There are a million ways to make a difference in the world, if you only have the desire and the will to do it. In the case of sixth-grader Hannah Curtis, it just took some pillowcases, a sewing machine, and determination.
Listen to Hannah talk about making 500 dresses
Click here to see additional images of Hannah and the pillowcase dresses
Hannah loves to sew. And not long ago, when she and her mother were trying to think of a good project to work on, they discovered that many girls in Nigeria don’t have enough clothes. “So we decided to make a lot of pillowcase dresses for them and send them off to Nigeria,” says Hannah.
If you’re not familiar with pillowcase dresses, they are cute, simple dresses that are perfect for young girls. “You take a pillowcase, and you cut the seam on it,” explains Hannah. “Then you fold them in half [and] you cut the arm holes.” A sewing machine, bias tape, rickrack, and ribbons then all play a role in transforming that pillowcase into a pretty little dress.
When all was said and done, nearly 500 dresses were completed. With each one taking anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour to make, it was a lot of time to put in, but Hannah wasn’t alone in the effort.
“My family helped me out a lot,” she confirms. They would buy her supplies, or dig some of their own out of the attic or basement. Hannah’s church, First United Methodist Church of Jefferson, also got in on the action. “We had a little bin at church that people could just put things in, like the pillowcases and fabric and stuff to make it.”
The generosity of her fellow churchgoers helped inspire Hannah. “People kept giving me donations, so that kept me excited to keep sewing. And sewing always makes me happy,” she says.
“She did an excellent job,” states Hannah’s proud dad, Kent Curtis, who also contributed. “I helped out doing the pressing, I guess. It kept me away from the sewing machine,” he chuckled. “It took quite awhile, but we just kept plugging away at it.”
Kent, too, was inspired by the fact that members of the church supported the project. “It made me feel like it’s a project that’s going to be worthwhile to do, knowing that these girls are less fortunate than a lot of us, and that things just don’t come easy. God was just helping us to keep going, to keep doing it.”
Hannah’s pastor, Rev. Julie Poulsen, praises her compassion, talent, and dedication. “She announced her goal to the congregation and invited everyone to help. Women gathered at the church to make the dresses, everyone donated supplies and we all cheered her on! We are so proud of her and her mom who care for those who have less than they need to thrive. Her faith in God and Christ is evident every day and especially through this great outreach project.”
Other churches may want to consider pursuing a project like this as well. “It’s a really easy project to start with. It doesn’t take long,” says Hannah, who feels that even a sewing novice would be able to take it on.
Which is not to say that making 500 dresses doesn’t take some perseverance. “I would tell them that it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but in the end, it’s going to be worth your time that you put into it,” Hannah insists. “It’s going to be worth much more than what you started with.”