South Charlotte

Commitment to help others keeps her sewing

Betty McQuay Tysinger holds one of her handmade dresses.
Betty McQuay Tysinger holds one of her handmade dresses.

Betty McQuay Tysinger learned to sew when she was a little girl -- before she started school.

She fashioned clothes for her dolls by laying them on pieces of cloth and tracing them.

McQuay Tysinger, who turns 86 on June 15, now sews clothes for orphaned children in developing countries. It all started in 2011, when she read a Charlotte Observer article about Johnnie Hayes, who had made dresses for girls in Haiti after a devastating earthquake in 2010.

I figure these little girls deserve something better than an old pillowcase.

Betty McQuay Tysinger

McQuay Tysinger called and offered to help.

Now, her dresses and shorts – she didn’t want the boys to feel left out – go to children all over the world.

“It’s comforting to know that there are little children that now have something decent to wear, whereas before they had nothing but rags,” McQuay Tysinger said. “It brings me a lot of joy.”

She estimated she’s designed and sewn about 132 dresses and 77 pairs of shorts.

“When I have time, I sit down and sew until I don’t have time,” McQuay Tysinger said, “but I wish I could sew faster.”

In July, her most recent creations – 20 dresses and five pairs of shorts – will be sent with missionaries to an orphanage in Nigeria, said Maureen Tull, another volunteer.

Tull collects the clothes from McQuay Tysinger and distributes them to missionaries at various churches, such as West Monroe Baptist. The clothes are sent with dolls and stuffed dogs, and are distributed at the churches’ requests.

“She’s a lovely lady who wants to help others,” Tull said. “Each dress is made with lots of love.”

The dresses are sewn in a variety of sizes and bright prints, with a small pocket on the front and adjustable ties at the shoulders.

The shorts have two front pockets, which can have buttons or embroidered trains on them.

McQuay Tysinger said she buys fabric to make the dresses, while many people use pillowcases.

“I figure these little girls deserve something better than an old pillowcase,” she said.

McQuay Tysinger uses leftover fabric to sew crib blankets, and also collects clothes and supplies to send to churches in Appalachia. The churches hand them out to people in need during the winter.

Kim McQuay said her mother is very dedicated to her church, St. John’s United Methodist in Fort Mill.

“When you walk in the church, precious Betty is always standing there immaculately dressed, always with a hat on,” said Karen Radcliffe, pastor at St. John’s. “Unless she’s sick, she’s always in church and always in Sunday school.”

Radcliffe said McQuay Tysinger also has contributed to many of the church’s service and outreach projects.

“It’s just amazing,” McQuay said of her mother’s lifelong commitment to helping others. “She’s an amazing Southern lady.”

Jane Little: Twitter: @janelittle26