Barbara Waldner dances across the floor as she pretends to model the satin black dress in her hands.
The dinner dress is new, but it’s actually made from a gently used pillowcase. Waldner decided to use it for herself, as it doesn’t fit with the rest of the 200 donated pillowcases that the Cordova Bay 55+ studio group are sewing into functional dresses for children up to 13 years old in Tanzania and Jamaica.
“I plan to wear this one on a cruise,” said Waldner, an 83-year-old who bounces with the energy and wit of a 23-year-old. “It’s the first one I made for an adult.”
All are cotton, and are easily converted by cutting a pair of arm holes at the top and inserting elastic as a draw string across the neck or shoulder line, said project co-ordinator Val Baba. You then add some facing inside the top few inches, as well as a string to tie it off.
“The idea is they’re for little ones and for school-aged children,” Baba said. “They can be really cute, and for the little ones, we can cut a pillowcase in half to make two dresses, and they can fit all the way up to 13 years old, we hope.”
The group will continue producing the dresses until the end of May, hence the projection of 200, Baba added.
The Cordova Bay 55+ studio group meets once a week. They’ve sewn 164 pillowcase dresses to date, of which they’ll ship some to Dodoma, Tanzania, through the For the Love of Africa Society. The rest will go to the SOS Orphanage in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which was co-founded by studio group member Jennifer Hastings and her late husband, Dr. Harland Hastings.
“We lived in Montego Bay in 1973 when we started that SOS Orphanage after some visits to Europe to see which would work best,” Hastings said. “We found there was a great population of street kids.”
Throughout that year the Hastings housed 27 children in their Montego Bay home and helped them get adopted out. That’s when Hastings and her late husband, who was a surgeon, sought a solution and it led to the creation of the orphanage.
“There are currently 100 children in the Montego Bay orphanage and another 100 in the Kingston [Jamaica],” said Hastings, who’s been with the studio group for six years.
Sewing the pillowcases into dresses is the latest do-good venture by the group. In 2013 they made dolls and shipped them to Afghanistan. In the fall, they knit hats and scarves for the region’s homeless, said Baba.
The group is also going to sell a few at a table for the June 26 Cordova Bay Day, just to see if they’ll sell.