School-age designers sew away their summers

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While her friends have been busy with activities like playing soccer and swimming, Emma Fox has spent much of her summer at the sewing machine, fashioning a peplum top, her favorite creation.

“I’m definitely the only one who sews,” said the sixth-grader from Corona del Mar, Calif., who has devoted her summers to the craft since she was 7. “I love that you can create anything you want. You can be who you are.”Emma, 11, is one of 800 or so young sewing enthusiasts attending fashion camp this summer at a place called Create. Design. Sew.

The Tustin, Calif., business is one of many sewing studios that have seen a surge in interest from kids.Sewing teachers say the trend is being driven by factors ranging from the robust do-it-yourself movement and design-oriented TV shows like “Project Runway” to the decline of skills-based courses, such as home economics, in schools.”When we took a lot of those vocational classes out of the public school system we were left with a generation of parents who don’t have the skills to teach their child how to sew,” said Theresa Childs, who runs Fabricate Studios, which offers sewing classes for kids and adults in Atlanta.Interest in sewing also reflects an emphasis among kids on individuality and personalization, instructors say.”When I was a kid, I wanted to take that label from the back of my clothes and sew it on the outside,” said Erin Bianchi Hibbert, who owns Create. Design. Sew. “And God forbid you wore something that your mom made you. It was horrifying. But today the world is so small. So if kids can make something that’s one-of-a-kind unique, its special to them.”Many sewing studios offer after-school programs during the school year, and camps in the summer, often weeklong programs grouped by age or skill level.The Fashion Class, a program in Manhattan’s garment district, starts campers at 6 years old designing and sewing simple clothing.By their teens, many are creating elaborate garments like raincoats and prom dresses, said Kerri Quigley, who owns the studio.Campers go on field trips to places like the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute and designers’ showrooms. Quigley said she has seen more boys signing up for the program in recent years, too.In Seattle, Carisa Brunner, owner of Made Sewing Studio, runs a fashion camp that aims to show kids what it takes to be a fashion designer: things like finding inspiration, selecting fabric, taking measurements, placing zippers and, ultimately, putting it all together.”They are just really interested in being creative, and that’s what is cool about sewing,” Brunner said.Brunner says that when she opened her studio in 2011, she thought only grown-ups would be interested.Today, however, her summer camp draws roughly 200 kids.She also runs about after-school programs at about 25 schools. Made Sewing Studio is expanding into a second location this summer.Charlie Renaud, a 10-year-old rising fifth-grader from Riverside, Calif., said she got hooked on sewing at age 9 when her grandmother gave her a mini sewing machine.”From there I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer,” Charlie said. “My friends all play video games, dance and play sports. None of them sew.”It’s my thing.”




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