Dressmaker: ‘I can’t go, but I can send’

Clara Able is on oxygen 24 hours a day, but that doesn’t stop her from fulfilling what she calls “my mission.”

The 78-year-old widow from the town of Ninety Six, in Greenwood County, has always enjoyed sewing, and now she gets up every morning and spends a good part of her day making dresses for young girls in impoverished countries. 

About four months ago, Able began her mission work in earnest at the suggestion of a friend who was baking cakes to raise money for her church’s mission trip to Haiti. Able asked what she could do to help, and her friend suggested that she make a few “pillowcase dresses” for the church to take with

A Guatemalan child wears one of Clara Able’s dresses.

them and distribute to girls in Haiti. (Pillowcase dresses are simple garments that start from the pattern of a pillowcase, although it is not necessary to have a pillowcase to make one.)

In short order, Able produced 100 dresses, and she was hooked. Since then, she’s made hundreds more dresses (including styles other than pillowcase dresses) for church mission groups traveling to Haiti and other countries like Honduras and Guatemala.

She has already exhausted a large supply of cloth she had left over when a fabric store went out of business 15 years ago and the owner gave her his inventory. Since then, people from several states have sent her donations to buy more material, and others have given her fabric.

Able, a member of Ninety Six First Baptist Church, is looking for mission groups that are willing to take her dresses with them when they travel to places like Haiti. She provides the dresses at no cost (although she appreciates help with shipping costs if the dresses can’t be picked up).

“This is what I can do,” she said. “I can make the dresses if somebody can take them. If I can put dresses on every little girl on the island [of Haiti], I’ll be happy. The blessing I get is just unimaginable.”

Churches interested in taking Able up on her offer are encouraged to contact her by email at able.clara@yahoo.com.