“The One-Needle Sewing Project,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 64–65
When Rachel and Ayden Nathan were sealed in the Los Angeles Temple, only a handful of people were present. But Rachel wore a gift of love that carried with it the good wishes of many other sisters—her dress, which had been sewn by women of the Beijing (China) Branch.
The dress, with its mandarin collar and long sleeves, was finished to perfection; the hand stitching was even and delicate. The sisters of the branch had called this “the magic dress” because of the way it unified members who sacrificed to create an expression of love for the Nathans.
Rachel and Ayden, a warm, caring couple, are natives of New Zealand who had been married in their home country. Rachel worked in Beijing at the New Zealand embassy. Their goal was to be sealed in the Los Angeles Temple during an upcoming visit to California. After purchasing the white silk for her dress at a store in Beijing’s Temple of Heaven area, Rachel was approached by the branch Relief Society president: would she allow the sisters of the Relief Society to make the dress for her? Rachel accepted their offer.
The branch Relief Society was made up of women who were busy with their own pursuits—a librarian, a journalist, embassy personnel or spouses, and several mothers with small children. All of them participated in sewing the dress. Because it was not easy to find thread, buttons, or interfacing fabric in China, each woman unselfishly donated materials from personal sewing supplies. The women had only one needle that was thin enough to glide evenly through the silk material. It was carefully carried from house to house where the sewing took place.
Each of the women chose a different part of the dress as her specialty. Some worked on the body, and others on the collar, the sleeves, or the yoke. Each part was sewn with loving attention to detail; many times, finished stitching was taken out and sewn again so the dress could be perfect. Finally the women traveled successively to three different homes to sew the parts of the dress together.
The dress represented an offering by many members; while the sisters sewed, brethren of the branch watched the children so the work could go on uninterrupted. Thus members not only served Sister Nathan, but also developed friendships with each other.
Sewing the dress strengthened awareness of the temple among Chinese members of the branch. The Sunday before the Nathans left for California, the theme of the branch’s sacrament meeting was temple marriage.
The dress will always have an added significance because of those who made it, Rachel Nathan says. “When I look at it, I think of the sisters in Beijing living such busy lives, yet still finding time for sacrifice and service.” When she wore the dress in the temple, Rachel knew that she carried with her the love of many more than the five friends who were able to be present in the sealing room that day.