Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lots of Little Dresses

We have a special guest contributing to our blog today; Cammie Berger, owner of  Cammie Berger Interiors, a custom drapery workroom located in Charlotte, NC.  Cammie is sharing a very special sewing project.  We love this story, and know you will too!  Thank you Cammie for sharing this story with us.

Cammie Berger with a special friend in Guatemala
Sewing for a living is a wonderful thing, but the real joy comes when I can use my gifts to serve others. Many years ago, my church, Christ the King Lutheran in Charlotte, NC started supporting Casa Bernabe orphanage outside of Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Over the years, this ministry expanded to a more needy area called Chimaltanango. While the children at the orphanage are clothed, fed, loved, and educated, many of the children in “Chimal” sleep on a dirt floor every night and spend their days rummaging through the city dump where they live, trying to find something useful to sell for food. From the beginning, I felt a calling to go, but the timing was just never right.  (I have since learned that the timing is never right, so don’t use that excuse like I did. Just go!)

One of my sisters in Winston-Salem started sewing pillowcase dresses for another mission group, and I became curious. When I mentioned it to my Pastor, he told me that another girl at my church had already started making them for the next team going to Guatemala. I found an easy pattern online at Nancy’s Notions (see a copy here), put a collection box in our church foyer and we got right to business. We called our mission “Lots of Little Dresses” and the simple supplies of pillowcases, elastic and bias tape came pouring in! 

I have a large studio space in my home, which is used during the day for my wholesale drapery business, so it was transformed at night and on weekends into a pillowcase dressmaking studio!

There were women from all parts of my life…neighbors, friends from church, co-workers and relatives.  They either carted their own machines over, or used one of mine. If they couldn’t sew, they would cut out the armholes, or iron.  At one point there were twelve people doing various jobs at once; it was quite the production line!

Since most everyone in Guatemala is very small in stature, we made mostly small and medium sizes. Some of the pillowcases were cut-off, to be made shorter and we even cut some down in width. When we ran out of elastic, we would use ribbon. When we ran out of ribbon, we would use bias tape. When we ran out of bias tape, we would make our own out of scrap. You get the idea!! We did use mostly pillowcases, but also some sheets, and some regular fabric.

What a great feeling to come together for a unified purpose; to help clothe our fellowman. These are the bare necessities of life and we were being used by God to provide them. The first year we made around 80 dresses, and the second year we made over 200! The feeling of community that you experience when you are working towards a common goal is like no other. Sharing the gift of sewing, and then seeing the joy on a little girl’s face when she puts on her very first new dress ever…, well, it just doesn't get much better than that!

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