Garments for Ghana

This is the first of 7 clotheslines that hung from the walls in fellowship hall.

Required disclaimer: I am a paid Brother Ambassador.  Not required:  I genuinely LOVE Brother machines.

UPDATE:  The first picture is in from Ghana!  Though this little girl is not needy, I think she is the daughter of Ghanese pastor who hosts the mission team.  Gayle had said this child would be given first choice.  She certainly looks pleased. Her father reported that she didn’t want to take off  the dress and slept in it!


What an exciting, satisfying project this has been!  Since the end of Feb. a group of ladies and 4 children of River City Church, EPC, have gathered every Thursday to sew for the needy children of Ghana. Our goal was to make 100 garments. We finished the last week in May with 76 dresses and 44 pairs of shorts!

Getting started with basic instructions.


Starting a pair of cargo shorts.

Our efforts were in support of this summer’s second medical mission trip to Ghana, led by a church member Dr. Lyle Wadsworth and his nurse wife Gayle.

NOTE:  Please excuse the wrinkled dresses.  The garments were pressed before being hung on the clothesline. But after being packed for shipment to Ghana, many were unpacked to be photographed.  It was just too time consuming to iron all of them.

Overturned yo-yo’s created puffy balloons. The teepee bag covers a runaway balloon.

Last summer, this couple and their 17 yo grandson Stephen embarked on the first self-directed medical mission to this impoverished country.  A small team of others joined them, including another nurse.  In less than 10 days, more than 600 patients were treated.

Like most missions, it was a life changing experience for each of them.  Stephen has decided to be a doctor specializing in infectious diseases!

This dress includes a headband with a yellow bow.

After hearing about their mission,  I wanted to help.  With absolutely no medical background nor any desire to leave home for this scorching hot equatorial African nation, I thought use of my sewing skills would be my best contribution.  And–big bonus!!!– I could use up some of my ridiculous fabric stash.  Yippee!

We didn’t forget the boys. A dear friend made 5 pairs of these colorful cargo shorts at her home 30 miles away. Each pair has a fun finger trap in the pocket. The shorts pattern we used is Fuddie Duddies “Casey.” 

Alas, as our generous church ladies became aware of the upcoming project, bolts and yardage of lovely fabrics were donated.

This contributed fabric made such a sweet little dress. A headband with a hairbow goes with it.

Bessie, a retired home ec teacher, would love to have joined us.  Instead, she has spent the last 12 years lovingly caring for her stroke patient husband and has donated the fabric she intended to sew through her retirement.

Her contributions included several bolts of quality fabric–pique’, polka dots and even Africa prints.

Bessie brought us a bolt of this fabric, used for this size 12 dress and some shorts.. Each garment has a size label.

Here is more of Bessie’s fabric put to good use.

Note the attached headband with matching yo-yo blossoms.

Others brought so many yards of quality fabric that I used only about 5-6 yds. my fabric, country plaids for the little boy (sizes 1-4) shorts and contrasting fabrics for sleeves and shoulder ruffles. So much for reducing my stash!

On my Brother Dream Machine2, I embroidered pockets for the size 1-4 shorts. These were included in the kits.  Sizes 1-2 each sported a pocket with a matching “keychain” for a toy. A car embellished sizes 3-4 with a matching push-pull toy car for the pocket.

To encourage participation, I announced that extra machines, scissors, threads, pins and pincushions, and all sewing accessories would be provided.  Complete kits for each garment would also be provided.

Most ladies, like Rachael, brought their own machines.

This kit was made at a member’s home from her own fabric. I think it’s fabulous.

cargo shorts with a finger trap in the pocket

Each dress kit included the front, back, sleeves, trims, matching thread and elastic, all cut to the proper length.  Little brass safety pins marked the front of each sleeve, the dress front and the front of each shorts leg.  This streamlined the process and allowed us to accomplish more.

Every week I cut 10-12 kits, thinking this would provide enough for two weeks.  But each Thursday these dedicated ladies asked to take the remaining kits home, then returned them finished the next week.

This is one of my favorites. Almost classic in style.

A few other ladies who were unable to join us sewed at home, usually with kits I provided.  This sweet concoction was made at home by a very talented sewist who used her own pattern and fabric.  She added so many delightful embellishments.

I began with an etsy .pdf pattern from 5berries called Cecelia.  It is sized from 1-12.

I’ve been told that in that and many other cultures, girls’ shoulders are to be covered. Often the pillowcase dresses are shown worn with a tee shirt. This pattern met that requirement.

One of its most appealing features for me was the complete sleeve.   There is no need for bias binding at the underarm.  Only 3 pattern pieces are needed and it is easily modified.  Contrasting fabric was often used for the sleeves and the added shoulder ruffle and occasional pockets.  Fabric that was too short for the body were joined to another fabric. Rick rack covered the seam.

This double border print was only 22″ long when split down the center. That was long enough for two skimpy size 1’s. A similar green fabric was added to the hemline with rick rack stitched over the seam allowing the border fabric to be used for larger sizes. The extra item for this dress was a pair of panties, pinned to  the dress.

Aside from the delight of sewing for Ghanese children, I took special satisfaction in introducing 4 children to the joy of sewing.  7 yo Tyler was just fascinated by the machines and fell in love with sewing.  He made a pair of shorts as well as a teepee bag.

This was also 9 yo Maryanne’s first sewing adventure.  It took her, her 7 yo sister Elsa and their beginner mother the entire 3 months to finish this dress, learning about sewing every step of the way.  They chose this kit, but I  should have encouraged them to select an easier, smaller sized kit, without the added contrasting hem. Still, they did a great job and were justifiably proud of this pretty frock.


7 yo Elsa was just minutes from finishing a pair of shorts when her family had to leave.  So we took this picture of her almost finished denim shorts.

This teepee bag is 9 yo Valerie’s first sewing project.

The children learned so many skills and are genuine sewing enthusiasts now.  Additionally, they loved making yo-yo’s.

Over the 3 months, our group bonded with one another and enjoyed fellowship while answering the call from Luke 3:10-11

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.  11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Gayle mentioned that she would love to have a matching dress to wear when the garments are distributed. I was able to find a nearly identical adult pattern and at the last minute finished this for her.  She was pleased.

The dress will be gifted to one of the clinic’s patients.  I was told that the women carry all manner of things as they go about their day.  Thus, the extra large pockets were added to the pattern.

This is a very long post, but I had so much to share with you.  There are many charity sewing projects in which you readers and friends participate.  I commend you all and encourage others to find the time to do so.  The satisfaction is enormous.



16 responses to “Garments for Ghana

  1. Sandra in WA

    This is wonderful! I’d like to learn more about this project and let my daughter and granddaughters know too. I have a lot of stash fabric that would work!

  2. Rheeta Booth

    The dedication of the ladies and children is apparent in the various details of these garments . I can only imagine the joyous smiles these have brought to so many needy children. We in America are so very blessed .

  3. What a wonderful mission, Janice! The dresses are adorable. Those little girls and boys will be so excited!

  4. Sandra, I might do a post with details on how it all worked. I organized it a little differently from other charity sewing groups I’ve heard about and think my system worked well. Do you think that would be a boring post or would you rather I just write to you with the how-to?

  5. Yes, Rheeta, the dedication of these ladies, gathering weekly or sewing solo at their homes, was so amazing. I’ve been promised a photo like the clothesline pics, but with lined up children wearing the garments. I can’t wait. The mission team only arrived yesterday and have yet to go to the more remote, poor regions where they will distribute most of the dresses and shorts. So it might be a few days. But I will post the pictures as they come in. And yes, we Americans are so blessed!

  6. Thanks, Judy. It was unbelievably satisfying, knowing the garments will go to needy children and teaching our own children (and a few adults) to sew. Once a teacher, always a teacher.

  7. Penny Ackerman

    Janice, so good to see you post again!
    How fun to teach others sewing while giving to those so far away.

  8. Penny, thanks for your kind comment. I have missed blogging and have a backlog of things to share with you. The Ghana project was a win-win situation in every respect. Teaching children to sew and encouraging them to give their time and projects to others was so gratifying. In addition to that, seeing those sweet dresses and dapper shorts completed led us all to eagerly await photos of the recipients. I’ll share those as they come it. It’s likely they will warm the hearts of all sewists.

  9. Sandra in WA

    Janice, I don’t think it would be boring at all. I’ve been trying to use up stash for my grandkids, but I have a LOT! (and a dear friend who works for a big fabric company and somehow warehouse ends find their way to me! I just can’t say “no”!)

    Is this something I could do individually and send? Or is there a place to send finished dresses that can be bundled for distribution?

  10. Rebecca Collison

    What a wonderful project and mission. You have used your sewing skills to benefit so many others-the fortunate recipients of all the clothing and the group of ladies who are dedicated to making this such a success.thank you to all for caring enough to take action.

  11. Sandra, I know garments you make would be a welcome addition to next year’s mission trip. With your encouragement and assurance that it would not be boring, I am going to do a blog post of the hows and wherefors that I found to be so important. Check in within the week. Still in the midst of 22 other things. Thanks for your kind comment. Sounds like you would be a great contributor to this project.

  12. Thank you, Rebecca. I gained so much happiness and satisfaction from this project that no thanks or credit is needed. So much interest has been generated that I expect next year’s Ghana wardrobe shipment will be bigger and better.

  13. Sandra, with your encouragement and enthusiasm, you have pushed me into promising a blog post about the hows and whys and tips for doing this. With your participation and that of others who have expressed interest, we should have a far greater wardrobe for the children of Ghana on the next medical mission trip. Ooops–thought my earlier reply did not go through. Forgive the repeat.

  14. Sandra, I have just written a blog post on how this can be done. Our mission team spent considerable time looking for sturdy but old, out-of-service suitcases which they carried with them loaded with the garments. The suitcases were then left behind, put to use by the Ghanese people for one thing or another. Be in touch, okay?

  15. Nancy Hoeman

    This is a wonderful project! The pictures of the dresses are just delightful and I’m sure they will be appreciated so much by the recipients. You have a generous heart, sharing your gifts and teaching others so they can be a part of this ministry. Your young sewists must have been so proud of what they accomplished, and they also are learning to share with those less fortunate – when I look at their photos I cannot help but smile myself!

  16. Thank you, Nancy. Those children were so proud it made me just want to hug them again and again. I love teaching children and seeing their enthusiasm to be doing something for less fortunate children. We have pictures trickling in showing children in the garments, but none of the shorts. They did report that the boys loved the toys in the pockets. It was very hectic there–they treated almost 1600 patients in 8 days. What a blessing this mission was to those people.

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