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Calhoun County 4-H youth stitch together new project
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
PITTSBORO – Sewing is no longer passé for Calhoun County youth after Extension 4-H agent Trent Barnett discovered both boys and girls were intrigued by the craft.
Several 4-H members had seen sewing items displayed at the county fair and wanted to explore the lost art further. Livestock exhibitors, frustrated by the lack of blankets available for show goats, wanted to learn how to make the blankets themselves.
Many parents and grandparents said they were concerned that today’s children are unable to reattach a button or stitch a hem back in place.
And there were youth who wanted to find a new way to express their individuality through clothes.
“Our youth want to learn how to make clothing and accessories,” Barnett said. “They also have an interest in embroidery, which adds a technological aspect to sewing because it requires computerized machines and the creation of a design.”
The interest in sewing caused Barnett to talk with 4-H youth and help them organize a sewing club. The new club met at the Calhoun County Extension office, elected officers and chose “A Stitch in Time” as their name. Barnett invited parents and Mississippi Homemaker Volunteer club members to attend, hoping they would contribute experience and expertise as potential sewing instructors.
“Some of these volunteers teach specific skills and supervise the completion of projects,” Barnett said. “Others have agreed to assist with safety and sewing machine operation during club meetings.”
The club needed sewing machines to use. Barnett wrote the Singer Co., explaining the club’s purpose and need for machines. The consumer affairs department at Singer’s headquarters in Tennessee promptly replied.
“Singer donated two brand-new sewing machines and shipped them directly to us,” Barnett said. “The company was very nice about it.”
Word of the new 4-H sewing club soon spread throughout the area. People contacted Barnett, asking how they could help. One of them was Kathy Pizza, owner of Heirlooms Forever in Tupelo, where she sells sewing machines, fabric and notions, and offers sewing classes.
“Kathy sent me a list of equipment that a youth sewing club could use,” Barnett said. “She was very supportive.”
Pizza, a passionate sewing enthusiast, initially donated three Brother sewing machines. She is working with other community members to find additional machines.
“I hope that learning the basics will spark the interest and imagination of these children to pursue careers related to sewing, such as fashion design,” Pizza said. “Knowing how to sew also gives youth another way to contribute to their communities and donate their talents to causes.”
The sewing machines of today are quite different from the ones used by parents and grandparents years ago. Because the machines are computerized, they appeal to youth, who already are comfortable with laptops and cell phones. Many of the machines include software that allow the users to appliqué, embroider or embellish an item with the touch of a button.
One of the club’s first projects was sewing ponytail streamers in school colors. While the boys were given the option of learning to sew on a button instead, Barnett said most of them chose to make streamers for their girlfriends, sisters or mothers.
Other sewing projects the youth will tackle include pillowcases, clothing, hand puppets, handbags and, of course, the show goat blankets.
“Our youth plan to make items to donate to a children’s hospital,” Barnett said.
Youth who are interested in joining the sewing club can contact Barnett at the Calhoun County Extension Office at (662) 412-3177.