Small Blessings

Small dresses made from pillowcases arrive in Africa.

I became intrigued the moment I heard about small dresses made from pillowcases, sent as gifts for little girls in Third World countries. I obtained a few color photos of the dresses from Jessica Disney, a volunteer for this church-sponsored project in El Dorado Hills, Calif. The small frocks are one-of-kind, endearing, and obviously so lovingly made they are heartwarming to any viewer.

Basically, they are what my generation would call “sun dresses.” The garments are sleeveless with cloth ties at the shoulders. They resemble the shapeless, sometimes smocked, full dresses little girls wore in children’s books illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith in the 1920s. They’re old-fashioned looking compared with contemporary girls’ clothing. But they would be cool and comfortable to wear in places with a year-round hot climate. Details like pockets and trim made of decorative fabric scraps and double folded, double wide bias tape enhance the apparel.

In the photos I’ve seen, the children look joyful in their new dresses, perhaps the first they’ve ever received.

The co-founders of the ‘Made With Love Clothing Ministry’ at Rolling Hills Christian Church, Rae Zarghami and Valerie Richards, helped at a pillowcase dress-making event put on by the wonderful organization ‘Dress a Girl Around the World’ and decided it would make an amazing ministry. Zarghami had spent time in Africa, working with orphans and saw firsthand the great need.

“The recipients all feel very blessed and loved when they receive a dress. Many girls have never had a new dress before, and they feel so beautiful when they put on their handmade dress that were ‘Made With Love!’ The moms of the girls in the [Philippines] wanted to save the dresses for Christmas, when they wear their best clothes,” said Zarghami.

The volunteers for this project meet at the church monthly for three hours in the morning and from 5:30 – 8 p.m. in the evening. “Everyone is invited to come, young or old, church member or not.”* A large group participates, regulars or new people who want to be involved. Some sew and some do not, but there is an assembly line process that puts the dresses together. Many jobs don’t require sewing.

Zarghami said the project is always in need of new or gently used colorful cotton pillowcases and double folded double wide bias tape. Fabric remnants are welcome, as well. The group receives many contributions. In addition, Rolling Hills Church gives them a modest allowance to buy other needed items.

Made With Love has produced 3,500 dresses over the past two and half years. “The dresses have been sent all over the world (15 countries) as well as distributed locally to homeless children. They are sent with our church on mission trips and with anyone who is going to a place in need and is willing to take them and distribute them. All we ask for in return are pictures of the girls either receiving or wearing the dresses,” said Zarghami.

“The members recently have [also] made 400 backpacks and 1,500 scarves and hats. They are sent to both girls and boys by way of their church’s mission trips. The group hopes to “greatly expand the backpack distribution this year.”*

In the words of the famous writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.” I couldn’t agree more with this thought.

For further information about the Made With Love project, contact Zarghami, at

* Notates Rae Zarghami as source.