EMW 4-H Sewing Group Builds Talent and Friendships

If one thing is clear about the girls in the EMW 4H club, it’s this: they are a very tight-knit group. 

At one point during the interview between the seven students, Vada Kirsch interjects that she has a story to tell, and almost immediately the other girls roll their eyes in mock annoyance. “Are you talking about the cat story again?” Margot Treadwell asks with a smile, which Kirsch excitedly confirms. 

“I decided,” she continues with a giggle, “that I wanted to use my skills from 4H to sew my cats some dresses.” 

The girls practically finish each other’s sentences. Their abundant laughs echo through the front foyer of Iroquois Middle School, from which they are moving on to high school in the fall. They’re playful and charming at thirteen years old, but the impressive clothes they hold in their arms are a dead giveaway to their focus and self-discipline. 

Starting back in February, the girls began sewing their own articles of (human) clothing for a 4H fashion review in May at Warsaw High School. The goal of the sewing program, according to the 4H website, is to “teach youth how to sew while learning about textiles, construction techniques and design principles.” 

By simply observing them talk about their pieces and the finer details thereof, one can conclude that the seven girls have definitely learned such principles thoroughly. Some pieces have pleats, some have pom-poms, some are patterned and others are not, but all are certainly note-worthy.

In June, five of the girls were chosen to move on as division finalists to the Van Horn Mansion in Burt, New York for a fashion show. Treadwell recalls her surprise at how challenging modeling on a catwalk was. 

“Knowing how to walk across the stage when you have no lines and no dancing and everyone is just supposed to stare at you is tough,” she said. “I’m a Drama Club kid, so I’m okay on the stage, but a fashion show is on a whole different level.”

At the mansion, Kim Braun and Genevieve Homac were selected for the state-wide competition in August in Syracuse; Treadwell was chosen as an alternate. Being judged in the preliminary periods was an interesting experience for all, especially due to the diversity of the pieces produced by other 4H groups.

“I was standing there with a normal skirt next to a guy who made a chain-mail vest and a girl who had sewn her own belly dancer costume,” said Treadwell. “So that was pretty awesome… (4H) gives you a lot of different perspectives.”

While the girls faced several setbacks throughout their sewing experiences (Natalie Standish stabbed herself with a needle, Braun’s zipper was too long, Kirsch’s cats ripped their dresses to shreds), the finished products are a testament to the hours of effort they put in. The pieces took between six hours to complete, for Caleigh Castlevetere’s pineapple shorts, to twenty-four hours for Braun’s two-piece outfit. 

When asked if the work was more mental or physical, the group agreed that both aspects come into play. 

“I think it’s both mental and physical because you have to think about how it’s going to fit and where everything is going to go together,” Homac said. 

Braun’s challenging pattern was more mentally taxing. 

“For me it was a lot of thinking because I did a harder pattern this year and the pattern itself wasn’t very helpful, so I had figured out a lot of the steps myself. Once you figure out the steps it’s easier to do the actual sewing.”

Sewing is just one aspect of the 4H club, however; the girls also completed public presentations in February for judgment by 4H officials, on topics such as cake pops, poetry, GMO’s and fast food.

Another apparent advantage of the club is it’s services to the participants. Asked to describe 4H, Michelle Homac, a parent of the group, said simply, “It’s free career exploration.” 

The girls frequently receive scholarships to different events around the state which help further their understanding of the world around them. Three students received scholarships to attend the 2016 Cornell Career Exploration program, and three more will be learning about what Michelle calls the “wheeling and dealing” of Wegman’s. 

“Kids always see what happens at Wegman’s and what happens at farms, but what about the middle people?” she said. “They’re going to be able to go on a day trip with 4H and see that. There are true careers there.”

The girls are certainly reaping the benefits. 

Homac, since attending the Cornell exploration program, is considering a career in nanotechnology engineering. Castlevetere, another attendee of the program, is newly interested in polymer chemistry, and Braun’s lean toward astrophysics is a result of the research projects 4H students complete. Kirsch is looking at meteorology, Treadwell is exploring politics, Standish is interested in pediatrics and Samantha Clemens is fascinated by medicine. 

“In sixth grade I would never debate in social studies because I was afraid to talk,” said Braun. “But now, because of the public presentations, I actually kind of like debating.”

Kirsch said that 4H often helps “when you least expect it;” when a button falls off, the girls know how to fix it. When inspiration strikes, they can make outfits for their pets.

If two things are clear about the girls in the EMW 4H club, it’s these: they are a very tight-knit group, and they have very bright futures.

East Aurora Advertiser, July 19, 2016 | Hyperlink

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