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Sewing summer camps thread the needle for new generation

Do you know how to sew? Not everyone does, but now a whole new group of young people is picking up the needle at summer sewing camps around the country.
Sewing is a skill now reaching a new generation, including ten-year-old Elias Anthonysamy. The hoodie he’s wearing is one of his own sewing creations.
Sewing schools and camps can be found in every state in the nation. It used to be a skill nearly everyone learned at some point in school, but that changed when many school districts dropped the requirement of taking a home economics course.
A decade ago, Margaret Garland opened “Sewfabulous Sewing!” The Pikesville, Maryland sewing school runs a summer camp for kids from ages 6 to 16, by teaching them to thread a needle and more.
In addition to learning a valuable skill, sewing also teaches concentration and requires attention to detail.
Posted at 10:37 AM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 11:37:52-04

PIKESVILLE, Md. — Inside the doors of this summer day camp, amid a whirl of stitching, it is “sew” fabulous.

“I was a pre-K teacher, and I would just walk around and talk to people about the different sewing things that I do and whatnot,” said Margaret Garland. “And one of the teachers actually said, ‘You are so fabulous’ and I'm like, ‘hmm.’”

So, a decade ago, Garland opened Sewfabulous Sewing. The Pikesville, Maryland sewing school runs a summer camp for kids from ages 6 to 16, by teaching them to thread a needle and more.

“They'll be hand sewing. They crochet, they tie-dye, they use the machines to the fullest that they can,” Garland said. “And they make a little bit of everything. Every week is a different thing.”

This week’s motif was Monster Week, which put Ariele Lee on the road to designing her stuffed character.

“I like the Star Wars franchise, so I was like, ‘Okay, let me make Baby Yoda,’” Lee said. “I like sewing because it lets me unleash my imagination on things.”

Yet, it also teaches concentration and requires attention to detail.

“It gives you that self-esteem that you're able to take something flat, cut it up and create something that you can wear on your body. That's huge,” Garland said. “And then, at the same time, it’s problem-solving.”

Sewing schools and camps can be found in every state in the nation. It used to be a skill nearly everyone learned at some point.

“Junior high and senior highs, they had home economics and sewing was a part of it,” Garland said. “And once they took it out there, everybody thought it was gone.”

Then, came the pandemic, and with it, sewing’s comeback. According to Market Growth Reports, global sewing machine sales rose a billion dollars -- from $4.9 billion in 2019 to nearly $5.9 billion in 2021.

“People were buying sewing machines left and right. Amazon was going crazy with the sewing machine thing. And then they started making their own masks,” Garland said. “And then they were like, ‘Well, I got a sewing machine. I might as well figure out how to use it.’ Those masks were the start of a tradition.”

It’s a tradition now reaching a new generation, including 10-year-old Elias Anthonysamy.

“It’s free, you can do whatever. You can modify the pattern and you can make things that look super cool and say that ‘I made it myself,’ which is really nice,” he said.

The hoodie he’s wearing on this day is one of his own sewing creations.

What do his friends think?

“’He sews. Nice!’” he said of their reactions.

It’s something that can also come in handy in a pinch.

“I just want them to be able to have that skill that whenever it comes in need, they're able to do it,” Garland said. “I hope it's something that stays with them for a long time.”