All through her 90s, beautiful soul Lillian Weber sewed beautiful basic peasant dresses. She sent them to little girls through the Christian outreach Little Dresses For Africa (LDFA). You can read more of her incredible story in Why 99-Year-Old Lillian Weber Is Not Retired. Update: Lillian Weber died on the eve of her 101st birthday on May 5, 2016.
Lillian’s goal was to make her 1,000th dress by her 100th birthday. On Thursday, March 12, she accomplished that goal, well before her own birthday deadline in early May.
In honor of Lillian’s 100th birthday, I found a beautiful tutorial over at Once Upon A Sewing Machine for the basic peasant dress (before ruffles and appliques and pockets) just like Lillian makes (with shorter sleeves).
Most beginning sewers (age 8/9 and up) can do this simple pattern with minimal help.
Due to all the interest, this pattern has been digitized and is now available for free. Sizes: 12/18 month, 2T/3T, and 4T.
You can find the pattern HERE.
This style of dress requires two easy to cut pattern pieces. You’ll cut two of each piece on the fold. You can use contrasting fabric, so about a 1/2 yard of each.
Other Basic Peasant Dress Patterns and Tutorials
Infant Peasant Dress- Free Pattern and Tutorial -sized 0-3mo. (approx. 8-14lbs.)
Free girls’ downloadable peasant dress pattern for sizes 18 mo. through size 6.
Free Peasant Dress Pattern & Tutorial (printable pattern sizes 12 mo. to 8 years)
I love Lillian’s heart in a million ways. You have to respect individuals who are purposeful and creative right into their latter years. I also love how focused and disciplined she was about her work. I hope I can work productively until I’m her age, too! I’m inspired!
It is reported in Africa that girls wearing a new little dress are much less likely to be abducted, abused, or molested because the new little dress shows that someone cares about them.
Because of the widespread AIDS pandemic, little girls are often left to be the primary caregivers of their young siblings.
It was hoped that in delivering dresses to these young girls, a seed would be planted in their hearts in the name of Jesus. Through their care, Little Dresses For Africa plants and waters the seeds, and God sends the harvest.
Some of Lillian’s dresses on the little girls
It’s more than just a dress! Although clothing is needed, these little dresses also give an opportunity to hold Bible classes, children’s camps, and informal teaching sessions to increase the understanding of nutrition, clean water, sanitation, and to promote good health and family skills. Many patients who suffer from AIDS are offered encouragement and hope.
There are other similar, worthy projects happening globally. Here’s a list in case you’d like to help supply or spread the word!
You can learn to sew and teach your children, too! Here are some helpful links:
- Sew Mama Sew, “Seven Essential Sewing Skills“
- Martha Stewart, “Sewing Basics“
- Martha Stewart, “Easy Sewing Projects“