From Barbie Outfits to Bedsheets: Seamstresses at Work

A few months ago Roxanne observed that three of our girls (Lisa, Dina and Mary) enjoyed hand-sewing new clothes for their Barbie dolls. Their stitched mini-creations – dresses, jeans, shirts and skirts – were stylish and detailed. Since these girls like sewing and making things out of fabric, thought Roxanne, why not let them learn some basic tailoring skills using the new sewing machine that one of our generous sponsors has provided? After all, Lisa and Dina said they want to be fashion designers when they grow up. And Mary… Mary wants to be a beauty queen. The three aspiring seamstresses would make a perfect team!

After some planning and approvals, the next step was to identify a professional seamstress who could teach the girls the fundamentals of sewing. And we didn’t have to look very far at all. Vuthy, their new mentor, lives and works just a five-minute walk away from Little Hearts. Tony knew Vuthy because she exhibits some of her fashion creations in a nearby restaurant, Ikat Café, where he is also a customer. (He was also aware of her tragic life story – as a young child, she survived the turbulent Khmer Rouge period, albeit losing one of her hands in the violence. Despite being an amputee, she managed to learn the tailoring trade and is able to operate a sewing machine to great effect.)

After the budding needle workers – who had been joined in the sewing lessons by Elizabeth, Olivia, Sreyroth and Ilay – had mastered the use of the sewing machine, Tony decided to test what they had learned from Vuthy by giving them a big and challenging project: making new bed sheets and pillowcases for everyone! (It’s been eight years since we procured linens for the whole facility, and most of them are now quite worn out and discoloured, so it’s high time we invested in new ones.)

Vuthy and the girls started out by measuring the mattresses and pillows, then they went to the market together and bought the fabric and other necessary materials. Then they started working on 33 sheets and 33 pillowcases for the sleeping quarters, and, for good measure, an additional 70 covers for the movie night cushions.

Vuthy and her pupils sew all day on Sundays. In addition, they work on their project whenever their school schedule allows, either together with Vuthy in the mornings or on their own in the afternoons. The work started back in November, and the girls hope to be done by the end of March. So far, they have completed all 33 sets of bed sheets and pillowcases; they are now working on the movie night cushion covers. By the time they’re done, they’ll wish they’d stuck to Barbie outfits.????

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