ALTAMONT — Youths participating in 4-H build life skills, helping them become leaders and grow in confidence, independence, resilience and compassion.
Labette County High School junior Emilie Zylstra is a prime example of that.
On a recent Friday evening, Zylstra led a 4-H sewing club at the Altamont Community Building for more than 15 4-H youth.
Tables holding sewing machines lined the walls, providing youth just enough room to work on their sewing projects. In some instances, the machines were being shared. Some machines belonged to the youths, some were on loan from the Wildcat Extension District. The district formerly offered an annual sewing camp but has not been able to do so for a few years due to the pandemic and changes in personnel.
Zylstra decided to fill that gap, stepping up to mentor younger 4-H participants and offering them the opportunities she was afforded as she grew up participating in 4-H. She has now been sewing for nine years.
“I’ve not been good at it for nine years, but I have sewn for nine years,” she said. “My mom doesn’t know how to sew, so me and my older sister went to the 4-H sewing class, but I don’t think they do that anymore.”
She said she was guided by the Extension agents who taught the sewing classes in years past, and her apparel production teacher at LCHS Erin Johnston has helped her out with projects the last few years.
To afford youths some of the same guidance, she decided to have the meetings once a month. The response was so great, she had to turn many away.
“My idea was to have kids come and make something they wanted to make,” she said. “In the first meeting, I had three other people who knew how to sew and it wasn’t just me. At the last one it was just me and it was sort of crazy, but I think they all had fun. And considering how much I messed up when I was young, they are doing pretty good.”
Zylstra said she really had fun as well.
“I saw some things I haven’t seen made before. A couple of the kids made these book pillows. I thought those were really cool,” she said. “They are pillows with little pockets on the front for books and things, then they have a handle on them. They are really cute.”
Each session lasts a couple of hours to allow the youth time to work on their projects and allow Zylstra to help all of them.
“The next meeting I’m planning on showing them more techniques, and it (won’t) be just them working on a project. I want to show them different things about sewing like seams and hems. It’s not just one day doing seams and hems and you’re done. There’s a bunch of different ones,” she said.
She hopes by the time she has the last meeting before fair time the youths will have learned quite a bit to help them in the future on other projects.
Wildcat Extension District agents said they are planning to get the sewing classes going again.
“If they do, I would like to help,” Zylstra said. A lot of youths who are members of the Thrifty Thrivers 4-H Club are stepping up to contribute to their communities and be active in the community in such ways.
“We are doing it because we really like helping,” she said.
Erin Hibbs said she doesn’t know how to turn a sewing machine on, so her children are teaching her as they learn from Zylstra.
“I didn’t take FACS (family and consumer sciences) class. I took ag class and learned to weld and take care of cattle,” Hibbs said. “Now my kids can learn both. That’s nice. I’m super proud of Emilie. This is pretty cool. She actually taught my son Rhett some last year and he did really well at the fair. I’m really excited she is doing it for everybody.”
Sorry, there are no recent results for popular commented articles.