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Class stitches outfits for Africa

A recent weeklong sewing camp left youngsters the opportunity to create items to take home, as well as sew pillowcase dresses for underprivileged children in Africa.
Connie Sharp, County Director and Extension Agent III, 4-H Youth Development for the University of Tennessee Extension office, said nine campers and one mother participated in the Sew Happy Clothing Camp from June 23-27.
She said this is the first time she opened the camp to everyone and attached a fee.
“Only one of them had ever done sewing at all,” Sharp said of the campers.
The camp was held, she said, because sewing is not a skill that is really being taught anymore. Sharp said by becoming familiar with sewing, campers could use the basic skills at home and possibly start a home-based business.
The skills the youngsters learned during camp included how to use a sewing machine and cut out patterns, and how to follow pattern instructions.
The campers ranged from a rising 4th-grader to 8th-grade students.
The first two days of the camp, the campers participated in lectures, as well as working in their sewing sampler books and producing hand samples.
Sharp said they talked about such things as the balance wheel and its purpose, using a serge machine and how to do seam finishing.
The book was a part of the camp, so the youngsters could reference it when they are home and forget how to do a particular stitch or any of the other techniques they learned during camp.
Throughout the weeklong camp, Sharp said the campers created three projects, which included an item of their personal choice. The two other projects included making a tote bag and jewelry holder.
The students had free range when it came to their projects, as long as it was something simple and did not include zippers or button holes.
One of the girls who participated in the camp made a vest. Sharp said the vest included three or four pockets on the inside and outside.
The creative portion of her project was using hair bows with metal for the button holes. She said the hair bows were sewn into the vest through a double stitch after they cut the metal parts off.
Some of the other projects included a skirt and pajamas.
“By doing garments, they learned how you would alter what you have and why things don’t fit,” Sharp said.
She said with everything they do through 4-H, they try to accompany it with a service job.
“I was trying to think of a project that we can do that involves sewing,” she said. That was when she found a project called “Little Dresses for Africa.”
The students who participated in the camp made pillowcase dresses for the young girls of Africa. The students took a pillow case and cut the top out for the arms, as well as created a cover for the arms.
“It is something nice to wear and very cool,” Sharp said of the dresses.
Although some of the campers had a difficult time with the underarm area of the dresses, she said, she should be able to finish them and send nine or 10 dresses to Africa by Saturday, Aug. 9.
“I think the week went really good,” Sharp said. “I’m sure the kids want to have it again next year.”