Dress a Girl Around the World

What if every girl had just one dress?


Around a week before we were due to come to Cambodia, I came across a UK not for profit organisation on Facebook called Dress a Girl Around the World UK. They encourage and enable volunteers to make dresses and then arrange to distribute to girls around the world who live in poverty. They were asking for volunteers to with access to projects around the world to help to distribute the dresses that their volunteers had made.

I sent a quick email to Jacqui Onslow at Dress a Girl to offer our services to take some dresses out to Cambodia and a few days before we were due to arrive a box packed full of lovely dresses arrived, these were duly packed in our cases before our adventure began. My parents work at an International Church CFSR in Siem Reap, Cambodia which brings them into contact with several NGO’s that work with poor families in Cambodia.

One of their Church members Michaela (who works for OMF International) offered to take us to the village she is working with to meet the kids that come to their Sunday school and give out some of the dresses.

This village was relocated by the Cambodian Government from slums along the river and each family was given a small plot of land to build their new home with a ready built toilet cubical. The government also provided the village with electrictity, which a lot of villages on Cambodia will not have. Although the standard of living appears to be better at this new village than it was in the slums, as many of the families are very poor as they lost their source of income when they were moved away from the river.

The Sunday school is run by the local Cambodian Pastor assisted by Michaela and her colleague Cindy and many village kids attend. They are provided with a snack at the end of the teaching. On the morning that we visited attendence was low as there was also a ceremony happening at the village Buddhist Pagoda, but there were probably around 30 kids there that morning, mainly girls.


Girls queuing to see the dresses


Waiting patiently in line

We sized the dresses against the girls so they all got one that fitted nicely. Cambodian children tend to be a lot smaller than kids in the UK, especially the poorer ones.

Girls comparing their dresses…

We also handed out some lollies, which the kids were clutching as tightly as their new dresses.


These two girls with matching dresses couldn’t wait to put theirs on.


Waiting for their snacks.



The girls were so pleased with their dresses.


The pastor asked the girls to pose with their dresses

(I think some of the kids were not too happy having to pose to have their photograph taken!)

There were a few dresses left over that will be passed to a Cambodian man called John, who works with families who live in the slums at the rubbish dump, some of the larger dresses may be suited to the older girls or smaller adults their. John has been asked to provide us with photos

The girls all said thanks to the people in the UK who made their beautiful dresses.

Thank you

Alison xx

Silk Farm, Siem Reap, Cambodia


The colours of the week as worn by the Cambodian Royal Family

On one of first few days in Cambodia, while we were still acclimatising to the heat (although speaking to people here I don’t think you ever get used to it) and recovering from jetlag, we spent a very enjoyable afternoon visting the Silk Farm which is just outside the city of Siem Reap. This is a initiative to ensure that young Cambodians are trained in the craft of traditional Silk Making and that the artisan hertitage is preserved.

Our Khmer guide showed us the process from start to finish. From the Mulberry Bush orchard outside where they harvest the leaves to feed to the silk worm (caterpillars).


The silk worms eating the Mulberry leaves

The caterpillars then make a cocoon and it is this cocoon the is used to spin the silk yarn. The outer layer creates the raw silk and then the inner layer of the coon is spun to make the fine silk which is much smoother and shinier.


 Undyed fine silk

The silk threads then undergo a dying process, using mostly natural plant dyes.


The plants used to create the dyes


From right to left – natural, bleached and dyed silk. All dyed with vegetable/plant dyes except the cobalt blue which is dyed with chemical dye

They use a number of different techniques for weaving the pattern into the fabric. The first that was demonstrated was tie dye. Here they tie small strings around the yarns to create the pattern, before dying the yarn. When this yarn is then woven the same pattern appears on the fabric.

Some of the patterns are woven into the silk as they weave using a complex system of pulleys and levers which the girls at the looms work in a blur so fast you can hardly see what they are doing. Common motifs used are the Rumduol (the National flower of Cambodia) or the Lotus Flower.


Weaving a scarf in raw silk


Rolling the twists on the end of the scarfs against their calves to create the tassels

The most usual part of the process to me was the way the girls rolled the tassels on the end of the scarfs on their calves!!


Different silk techniques hanging in the museum

There was then a small museum room before we were ushered into the gift shop which was full of beautful silk items to purchase, for what seemed to be a really reasonable price for the level of craftmanship we had just witnessed. You could buy silk by the metre as well, which I really had to resist!

If you ever find yourself in Siem Reap and have more than a passing interest in textiles, I would highly recommend you visit the Silk Farm.

Alison xx

Preparing and Panicking

It’s been a super busy week this week as we jet off for 2 weeks holiday today to Cambodia (where my parents live).

I’ve been busy preparing for the next workshop as well as finishing a bespoke dress for a client and making myself some bits to wear on holiday.

Here’s a quick visual recap of my week…

The dress I made was for a School Reunion next week and is yet to be worn, so I can only show you a little sneaky peek!

It is finished with a bias binding edge giving a neat finish to the drapy crepe dress without adding any uneccessary bulk. This was the first time I have made my own bias binding and it proved much easier than expected with this nifty little tool. Although I did make the error of using the 6mm tool to start with and that was just too narrow and fiddly to work in this fabric. Some times even for experienced dressmakers it is a case of trial & error. I used 12mm bias binding tool, which worked out perfectly for this dress. I can’t wait to show you the pictures…


Making the bias binding


Ironing the bias binding

I had bought this amazing fabric, with ladybird & bunnys and double deckers buses and I knew I wanted to make a skirt with it and it worked out great, the only issue was that I didn’t have a top to match. I did however fing this t-shirt in my wardrobe that I never wore. The neck and sleeves were too tight and it was unflattering and uncomfortable, so I got my scissors out and cut off the sleeeves, cut a lovely wide boat neckline and found some blue fabric in my stash which matches the blue in the skirt and the stripe in the t-shirt and cut some angel sleeves. I finished the edges of the sleeves with the rolled hem setting on my overlocker in a beige cotton to match the skirt and attached the sleeves to the newly cut armholes with my overlocker.


Upcycled t-shirt with gathered skirt

I found a Cambodian scarf that had never been worn from a previous visit to Cambodia and I quicky ran up the simple t-shirt pattern from The Great British Sewing Bee book. This t-shirt uses a different bias binding technique to finsh the edges where the binding is pressed to the inside of the garment and the topstiched giving a concealed bias binding finish. My bias binding this time was ready made and is in black as a contrast to the fabric of the top.


Simple t-shirt from a Cambodian scarf

This morning I have been fabric shopping, to Sewcute Crafts on Doncaster Market, I found out about this business on Facebook as I have not been to Doncaster Market for years! This fabrics will be some of the choices for the Learn to Sew – Skirts -Workshop on 2nd April at Austerfield Study Centre.


Fabric Shopping for the Learn to Sew Skirts Workshop

Nearly time for our lift to the train station!


Alison xx

Learn to Sew – Aprons – Workshop – Review

The second workshop of the year was Learn to Sew – Aprons held at St Nicholas Church Hall in Bawtry.

We made vintage style frilled pinnies. Have a look at the photos below to see what we got up to.


All set up and ready to go


The cutting table


The sewing table – Alison showing how to do the next bit



Gathering the frill by hand


Overlocking the seam to neaten up the edges


Concentrating on the overlocking


Hard at work


The finishing touches – sewing the pocket on


Here’s one I made earlier


Navy & Ditsy flowers

Maggs Pinny

Cupcakes & polka dots


Maggs – Proud of her finished work

Techniques learnt:

  • Overlocking
  • Edge stitching
  • Top stitching
  • Gathering
  • Stitch in the ditch

Here is some wonderful feedback I received from one of the workshoppers after the event – “Fab workshop today… to say I’ve not looked at a sewing machine in 20 years, and the last thing I made was a little waist coat…. I’m pleased with my efforts. Big thanks xxx” – Maggs

The next workshop is Learn to Sew Skirts, on Saturday 2nd April 2016 at Austerfield Study Centre, DN10 6RG, 1-4.30pm.

Please give me a call on 07957 437001 as places are filling up fast. Or contact me through my facebook page: BagLadyBird – Learn to Sew.

Alison xx

Learn to Sew – Skirts – Workshop – Sat 2nd April 2016

Learn to Sew Skirts Workshop(3)

The next Learn to Sew Workshop with BagLadyBird is on Saturday 2nd April 2016 at Austerfield Study Centre, 1-4.30pm. This workshop will be focussed on Skirts.

Sewing machines are provided for you to use and all materials will be provided, so you can walk away from the afternoon in your very own, made by you skirt, for just £35 per person.

The workshop is suitable for beginners or those lacking in confidence or experience and I will guide you through the steps, so you will learn as you make.

There is no better feeling than receiving a compliment on an outfit and being able to say that you made it yourself.

To book a place on the workshop call me on 07957 437001 or contact me through my Facebook Page: BagLadyBird.