Handiwork keeps hope alive in Haiti

Clinton Franciscan Sister Virginia Krakow shows the first dress she made to send to homeless girls of Haiti.

By Sallyann McCarthy

Clinton Franciscan Sister Virginia Krakow has been sewing since she took a home economics class at her high school in California — long before joining the Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton. “My mother thought we should all know how to sew,” she recalled. She sewed for herself and even helped make curtains for places where she has ministered.

Nowadays she is using her skill to help girls in Haiti who are struggling to find normalcy after the earthquake that devastated their country last January.

Sr. Virginia is a steady customer at Clinton’s Sew Many Things store. Two months ago, store operator Stephanie Nickles approached her customers with the idea of joining her in making pillowcase dresses for girls in Haiti. As she explained in a recent interview, lots of used clothing is sent to Haiti, but the joy of getting something new is not to be matched — especially for little girls.

Although the pattern for the simple, pull-over dresses calls for a pillowcase, Sr. Virginia had other ideas. She is using leftover material from the many table runners and placemats that she makes as gifts to fashion truly unique frocks. She uses her talent for combining colors and prints to produce dresses with contrasting pockets and ties, ruffles and bows. Although the idea of the pillowcase dress is simplicity, Sr. Virginia’s creations are anything but plain. Each is distinctive.


Sr. Virginia retired last year from The Alverno Health Care Facility, Clinton. Before moving back to Clinton, she served at the Ritter Home, the Clinton Franciscans’ home for retired women in Burlington, until it was closed. She has also served in home health care.

“Since retiring, I have more time for sewing,” she explained. She purchased a new machine two years ago with gifts received at her 50th jubilee. “It is fun to be able to make things for my family,” she commented, “but this project — making new dresses for homeless girls — is really meaningful.” She is also making stuffed dolls to send along and her work is inspiring other Sisters and staff members at The Canticle, where she lives, to join the project.

Sew Many Things is working with Jean Hess of Davenport, who travels regularly to Haiti as a volunteer at a Christian mission. They will have over 200 dresses for her to take on her next trip. Twenty of them will be from Sr. Virginia.

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