By RACHEL ROUBEIN
Carroll County Times
MANCHESTER, Md. (AP) — On a Saturday, the room inside Immanuel Lutheran Church in Manchester turned into a makeshift seamstress shop.
There were women cutting fabric. Others were sewing. A group huddled together analyzing the length and width of the little dresses made from curtains, sheets and pillowcases.
“The big point is we don’t have to worry too much because it’s going to fit somebody,” said June Renner, the head of the Princess Pillowcase Project.
That’s because the dresses don’t have to fit a specific person’s measurements. Local ministries — including Willet Missions in Taneytown and The Least of These Ministries in Westminster — take the garments made from donated cloth to poverty stricken countries, Renner said.
“Some of these little girls have never had anything of their very own,” she said. “At first, they don’t understand that it’s theirs to keep.”
On Saturday, there were plenty of sizes and patterns to choose from. A pastel floral dress. A bright hippie patterned one with flowers and shapes. The completed ones hung from a metal rack, ready to be shipped out when the next local missionary went abroad.
That’s what Renner likes about the project — she’s able to meet the missionaries and see the results through photographs. On Saturday, a pink scrapbook lay on the table filled with emails, notes and pictures from local missionaries.
Faces of young girls — from countries such as the Dominican Republic, Africa, Bolivia, Haiti and Costa Rica — wearing the dresses smiled through the photos. Renner pointed to one girl in particular, who was wearing a white dress decorated with purple, yellow and blue flowers.
“That’s the first dress I ever made,” she said. “Look at this little girl’s face. That’s why I do it.”
She made that dress at a global volunteer day at her daughter’s work. But after seeing that dress actually on a young girl from Haiti, Renner decided she needed to make Princess Pillowcase Project — a nationwide effort — a permanent staple in Carroll County.
She held her first two events in 2010, two in 2011, and Saturday was the first event this year in which people could come out and work together. Yet, it’s an ongoing, ever-evolving and growing project, and about a dozen ladies were helping out.
“Can I get you to do something for me?” Renner asked Gretchen Jensen.
She handed Jensen a big green sheet. The two lay it on a cutting board, and Jensen cut the fabric into the right size for a dress.
However, the fabric wasn’t going to be made into a dress with ruffles at the top Saturday. Renner disseminates dress “kits” to anyone who is willing to sew throughout the year.
“My entire house is nothing but dresses and supplies,” she said.
At a table, two ladies sat in front of sewing machines.
Kathy Diehl moseyed over to them, plopping more fabric on the table. Some of it Diehl had personally received in the mail, such as Little Mermaid fabric from a high school friend in South Carolina.
She’s helped sew dresses since April 2011 and promotes the project on Facebook. And sometimes, that gets others involved, such as first-timer Jane Wolf, who was sitting right beside her.
That’s how the project grows, Renner said, as friends tell friends and several local churches have started having independent dress making events as well.
“It’s extending beyond what I’m aware of,” she said, as she stood in the room that held fabric upon fabric, and women busily working for a cause.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)