FAIRMONT - If you sew or quilt, the odds are pretty good that you have thread, elastic, bias tape or other sewing supplies that are in a color, style or size that you will never use.
Six women from St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Fairmont found the perfect way to utilize surplus sewing inventory by adding excess pillowcases to the mix.
The result is 200 dresses, each with its own distinctive trim, straps or fabric.
Pillowcase dresses are seen suspended at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fairmont.
As members of the Lutheran Women's Missionary League, the women - Kay Groth, Donna Maday, Lori Pomerenke, Pat Ruhnke, Jan Stadler and Judi Sundholm - started talking about a charitable project last winter. They decided to make pillowcase dresses for girls in Africa or other warm countries, following suggestions made at an League convention.
"We're all friends," Stadler said. "We're quilters, and we wanted to do something to help others - and use our stash [of sewing supplies]."
She said they have sewn quilts for other charities, including the Relay For Life auction, but wanted to do something different.
They issued a plea to the congregation, and the people responded.
"It was all donated by the congregation," Stadler said. "Everything - the pillowcases, the thread, the bias tape, the elastic - everything was donated."
When it came time to sew the dresses a couple of weeks ago, the women of St. Paul's stepped up again.
"We did it in an assembly line," Ruhnke said. "We started about 10 a.m. and got done about 4 p.m."
"We had cutters for the arm holes and top," Stadler said. "Then it went to elastic, then bias tape."
Nine sewing machines, each with a different color of thread, hummed through the day to put together the pieces and trim. Then the garments were ironed and tied at the shoulders.
"We were told not to make them fancy," said Groth, explaining that the standard simplicity of the dresses will prevent girls from fighting over the "fancy" ones when the dresses reach their destination.
The dresses are 16 inches to 40 inches in length and fit sizes 2-12. Because of the plain style of the dresses, they offer room for growth.
For the past several days, the garments were hung on three sides of the chapel at St. Paul's so they could be viewed by the congregation.
Now, the dresses will be packed and stored until they are taken to the district Lutheran Women's Missionary League convention next summer. Then they will be sent to the Orphan Grain Train, headquartered in Norfolk, Neb., and eventually will be distributed to needy girls Africa and other warm climates.
Some of the women said they would love to see the look on the girls' faces when they receive the dresses, but they have no idea exactly when they will be shipped or where they will end up. So they will just enjoy the attention and compliments the dresses have brought them - until the next charitable project comes along.