Charity Sewing,  Free Pattern,  Pattern Reviews,  Sewing Tips

Charity Sewing: Dresses for Haiti

It’s always an honor to share one’s talents and abilities with those less fortunate, and the art of sewing gives many of us a way to give back.  There are many opportunities to sew for people who need help: children and babies, the elderly and infirm, those staying in hospitals or nursing homes, struck by disaster, or living in poverty. As Dr. Martin Luther King said:



If you are interested in service sewing,  check out this project coordinated between the Simple Life Pattern Company and two high school students, members of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).  These students are partnering with Real Hope for Haiti   to collect handmade pillowcase dresses for young girls.  You can participate by making and sending dresses to their school by April 1st.  To get the shipping address and read up on the project,  go to the SLPCo website.


SLPCo is not only helping the students with publicity and media presence, but also by giving away  a free sewing pattern for a basic sleeveless, adjustable neckline pillowcase-style dress. You also receive $5 credit towards SLPCo for your dress donation!

I know what you’re going to ask: is it a good pattern? Sometimes there is a perception that free patterns can’t be well drafted.  In my humble opinion, this is a nice pattern, certainly one that will do the job.   Would I “tweak” it? Yes.  I’ll discuss the pattern pieces first, then construction.


What I like about the Haiti’s Pillowcase Dress:

  • Just one pattern piece: for the purpose of charity sewing, simpler is usually better…so while I’d prefer a dedicated front-versus-back for my own sewing, I do like the simplicity of this design for this cause.
  • Large range of sizes (2 through 12)….typically I would suggest this range be divided into two smaller  size ranges (toddler 2 through 5, and girls 6 through 12) because of the different shapes/proportions of toddlers versus older girls, however with a simple  loose-fitting style having no fitted waist or torso shaping, it’s fine to put all sizes into one pattern
  • Nice  A-line shape: the traditional pillowcase dress was made from…a rectangular pillowcase of course! The result was a “boxy” shape, not very flattering. The Haiti dress has small bit of  sweep at the hem, and the fullness is built into the shape, not just a triangle tacked onto the sides.
  • All corners are trued at right angles, to make construction easy
  • Sensible style, easy to take care of, no excessive fabric to wash (keep in mind that Haiti is one of the poorest countries, with a severe lack of infrastructure; less than half of Haitians have running water). If you are curious as to why  Haiti is such a destitute country, here is a comprehensive article:

What I would adjust:

  • The grading is uneven.  There is less fitting ease in the larger sizes than in the smaller sizes, and the armscye has  excessive depth in the small sizes. I will explain this in another blog post, and show how to tweak it. It is certainly NOT necessary to adjust the grading for the purpose of participating in this charity cause, especially since a wide variety of sizes are needed…but if you are using the pattern to sew for a particular child, more consistent grading would be helpful.


In my experience working with sewing “causes”, it’s important to make construction (and the instructions explaining the construction) as simple as possible….for two reasons:

  • You’re asking people to donate their time,  their fabric….in exchange they receive a free pattern, but it should be a well-developed pattern to minimize the effort needed to complete the project.
  • Volunteer sewists are often less experienced: sometimes their enthusiasm is greater than their abilities.  The last thing you want is for frustration or confusion to dampen that enthusiasm.

The construction of the Haiti dress is straightforward, but the instructions could be improved.  Yes it’s a free pattern, however every pattern is a reflection of the brand.

  • The photos are quite small. I personally get annoyed with the photo restrictions of this  WordPress template you are reading because no matter how what quality and size of my photos, they show up  small and blurry (I need to research a different template). But I don’t see a reason for the little photos in the Haiti pattern. It’s difficult to see what the instructions are asking you to do:


  • There are steps missing:
  •  Step I : you stitch the side-seams and turn inside out…but it doesn’t add that you should then press. Possibly obvious, but not necessarily to a new sewist.
  • Step 3:  asks you to stitch bias tape to the armscye… but it doesn’t mention that you now need to clip the armscye curves.
  • Step 5:  asks you to sew the  armscye bias tape in place 3/8″ from the edge…but doesn’t explain which edge (it’s the top edge of the bodice)
  • Step 6:  is really three steps (fold bodice top edge down 1/4″ and press, fold down 1″ and press, topstitch ) but has only one picture
  • Step 7:  is really three steps for making the hem, but only one picture
  • Step 9: asks you to fold the tie piece on half “hot dog style”…no clue what that means!

The result is a cute little dress, and it’s a lovely project that the girls are doing.  I wish them much success!



Pockets are from the free pattern in this post:  They are the easiest thing in the world to make, faster than rectangular  patch pockets, and fully lined. It’s not necessary to add pockets, but I know from working with Little Dresses for Africa that the girls do appreciate them.




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