100-year-old dressmaker finishes 1051st dress for African children

For her 100th birthday, Lillian Weber reached an important goal – she finished sewing her 1051st dress.  Across the ocean in Africa, in a number of countries, hundreds of little girls wear dresses handmade by Weber.

Fox News first met her last year when she made headlines for her goal to sew 1000 dresses by her century mark.   She’s been sewing almost a dress a day, and she donates the clothing to a non-profit Christian organization based in Michigan called Little Dresses for Africa.

The organization has sent millions of dresses to nearly 50 countries in Africa and to dozens of other countries.

The founder and director, Rachel O’Neill said the simple pillowcase frocks are so much more than a new piece of clothing.

“Lives are really saved because of these dresses. When a little girl is wearing a new dress they’re much less likely to be messed with because someone knows they’re being taken care of,” said O’Neill.

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Over three million of the frocks have been sent to African orphanages, churches and villages since the non-profit began in 2008. Little Dresses for Africa suggests using a pillowcase pattern for the dresses, that’s simple to create.

But for their biggest sewing star, Weber, the simple pattern wasn’t enough. Each of her dresses are made with special details, and are expertly put together by the woman who has been sewing for nearly 92 years.

On May 6th, Weber celebrated her birthday and was already well past her 1000 dress goal. She says the sewing mission gives her something to do and keeps her out of a nursing home.

“There’s no age limit to this. Somebody who’s 100 years old still putting out this quality with such a positive and inspirational message, it’s just been wonderful,” said O’Neill.

Weber’s advice for a long-life is simple.

“Go to bed early, get up late, and as for eating it’s whatever you enjoy,” laughed Weber. Adding that if cookies and cake is what you like, then life is too short to not enjoy them.

At her birthday party, O’Neill surprised Weber by showing up and presenting her with a plaque to thank her for all she’s done. Although Weber and O’Neill have talked many times, the women had never met. O’Neill said Weber always wanted to meet the woman who was taking her dresses overseas.

Weber’s constantly growing family traveled to the birthday party in Bettendorf, Iowa. Weber’s family has grown to five children (one is deceased), 12 grandchildren, and 20 great grandchildren.

Allison Moore, a 10 year old great granddaughter says she is proud of her great grandmother and enjoys seeing the dresses when she visits.

“She doesn’t just stop what she’s doing because she’s older, she keeps doing what she wants to do,” said Moore.

Hope Weiss, 13, said her great-grandmother has been an inspiration to her.

“I love her, I hope she makes it even farther, I hope she makes even more dresses,” said Weiss.

Her family is proud of the hands that shaped their lives and helped so many, one stitch at a time.