Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

August 25, 2013

Helping others, repurposing items at heart of The Little Dress Co.

Lee Ward
The Independent

ASHLAND — Dell Rachell’s motto could be “Everything deserves a second chance.”

The Russell resident has always been a believer in recycling and repurposing; now, she has a hobby/part-time job turning things like men’s shirts into aprons and pillowcases into dresses for girls for her business called The Little Dress Co.

“The most fulfilling thing I do is make dresses to send to little girls in Haiti,” she said, noting she sends about 200 dresses a year to Haiti through Christian Flights International, a Haitian relief organization in operation since 1977.

She said the idea of helping children appealed to her.

“They’re not very fancy dresses because I’m trying to make as many as I can,” she said. “My daughter said, ‘Mom, if you’ve never had a dress before, much less a new dress ...’”

She said she also has made shorts for boys in Haiti.

“I wish people paid more attention to kids in the world who have very little,” she said. “We are so focused on what we have or don’t have or what our neighbors have that we want. I’d like to see more of a giving and exchanging situation.”

Rachell devotes weeknight evenings and six or eight hours on weekend days to making dresses. “I can make about four in a night,” she said.

It all started at a yard sale.

“My daughter and I went to the longest yard sale and I found some vintage pillow cases,” she said. “We went to a meeting of Christian Flights International and the lady asked me, ‘Are you going to make us some dresses?’ and I didn’t know what she was talking about.”

The agency representative explained about making little girls’ dresses from pillowcases and Rachell said she knew all about it.

“I learned to make them  when I was 5 from flower and feed sacks,” she said. “So I started making them to go to  Haiti. Then, people at work started wanting them.”

Last fall, Rachell said she sold her items at several festivals and in November, began selling them on the website etsy.com and at Melanie’s Custom Bows on WInchester Avenue in Ashland. She also takes special orders.

She started making aprons after her daughter saw some made from men’s shirts and asked her to do it.

“I love recycling. I think everybody should barter and recycle,” she said.

Rachell said she buys some fabric from eBay, but she also has shopped at Goodwill outlet stores; the closest one to the area is in Indiana, but she said she doubts she’ll try that again.

“I was too wild,” she said. “There were bins of clothing to go through and people were just throwing stuff everywhere.” However, she said she bought 26 men’s shirts for $5.61, so the shopping spree was fruitful.

The 73-year-old Rachell said this month, she sold more than $2,000 worth of items and has orders for about another $1,500.

Five double racks fill the space in her extra bedroom and they’re all covered in dresses.

Aprons are just as popular.

“I took 15 aprons to work and sold all but three,” she said.

It might seem like a lot of work for a woman of retirement age, but not to Rachell.

“I can’t even imagine sitting at home watching television,” she said. “When I die, I want my grandkids to say she was wave running in the Caribbean, not watching ‘Wheel of Fortune’ in a rocking chair.”

Whatever she finds to do, it’s a safe bet recycling will be involved.

“I just think if each person could lessen their carbon footprint, that we just wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in with the environment,” she said.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.