Manatee County Fairgrounds crafts annual sewing camp

vmannix@bradenton.comJune 13, 2013 

PALMETT0 -- Pillow cases never looked so pretty.

One had colorful polka dots.

One had pretty aquatic scenery.

Another, vivid pink flowers on a blue background.

The pillow cases were one morning's handiwork for 20 girls in the American Sewing Guild Sarasota Gulf Coast's annual five-day summer sewing camp at the Harllee 4-H Center on the Manatee County Fairgrounds.

That afternoon they'd be making hair scrunchies, pajama pants and skirts.

"We keep them busy," said Helaine Eckstein, the youth education director of the 5-year-old program.

Everywhere the matriarch looked, girls, ages 8-14, were working with sewing machines under the helpful eye of a Guild volunteer.

It looked like fun, too.

"It's really interesting," said Dannie Glassburn, 14. "Once you start, you can't stop."

That's one of the program's objectives -- starting the girls on this timeless craft.

Several years ago, Guild members were displaying their skills at the fair when they were approached by several 4-H mothers.

"They asked us, 'Please teach our

kids to sew,'" said Kathleen Heinicke, who owns her own alterations shop. "Hopefully, some seeds are being planted here."

Eckstein hopes so, too.

The Pittsburgh native learned to sew at 10 and it became her life's work as a home economics teacher for more than 30 years, plus teaching with the Guild.

"It's a dying art because they don't teach it as much in schools and very few parents sew. Their grandmothers might," Eckstein said. "If they continue with it, they can make anything -- curtains, bedspreads, table clothes, all those things.

"I made my own clothes in high school, prom gown, too."

Some young campers, repeat participants from last year and before, have already embraced that idea.

"I've wanted to make my own things and I have -- a headband, a purse, some pillow cases," said Emily McKim, 11. "It makes me feel good I can do stuff like that."

Dannie Glassburn agreed.

"You don't want to spend $20 on a shirt when you can make it yourself," she said. "It's helping you save money and be practical."

Alyssa Pritchett has learned to repair her own clothes and, what's more, like Emily and Dannie, she learned from her grandmother.

"I saw Grandma sew and thought it was really neat," the 10-year-old said. "So I said I want to learn to do that, too."

On Friday, the girls will make more pillowcases for Conkerr Cancer, a nationwide program for children cancer patients, at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center's pediatric unit.

"Not only are they furthering themselves," Heinicke said of her pupils. "But they are learning to do for others in the community."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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