Pillowcase Dress Challenge

As many of you know by now, I own a lot of dresses! Dresses make me happy.

In October 2011 I was looking through online craft magazine The Craft Tonic (Issue 3), and came across an article which actually made me cry – I cry at a lot of things, but that’s not what you expect from a craft mag!

The article told me about Dress A Girl Around The World, a charity based in the US that asks you to ‘Imagine a world where every little girl owned at least one dress’, and then tells you how you can make simple dresses from pillow cases. These dresses are then distributed to girls in countries such as Malawi and Kenya. I know how good dresses can make you feel, and I cannot imagine not being able to own even one.

You can read more on the Dress A Girl Around The World website, or on the Sew Scrumptious blog.

As I sat there with 52 dresses in my wardrobe, I felt more than a little bit guilty. So I decided I would do something to help.

Lots of sewing bloggers set themselves challenges, so I set myself the challenge of making at least 52 pillowcase dresses, one for each of my own. I set the time limit of Christmas 2011.

Sewbox kindly offered to help me with this challenge by supplying some of the bits and pieces needed to make each dress.

I knew that would need a bit of help for the challenge though, so asked people if they could get involved in different ways:

1) Send me pillowcases!!

Each dress uses one pillow cases, so if you have any in good condition, or find any in charity shops, or want to go out and buy new ones that would be great. The more colourful the better!

Each dress also requires the following: 37cm of ¼” or ½” elastic, 92cm of doublefold bias tape. If you can’t supply these with your pillowcase then that is fine as Sewbox are helping me out – it just makes it easier for me if everything comes together.

You can get elastic and bias tape from haberdashery shops and places like John Lewis, and of course, online at Sewbox!.

2) Make dresses!

You can do this on your own at home, and then pass the finished dress on to me. If you have a sewing machine then it will obviously be a bit quicker, but I don’t see why you couldn’t make them by hand if you don’t. I can then make sure all our finished dresses get to Dress A Girl Around The World.

There is a really good pattern to download and then a tutorial here, from Little Big Girl Studio.

You can also download a PDF of the original pillow case instructions from Dress A Girl Around The World here.


Whether you forward this blog page on, speak to a craft loving friend, Facebook, or tweet, tweet, tweet, the more people you can tell the better!

4) We can have a dressmaking party!

I would LOVE to do this! If enough people respond, then I will see about organising this. Not sure of the logistics yet as I only have one machine at home!

The whole challenge really took off, and so many people have got involved it’s been amazing. Not only did we reach 52 dresses before Christmas, we also reached 100 and then a total of 180 dresses!!

Although I closed the challenge at the end of 2011, the Dress a Girl Around the World Charity will always need dresses. If you would like to get involved let me know either by putting a comment on this page, or emailing me at spally55@hotmail.com. Or you can look at the UK Facebook Page for the charity.


40 thoughts on “Pillowcase Dress Challenge

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  3. Hi my dear,

    I’d love to take part in such a wonderful challenge. I have my own machine and I’m happy to come along to a group make or I’ll run one up at home and post.

    Wishing you lots of luck with it all.

    Rehanon xxx

    • Thanks Rehanon! I’m not sure if / where groups will take place at the moment, so it would be great if you could make one at home and then watch this space about a party?

      Can send you my address if you email me.

  4. Hi
    I love this. I sadly don’t know how to sew…but I own a small hair salon in Vancouver & put a message out suggesting clients drop off their old pillowcases with us. If I post you a bunch of pillowcases do you think you would use them?

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  12. Hi, I run a small tearoom in Suffolk and would love to help… I could organise to run a group/ workshop at the tearoom.. I have a sewing machine we could use and i’m sure many of my friends have one too. xx

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  17. I’m loving this idea, I’ve only just found it though! I can’t sew but know people who can so can publicise and put the word out. Am I too late for your Christmas challenge….are you posting them off to arrive for Christmas? How is the challenge coming along, how many do you have now? x

    • Hello, its not too late if you know people that would want to make dresses as I still need to work out where & when they will be sent!

      As I have over 50 pillowcases waiting to be made in to dresses, I don’t really need any more donations though as its unlikely I’m going to get through all of them.

      So if you want to spread the word about making dresses please do – I think we will have well over 100 by Christmas!

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  27. Ladies,
    I’m really sorry to have to burst your bubble. While there is no doubt in my mind at all that your hearts are all in the right places, I don’t think you have actually thought through the full implications of sending dresses to girls in impoverished countries. Such actions, while full of good intentions are the equivilant of giving a person a mild pain killer for an amputated leg, mildly relieving of a symptom, but ultimately futile. The reasons countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Ugnada are so poor is because of years of being strangled by unfairly weighted trade laws and obligatations of debts to organisations such as the World Bank and IMF, the effects of which are to keep countries in the Global South poor while the West, which once colonised and enslaved these people continues to profit from their poverty..
    You may also not be aware that the flooding of Africa with second hand clothes and donations from rich Westerners has put many once thriving local textile businesses out of action.
    Please think twice before you endorse projects such as “Dress a Girl around the World”.
    If you really care about global poverty and inequalities, there is plenty you can do in terms of campaigning for a fairer worldwide system and probably better charites to support that look at poverty in a more multi dimensional and political way and are led by people in the countires they are trying to help.

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