening.  Stitch the elastic ends together and slip it back into the casing.  Now zig zag that little opening shut. 
Spread out the gathers and there you go!  A sharp pair of shorts for a little boy that may have never owned a pair that weren’t hand-me-downs!  Good job.  Give yourself a pat on the back! 




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Brrr It's Cold Outside

The temperature is dropping in Pineridge, South Dakota. Next week it is going to snow. Winter is rapidly approaching and many of the Lakota children live in homes with inadequate heat if any at all.

In addition to the school at Wounded Knee that I wrote about in my previous post we can send warm clothing to the National American Heritage Association.
National Heritage Association is a global Pine Ridge donation organization--it has a four star charity rating. They know which schools, agencies, or churches have the greatest need.

Here is the address for National American Heritage Association to use if you wish to send warm winter dresses, leggings, hats, gloves and extras.

National American Heritage Association
12085 Quaal Rd
Black Hawk, SD 57718

Or if you you wish to send monetary donations use this address:

Native American Heritage Association
P.O. Box 512
Rapid City, SD 57709
Thank you in advance for your love, generosity, and kind spirit.

The Warm Winter dress tutorial is in the September 2011 archive.  Just scroll down the right side column to the Archive and click on 2011 and then September.  Drop me a line if you need help finding it.

This is a temperature chart for Pineridge, SD. As you can see the coldest months are November November through March.  Brrrrr


Friday, October 19, 2012

Getting Ready for Cold Weather


Winter is creeping up on us again and my thoughts turn toward the Lakota children.

Pine Ridge Reservation, located in South Dakota. The tribal government records show that there are 38,000 members living on the Pineridge reservation.  Unemployment is over 80% compared to the rest of the country where unemployment runs below 8%.  The average salary is less than $8,000 for a family of four or even more. Most families do not have adequate heat, food, water, healthcare or clothing. 
Last winter there was a record low temperature of minus 20 degrees!
This year we are requesting warm dresses, clothing and extras to be sent to The Wounded Knee District School.  This school is the one that was featured in the television special with Diane Sawyer called A Hidden America: The Children of the Plains. 
To send a package by regular mail USPS send it to:
Wounded Knee District School
P.O.Box 350
Manderson, SD 57756

To send a package by UPS/Fed Ex use this address:
Wounded Knee District School
101 Main St
Manderson, SD 57756

Because of the severe climate and inadequate heat, dresses need to go as they are made. If you have the means please consider including an extras- such as panties, tights, leggings, hat, and gloves or mittens. 
Thank you in advance your kind heart and generous spirit. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

We Pray & Accept Responsibility

We pray/accept responsibility for children
    who sneak Popsicles before supper,
    who erase holes in math workbooks,
    who can never find their shoes.

And we pray/accept responsibility for those
    who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
    who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
    who never "counted potatoes,"
    who were born in places we wouldn't be caught dead,
    who never go to the circus,
    who live in an X-rated world.

We pray/accept responsibility for children
    who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
    who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.

And we pray/accept responsibility for those
    who never get dessert,
    who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
    who watch their parents watch them die,
    who can't find any bread to steal,
    who don't have any rooms to clean up,
    who pictures aren't on anybody's dresser
    and whose monsters are real.

We pray/accept responsibility for children
    who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
    who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
    who like ghost stories
    who shove dirty clothes under the bead and never rinse out the tub,
    who get visits from the tooth fairy,
    who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
    who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
    whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray/accept responsibility for those
    whose nightmares come in the daytime,
    who will eat anything,
    who have never seen a dentist,
    who aren't spoiled by anybody,
    who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
    who live and move, but have no being.

We pray/accept responsibility for children
    who want to be carried and for those who must,
    for those we never give up on and 
    those who don't get a second chance,
    for those we smother and for those who will grab
    the hand of anyone kind enough to offer it.

(Adapted from Ina J. Hughes)
from the book Guide My Feet by Marian Wright Edelman

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How to Make the "Best Dress Ever" - A Tutorial

Welcome back!  

When I think about Dress A Girl Around the World I think about pillowcase dresses.   It is a great little dress  pattern…the length can be adjusted with the ties, and the width has plenty of ease.   This tutorial includes step by step instructions for making the standard pillowcase dress with ties on the shoulders.

This is a chart of the finished dress lengths.  Sometimes it is difficult to make a dress the correct number of inches so here is a range.  Do you know what size dress you would like to make? Take a look at the chart below.

Size/years old                    Finished Dress Length
Infant                                     14-16 inches
1-2 years                               17-19 inches
3-4 years                               20-22 inches
5-6 years                               23-25 inches
7-8 years                               26-28 inches
9-10                                         29-30 inches
11                                              31-33 inches
12-14                                       34-35 inches

There is one quick thing you need to do before we get started.  You need to draw a template for the arm opening.  Here is a photo of my templates in S, M, and L.  Get out a piece of paper or cardboard to draw your template on. I am going to give you the measurements for the width and length.  The curved line should go straight down for about 3 inches and then curve in a J shape.  No matter how your curve looks it will work out as long as you have the length width measured correctly.  

Template measurements: (width then length)
Small     1 1/2" x 4 1/2"   to fit infant to size 4   
Medium      2" x 5"           to fit child size 5 to 9
Large    2 1/4"  x 6"           to fit child 9 to 14

Let's get started!
For those of you that bought a pillowcase, choose the length of the dress that you wish to make and add one inch.  Take into consideration the width of your pillowcase particularly if it is large or king size.  Some king size pillowcase are pretty narrow and you don’t want to make a dress too narrow to run or play  in. 

If you are more of a visual person (like me) take a tape measure and measure the width of the pillowcase x 2 and put the tape around your own legs just below the knee.  What do you think? Is it too narrow?  If so make a smaller size and you can use the leftover fabric to make pockets.

Lay your pillowcase flat on a flat surface.  With a yard stick measure from the hem to the desired length + 1 inch.  Cut across the closed end.  Pillowcase people skip the following paragraph and pick up at the pink sentence below.  (scroll down)

For those of you that bought fabric, choose the length of dress that you wish to make and add two inches to the length the width will be whatever the width of the fabric is… we’re going to take advantage of those selvages. Go ahead and cut your dress the length you’ve chosen.  Put the selvages together and seam the length of the dress.  If you do not have selvages zig zag from top to bottom to make sure that this seam does not come apart.  Now let’s put in a hem.  On one end of the fabric tube turn up ½” all the way around the dress, pressing as you fold.  After you’ve completed this go around again folding up another ½”.  Stitch close to the edge of your hem with your machine.

We should ALL have a tube of fabric with a hem on one end.

Lay your tube out flat with the seam on the side rather than down the back.  It will be much less noticeable and both the front and back will appear seamless.  

Trace and cut your arm openings.  Your fabric should look like this.

It’s starting to look a little like a dress isn’t it? 

On the top front fold over ¼” and press.  Now fold over ¾” and press firmly.  Flip the dress over and do the same thing on the top of the back of the dress.  

Stitch close to the edge along the fold on the front and the back.  After you finish, press the casing one more time. 

Dress Size                 Elastic Length
6 mo to 5                           6”
6 to 9                                    7”
10 to 12                               8’

Select the size dress you are making.  You will need to cut two pieces of 3/8 or ½ inch elastic. (If you prefer you can leave the elastic in once piece for example if you are making a size 6 dress you will cut the elastic 14 inches and mark the center with a pin or marker. (I like to do this because it is easy for short pieces of elastic to get away).

Put a safety pin on the end of the elastic and push it through the casing.  When the center of your elastic reaches one end, pin or secure with a few stitches, clip the end of the elastic and continue across.  

While the safety pin is still attached fasten the end securely with a stitch or pin.  Do not stretch out to distribute the gathers…we’ll do that later.  Turn the dress over and repeat on the other side.

If you used pins to hold the elastic tack all four of the elastic ends using a zig zag stitch.  Make sure that you can see the ends of elastic so they will be well secured.

This is what your dress should look like…if it does give yourself a pat on the back.

Now  for the ties.  Find the length of ties that correspond to the size dress that you are making and cut two.  It will take one package to make one dress unless you are making an infant size dress.  If you buy 2 packages you will have enough tape to make 3 dresses.

Size                       Tie Length
Infant                    24
Small                     30
Medium                 36
Large                     38

If you look very closely at most bias tape while it is folded, one edge will appear to be a little wider.  You can see it pretty well on the tape edge on the left.  The wider side will go to the inside of the dress that way when you sew the tape about the arm opening you won’t have to worry about catching the edge of the tape that is out of sight.

Fold in and press the ends of the ties.

Fold you ties in half and mark with a pin.

With the right side of the fabric facing out pin the center of the bias tape to the center of the underarm.  Remember the widest edge of the bias tape needs to go on the inside of arm opening.  Make sure the dress fabric is all the way in to the fold.  Pin every inch or so to make sure that the fabric doesn’t slip out.

Lay your dress out with ties laid up like this.  You start sewing on the top of the left tie.  Sew the edges together with a straight stitch.  When you get to the dress fabric keep sewing removing the pins one at a time and then continue sewing up to the end of the tie.  You will be sewing a giant U.  Repeat on the other side.

*If it is easier you can sew around the U with a zig zag stitch.

Look on the inside of the arm opening and make sure that you caught all of the edges.

Turn your dress inside out and clip all the threads, check your seams and the hem. 

You are finished!  Flip your dress right side out, tie you ties and hang your dress up and admire your work.


Now it is time to embellish your dress and make it your own!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to Make the "Best Dress Ever"

This little girl lives in Zimbabwe. She is one of thousands of little girls dreaming of a dress of her own.
Photos are a good way to put a face to the work that we have chosen to do. They help us focus, and remind us of the importance of our work.
I like to put a photo of a little girl on the wall behind my sewing machine to be a constant reminder of who I am sewing for. It is a good exercise and one that I would encourage everyone to try.
When choosing fabric for the “best dress ever’ it is imperative to take into consideration the hostile environment that so many of these girls live in. Their young and developing bodies need to be covered and protected from those that would choose to exploit or abuse them.
In Haiti, the incidence of rape has increased since the earthquake. One in four children living in Zimbabwe is orphaned as result of parents dying of AIDS. Many children must fend for themselves and their siblings. Some of these children are preyed upon by traffickers and sold. It makes me feel sick just to write the words but this is why it is so important to offer our “best dress ever.”
The ‘best dress ever’ will make a little girl feel special and loved while serving as a message to outsiders that this is a child that is being watched over by a group who cares enough to sew their name on the hem of each dress.
One of the difficulties with pillowcases is that they tend to be white or pastel and sometimes sheer or see through. If you use a pillowcase, find one that is a print or a solid color and one that you can’t see through. A good test is to put your hand between the layers to see if you can see your hand OR hold it up to the light. If there is any question in your mind then you should pick something else.
Your other option of course is to choose fabric. Cotton or cotton blend fabrics are the best. Steer away from sheer and clingy fabric. Pick out a print that you think a little girl would love as well as a fabric that will wear well. Fabric choice is half of what makes a dress ‘the best.’
Wide double fold bias tape makes the sturdiest ties. Ribbons are pretty but in some cases the satiny bows untie as a girl wiggles around in her dress. Please do not use wired, paper, organza, silky ribbon or thin lace. Lace and ribbon can be used on other parts of the dress but first let’s make a sturdy dress, embellishment fun will come later.
A dress made properly can be worn for several years and even possibly passed on to another child. Your dress may be the only garment that a little girl will own and will be worn day after day.
So let’s shop for the materials we need and meet back here on my blog later this week and I will help you make ‘the best dress ever.’
Pillowcase or fabric $5
Bias tape $3
Photo of little girl wearing a dress we recognize priceless.
Seeing a little girl wearing a dress we made a year after she received it…totally AWESOME.