Betty Bright learned how to sew when she was 6 years old. By the time she was 8, she was sewing clothes for herself. As her skills improved, she started sewing for her friends and for her neighbors.

She even sewed choir smocks for the church choir.

In 1957, she won the first sewing competition that she entered. To make ends meet with her growing family, Bright sold her first dress in 1965. Once her children grew up, her passion became her profession. She sold dresses at craft fairs and consignment shops throughout New England.

She relishes in the delight that her beautiful dresses bring to families, and for some families she has sewn dresses for three generations of girls. During the 80 years that Bright has sewn she has made over 10,000 little girl dresses, choir smocks, holiday place mats, and more.

Bright loved each of her many sewing machines like it was a friend; she always gave her sewing machines names. Her last one was named Betsy, given to her daughter-in-law Alison McKnight, who has used it to sew hundreds of masks during the pandemic and now little dresses for Betty’s great granddaughter Lily in Virginia.

Bright has lived in Stowe for over 20 years where she has sold her little girl dresses in local flea markets and downtown shops. Over the last year, she has been slowed by illness, but to keep her sewing legacy alive her son Darren McKnight has established a new charitable project to honor his mother’s lifelong commitment to sewing.

The Betty Bright Seamstress Project has been established within the charity Cross World Africa to enable Kenyan women.

This project provides a sewing machine, materials and training for up to 20 Kenyan women per class. Sewing provides a means for women in Kenya to make money to support their families, to raise their self-esteem to create confidence and harness their creativity to generate hope.

There are so many success stories from the Betty Bright Seamstress Project already but the story of Beatrice Nyanducha, captured in the panel, represents the transformational potential of this project.

If you would like to help build and grow Bright’s legacy of giving and the power of sewing, go to As an interesting side note, as a way to keep Bright’s enduring spirit of optimism going, all sewing machines are given names. With a donation of $300 or more, you can name a sewing machine in a loved ones’ name. The individual seamstress who receives that sewing machine will send a letter and photograph explaining how the project changed her life — like it has for Beatrice.

For more information, reach out to McKnight at

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