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4-H Encourages Young Girls to Sew

4-H sewing programs reach our future sewers.

As an adult, I have come to realize that it was a blessing in disguise to have been required to take sewing in Junior High School (7th and 8th grades), although I didn’t think so at the time. My children, including my son, were also required to take sewing in what was then called Middle School. I knew how to sew by the time I took sewing in school, and so did my children, but for many the school experience was the only sewing experience. Nowadays many schools don’t teach sewing at all, and even if they do, it’s usually not required for all students. Thankfully, sewing schools and classes are available in some cities and towns, and the 4-H program is helping to fill a void in many areas.

The 4-H program actually began over 100 years ago in the vast rural areas of the US. It was originally shaped by the conditions and environment of each area it served, providing children with hands-on learning experiences outside the classroom, most often agricultural in nature. Today it’s subject areas have grown to include a wide variety of topics including science, engineering, technology and applied math as well as sewing, knitting and other fiber-related areas of interest. It currently serves youth in rural, urban, and suburban communities in every state across the United States in addition to more than 70 countries. It’s activities reach 7 million young people.

We all know that young people will be the future drivers of change in our world, and the 4-H goal is to provide our youth with a positive environment encouraging them to become confident, contributing leaders in their communities. The national 4-H organization actually provides curriculum materials for use in 4-H sewing programs that are age-specific. They believe that sewing allows young people to experience a sense of accomplishment associated with completing a project. It also provides an opportunity for youth to understand textiles, construction techniques, design principles as well as develop eye/hand coordination. Research has found that youth who sew develop skills needed to become more creative thinkers.

Have you ever participated in 4-H either as a leader or a student? Please share your experience with us.


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  1. User avater
    rakijaa | | #1

    My experience (as a city kid) with 4-H was wonderful. I had an excellent sewing teacher. She was young enough to know we wanted to sew cool things, but old enough to be a taskmaster. She made sure we learned how to do everything the right way-even if it meant tearing things out again and again. We learned how to draft patterns as well as the basics of sewing. It was an amazing foundation that I have continued to build on my entire life. It also was a great after school refuge of creativity and friendship. I can really recommend 4-H to anyone who wants to share their love of sewing. You never know what kind of an impact you will make on a child....

  2. Ceeayche | | #2

    Unfortunately, as many of our communities are under financial pressure due to the economy(at least in my state), the state extension service has been challenged on both the state and local area for funding. If these programs are important to you, it may be worthwhile to contact the extension service in your area and ask how you can support them with the state legislature and the county/city governments.

    One of our delegates stood up in a committee meeting and announced the 4H and the extension service were antiquated given the decline of the farming industry. I was horrified! Upon visiting him in his office, he had no idea the extension services had changed their programs to adopt to their changing communitities.

  3. User avater
    Out_West | | #3

    I've been a 4-H sewing leader for 6 years now. I started when my daughter started 4-H and wanted to enter a sewing project. 4-H was part of our small community culture and it was easy to join. Fortunately, I learned to sew from my own mother when I was a girl back when most of us knew how. 4-H has been a fabulous experience for my daughter and the many members I've led. I love the idea that we begin with an end in mind. That is, we work with the kids to enter a project into the county fair. Then, learning to sew has a purpose and meaning. And most of the time, the kid's interest and creativity catch fire. I've been taught that 4-H is a research based youth organization and incorporates the BIG-M, the characterisics of a succesful youth development program. B-Belonging, I-Independence (the kids see themselves in their futures), G-Generosity (4-H has a required community service element) and Mastery (mastering a skill promotes real confidence). A good 4-H program is an excellent investment of your child's after school time. And it has been fun for me, I've brushed up on my sewing skills and done lots more sewing since I've become a leader.

  4. kakie | | #4

    I too was a 4-H'er - for nine years in my aunt's club, known as a Sewing and Cooking Club and called the "Stitchers and Bakers". My last year was 43 years ago... We also did special projects from crafts such as enameled pins to dog grooming. But sewing - from the official green elastic-waist skirt to the tailored wool coat - was huge for me and has been a very big part of my life. Second in line: my father was crazy about my home-baked bread (learned in the club)! I was so glad to see April's article. I have been thinking about how to "give back", particularly through a club, especially after my 19-year-old niece asked me to sew a button on her coat because she didn't know how!! (My sister ought to be ashamed of herself!) If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. [email protected]

  5. Nelle05 | | #5

    I came from a family of 5 girls. my mom sewed for us and became an advisor for 4H. I started sewing when I was 8(then a year too young) and continued through high school.
    When my three girls became of age for 4H I became an advisor and was a clothing advisor for 20 years,serving on the county committes and judging in other counties. My girls don't sew much now but they all know how to sew and to do it the correct way. Their experiences in 4H are invaluable and I encourage anyone to learn good hand stitches as well as all the new machines and short cuts. My children grew up in Clark co. Ohio the home of 4H......... A GREAT LEARNING EXPERINENCE!!!! I am looking forward to teaching my grnddaughters.

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