By ANGIE CARNATHAN
Sue Helms has been sewing since she was 10 years old. Her sister is a quilter and had a great deal of leftover fabric she no longer needed but didn’t want to throw it out.
“She kind of felt guilty for having all of that material and just letting it go to waste,” Helms said. “I told her I would take it and find some kind of use for it.”
About the same time, Helms came across a flier for an organization that made dresses for little girls in Africa, and Helms said she then knew then the best way to use the leftover material.
Little Dresses for Africa is a non-profit organization that provides clothing to children not only in Africa, but anywhere in the world where there is a need.
“Ninety percent of the fabric I used for these dresses came from my sister,” Helms said. “In fact, I sent her some pictures of some of the dresses I made and she said she just sat down and cried. She was so thrilled that the material was being used for such a great cause.”
The organization has recently started making shorts and pants for little boys as well.
“I have some short pieces of material, so I plan on making some shorts for boys, too, as soon as I find the right pattern,” she said.
Helms said the object of the organization is to make the little girls feel special because so often they live in such poverty where a new dress is something they might never get otherwise.
“While my granddaughters and great-granddaughters are thrilled to get dresses, they probably have more than they need,” Helms said, “so I’m thrilled to be making them and sending them somewhere that the need is so great.”
The dresses are distributed to orphanages and villages in poverty stricken areas or countries recovering from natural disasters, including the U.S. Thousands of dresses were sent to Haiti last year following the devastating earthquake there.
Helms said she likes to make the dresses bright and cheerful, with fun details like ric rac and borders.
“I try to do anything I can to make each dress stand apart, so the little girl that receives it will know it was made special for her and no one else around her will have one exactly like it.”
Helms said when she first began, she imagined she would do five or six dresses, but before she knew it she had made 10.
“Once I’d made 10, I thought to myself, why not just go ahead and make 20?” Helms said. “Then I read about a woman who made one for every year of her life. I loved that idea so I did that as well.”
To date, Helms has made 64 dresses out of scrap material that could have ended up in the trash.
“I remember when I was little and my mom made me a dress, it was always so exciting to have something new, with new crisp fabric and bright, pretty colors,” Helms said. “I really hope to give that feeling to the little girls who will one day get one of these dresses.”
For more information or to get involved, visit http://www.littledressesforafrica.org/blog/ .