Quilters make their case for pillow charities

Little girls at an orphanage in Malawi, Africa, wear dresses made from pillowcases donated through an organization called Little Dresses for Africa.



A pillowcase party is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Hi Fashion Fabrics in Grand Junction, in recognition of nearly 400 pillowcases that customers have made and donated to the national 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge. All of them will be given to local and area charities, such as Grand Valley Catholic Outreach, the Latimer House and Camp Hope.



Among many quilters’ circles lately, conversation turns to pillow talk.

Not so much about sweet nothings whispered between sweethearts in bed, but about the fabric slipcoverings for pillows on which we lay our heads each night. Pillowcases are all the rage.

It started with American Patchwork & Quilting magazine’s challenge across the country to “Make a Pillowcase, Make a Difference.” The goal throughout 2010 is to make and donate 1 million pillowcases to local charities.

For example, a pretty new pillowcase can provide a boost in spirit for a cancer patient, hope for a foster child, encouragement for a battered woman or beauty for a nursing home resident, the magazine suggests.

To date, 119,213 new pillowcases have been made, according to the magazine’s tracking counter through allpeoplequilt.com/millionpillowcases.

Quilting shops and fabric stores are collection points, and Hi Fashion Fabrics of Grand Junction is collecting them here on the Western Slope. So far, the store has received 380 pillowcases in a variety of brightly patterned, coordinating and novelty fabrics. Hi Fashion also has free patterns courtesy of the magazine and offers free classes on how to make the standard-size pillowcases.

On Saturday, the store is planning a Pillowcase Party from 10 a.m. to noon. The pillowcases will hang outdoors from a clothesline, and the public is invited to view them. Afterward, the pillowcases will be donated locally to Grand Valley Catholic Outreach, Latimer House and Camp Hope, says coordinator Heather Lofstrom of Hi Fashion Fabrics.

Of the 380 the store collected, 110 were made by members of Friendship Quilters in Montrose. These pillowcases will return to Montrose, where guild members will distribute them to charities in their community. Those quilters are to be commended for their dedication to the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge.

The project continues through Dec. 31, so individuals and groups still can participate in the weeks ahead. You don’t have to be a quilter, either. Seamstresses and crafters are welcome to join the challenge. The magazine issues several new patterns quarterly with various styles. Patchwork blocks, prairie points and wide rickrack can be incorporated into the 5-inch-wide pillowcase bands to doll them up.

Hi Fashion Fabrics sponsored a free sewing session this past week for pillowcases, and the next how-to session is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 14. Sign up at the store to be part of this philanthropic effort.

Also, if you have a suggestion for other charities that might appreciate donations of pillowcases, Hi Fashion would like to hear from you. Call either Heather Lofstrom or Roby Vogel at the store, 242-1890. All of the beneficiaries are most worthy, of course. But I’m especially impressed with the idea of cheering a nursing home resident with a brightly colored pillow slip, perhaps because it seems so unexpected.

While you’re making pillowcases for others, consider stitching a new pair for your own family. My daughter recently decided that she wants to sew some of these for Christmas gifts. She’s not a quilter per se, but she enjoys shopping for the bold patterns and dynamic designs in today’s contemporary fabrics.

Ah, a child after my own heart. She wants me to help her choose coordinating fabrics, then show her how to sew the pillowcases. Her plans are to personalize each case for the recipient by selecting fabric that pertains to that person’s interests or hobbies. Sounds like fun. I can’t wait to get started.

But first, let me tell you about another use for pillowcases that has come to my attention.

Pat Lambert of Montrose demonstrated how to turn them into little girls’ dresses at the recent Black Canyon Quilt Show. With some elastic and bias tape, the cases can be transformed into a garment for Little Dresses for Africa, a nonprofit, Christian-based organization that gives them to orphanages in central Africa.

Lambert asked show attendees to bring her new or gently used pillowcases for this project. She meets weekly with a group of quilters who call themselves the Huggy Bunch.

“It takes about a half-hour to make one. I can do one in less than 20 minutes,” says Lambert, who reported to a standing-room-only crowd around her demonstration table.

In the past few weeks, her Huggy Bunch has put together 30–40 of the dresses. They mail them to Little Dresses for Africa, in care of Nancy’s Notions, 333 Beichl Ave., Beaver Dam, WI 53916-0683.

That company, owned by Nancy Zieman of TV’s “Sewing With Nancy” ships the dresses to their destination in Africa.

Or, the dresses can be mailed to the group founder, Rachel O’Neill, 24614 Curtis Drive, Brownstown, MI 48134.

For information and directions on how to modify the pillowcases, go to http://www.littledressesforafrica.org.

The directions suggest some optional trim ideas for a special touch, such as adding pockets, lace, applique or machine embroidery. Here’s an opportunity to use those bits and pieces of your stash leftovers. And to brighten the life of a child to whom such a dress may become a prized possession.

Whether it’s the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge or for little girls in another land, who knew what a difference a mere yard of fabric could make?

E-mail Sherida.Warner@ gjsentinel.com.


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