Two hundred dresses are on their way to Haiti, stitched together by several members of the Quilting Group at Liberty Lutheran Church.
Over the years, the group has made probably thousands of dresses.
“I know we have,” said Mariane Bishop, a member of the quilting group. “One gal made a thousand herself. It takes her two hours to make one.”
The group formed, said Bishop, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Students from Mansfield University collected hygiene and school items, enough for 1,000 children. The pastor’s wife urged members of the congregation to make bags to hold the supplies, which they did — 1,400 bags in all.
The next challenge was to make “ugly quilts,” which are given to homeless people to use as sleeping bags during cold weather. The group continued meeting every Friday morning and sewing.
They have a supply of donated fabric, donated sewing machines and several experts to call on. They’ve made traditional quilts which have been given to victims of fire, disasters and domestic violence. Plus, some members make dresses for young girls.
“I moved in here 30 years ago and we couldn’t have moved to a better place,” Bishop said. “Everyone is so caring and so generous. We love to sew and helping each other over little problems and challenges has been great. Everybody’s welcome.”
Sharon Manz joined after moving to Liberty four years ago, and began organizing the distribution of the dresses. Her former church in Lancaster has an outreach program to Haiti.
Dresses made by the Liberty group are packed in suitcases and transported to Lancaster. From there, the church packs a large shipping container with dresses and other donations to accompany mission trips to the Atlantic island nation, Manz said.
The purpose is to provide sturdy clothing for young girls, which may prevent them from being victims of sexual assault or violence. Sometimes the dresses are made from pillowcases, which have a natural hem. The Liberty sewers, though, typically don’t use pillowcases.
“We find that pillowcases are rather expensive and we have an unlimited supply of fabric,” Bishop said.
So they sew instead.
“The basic pattern is two pieces of fabric sewn together and either tied or sewn at shoulders. Some of the girls put lace and pockets and buttons on them,” Manz said. “They are beautiful dresses, they really are.”
Many Quilting Club members do much of the sewing at home. They meet weekly to get help with a sewing problem, get fabric or quilting blocks, and plan their next project.
“For the past month, we’ve been concentrating on ugly quilts, which are sleeping bags for the homeless,” Bishop said. “Cold weather is coming and the ugly quilts go to shelters in Williamsport.”
New members may join at any time. There are no dues or minimum skills required although, “a good pair of shears is always helpful,” according to Bishop.