Class brings art of sewing to a new generation

Ava Limauge, 8, front, and Autumn Dionne, 8, work on sewing machines last month during a beginners sewing class for young girls at Lyme Youth Sevices in Old Lyme.
Ava Limauge, 8, front, and Autumn Dionne, 8, work on sewing machines last month during a beginners sewing class for young girls at Lyme Youth Sevices in Old Lyme.

Despite its usefulness, sewing is a skill not taught by many schools or families anymore. Claudia Mathison of Clinton has been working with the Lymes’ Youth Services Bureau and other organizations along the shoreline for the past five years to bring back the art of sewing.

“Sewing with a machine is very simple, but [people] don’t see them that much,” said Mathison who teaches sewing at through the Lymes’ Youth Services Bureau.

Mathison became interested in sewing on her own and taught herself how to sew, and she said many people today don’t know how to sew because their parents may not know how or may not have the time to teach them. Often, grandmothers are the ones who pass down sewing skills to their granddaughters.

She found a need for and interest in sewing courses through teaching other courses at the Guilford Art Center, and after developing machine sewing classes there and at area schools, the Lymes’ Youth Services Bureau asked her to teach a youth sewing course. She enjoys working with the youth bureau and director Mary Seidner said Mathison’s classes are very popular.

“It’s great to have these kids learn how to use a sewing machine because it’s kind of a dying skill,” she said. “They’ve made some very adorable projects, and these girls can do it. They can sew.”

At the Nov. 24 meeting of the five-week class, eight girls sat around a table coloring as Mathison set up four sewing machines. She briefly reviewed the previous week’s session, which provided an introduction to using a sewing machine and sewing together two squares of fabric for a “two-patch” pillow. For this session, the girls would use their “two-patch” skills to create a bag from four squares of fabric.

Mathison showed the girls how to line up the squares “pretty side to pretty side” and pin them so they would stay in place while sewing. Before they could start, however, one of the machines needed a new bobbin, so Mathison took the opportunity to teach the girls a new skill.

“Now, who remembers why we need a bobbin?” Mathison asked as she set up the machine to fill the bobbin with white thread from the spool.

“Because if you don’t have a bobbin, you can’t sew without it,” one of the girls shouted out.

“That’s right. You need the two threads, right? The bobbin thread on the bottom and the spool of thread on the top. And they kind of loop together.” Mathison showed the girls how to direct the thread so the bobbin filled evenly.

After she set up the new bobbin, the girls took turns sewing straight seams on their squares and bringing them to the ironing table to make the seams lay flat before sewing them all together.

Mathison said many students continue to sew after the course ends, and they often come back to the next five-week class to get more practice with the machine and use their skills on more advanced projects.

Each week of the class, students work on a different project, such as a pillow, stuffed animal or patchwork quilt, and the selection changes based on the season so repeat students aren’t making the same projects. By the end of the five-week class, the kids are often amazed at what they have made. Mathison said they love the stuffed animal unit because they get to make their own pattern, pick the fabric, sew it together, stuff it, and add their own buttons and embellishments.

“They’re pleasantly surprised to see how easy it is,” Mathison said.

The sewing classes are held throughout the school year, with the next session beginning in January. Mathison also holds historical American Girl doll programs through the youth bureau, including the annual American Girl Holiday Tea on Dec. 12. More information can be found on its website, lysb.org.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

Twitter: @ahutch411

Autumn Dionne, 8, left, and Abby Greene, 8, center, watch Claudia Mathison, right, as she shows them how to sew a seam during sewing class last month at Lyme Youth Services in Old Lyme.
Autumn Dionne, 8, left, and Abby Greene, 8, center, watch Claudia Mathison, right, as she shows them how to sew a seam during sewing class last month at Lyme Youth Services in Old Lyme.

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