Stitch in time: Blessed Sacrament rekindles students’ interest in sewing
Apr 09, 2018 10:20AM ● Published by Julie Slama
A Blessed Sacrament student makes a scarf while learning how to sew in the sewing and textile program. (Mariana Pickers/Blessed Sacrament)
While many area schools have followed a national trend to discontinue or reduce their offerings of home economics and shop classes for budgetary reasons or in a shift toward technology, Blessed Sacrament opened its sewing program in January.
The sewing and textile program is opened after school for boys and girls in fifth through eighth grade, instructor Laura Eldred said.
“Last year, I taught CTE (career and technical education) as a sampler where students would have lessons in weaving, hand sewing, creating a house plan, crocheting and completing two projects of their choice,” she said. “But I kept getting requests to sew and sew on machines.”
So with donated or loaned sewing machines — some Baby Locks, Brothers, Singers and others — and some students bringing their own from home, as well as other donated supplies, Eldred began by teaching students how to thread their machines and how to follow lines on paper.
“They learned how to sew so when we made rice bags as our first project they could pivot and make nice corners,” she said. The rice bags can be warmed to serve as heating pads. “Right now, we’re working on making pillowcases through the tube method. We’ll learn French seams, and with a treasure pouch they’ll learn how to sew curves and put in a buttonhole.”
Eldred also has plans for the nine students to make a messenger bag that could hold an electronic device, a zippered pouch for earbuds and even a skirt or pajama pants.
“I want them to be confident in using a sewing machine. Once they know how to sew, it can be transferred to so many other kinds of learning,” she said.
For Eldred, it isn’t a choice of technology versus sewing, but how the two complement one another.
“Through sewing, they can understand how the item goes together and that same process can be used in other ways. They’ll learn math, measuring, following instructions and knowing the process, the right order to make something. They’ll be able to think how it goes together — not just cut it out, but understand it,” she said.
Eldred said she can relate those same skills to her knowledge of cabinetry and woodworking, skills she also has shared when teaching CTE to students.
“Even though technology is important and will continue to be, there still is a need for clothes to be mended, adjusted or even made from scratch. These skills transfer to others. If there are no longer classes with physical elements, then students will no longer do as well; they’ll be disconnected if they don’t gain this understanding,” she said.
Seventh-grader Cole Crowther, who wants to be a video game designer, doesn’t see a need to choose.
“I wanted to join (the after-school program) and thought this would be fun,” he said. “It’s satisfying to see what I can do with a needle. I love sewing.”
Still, he finds an hour or two to commit to his video games at night.
“I can see how they both are building things and involve mechanics,” he said after he won the first round of thread wars, a fun competition on who could thread their sewing machine the fastest. “I’m also taking exploratory (a class that includes coding, filming and editing).”
Sixth-grader Emma Manross said that after her grandmother sewed her a donkey costume from “Shrek” for Halloween, her interest in learning how to sew increased.
“She taught me a little, but I thought it would be fun to learn how to sew clothes,” she said. “I enjoy sewing and like being active in what I’m doing more than looking at a computer screen.”
Her classmate Isabella Pickers said that while she’d also like to make her own clothes, she’d also like to sew a blanket.
“I’ve made a stuffed penguin, a scarf and a blanket for a Girl Scout movie night, but I’m wanting to learn different stitches and how to lay out projects,” she said. “Sewing is a good skill to have.”
Fifth-grader Heidemarie von Hartmann said she’d also like to learn how to make a blanket, after she “fixed holes in all my dad’s sweaters.”
Her classmate Evie Reilly said she has learned some sewing from her grandma.
“I still need some guidance,” she said. “I want to be good at sewing. My great-grandma and grandma are good at sewing and my mom knows some, so it’s a tradition. Sewing is fun and it’s inspiring to be able to see what I’m able to make.”
This year, in addition to introducing the after-school program, Eldred is teaching eighth-grade students to design costumes that they’ll help make for the school musical, “Seussical the Musical Jr.,” slated for May 3.
In the fall, Eldred hopes to introduce a second phase of the program, one for returning students or those who know the basics, in addition to the beginning sewing and textile program.