By Marcia E. Gawecki
Even with all their high-tech gadgetry available to teens these days, some are still interested in learning the old-fashioned skills of their parents, such as cooking and sewing.
For the past 12 years, Cat Orlando has been teaching a popular sewing class at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. With the help of her daughter, Catalina, they teach 11-to-14-year olds how to use sewing machines and knitting kits to make stuffed animals, purses and their own clothes. In the end of their 2-week course, the teens will showcase their creations in a fashion show held on Saturday, August 6.
“The class used to be called, ‘Sew What?’ But the name was a little ‘sassy,’ so they changed it to ‘Textiles & Fibers in Design,’ Cat said.
She still has a large backdrop with the words, “Sew What?” that she uses for presentations.
Recently, Cat took her class on a field trip to Hemet. They were going to buy materials and supplies to make a skirt or pajama bottoms. There were four girls in the class, and one boy.
“Evan was going to take a painting class, but decided to take sewing instead,” Cat said. “His mother is a popular artist from Idyllwild, so he’s open to all things creative.”
During the first week of Cat’s sewing class, they started to make their stuffed animals. Typically, teens will make teddy bears, Cat said, but this class stretched it a bit by making lions, snakes, and monkeys. During the trip to Hemet, they could also pick up fake fur or things to embellish their stuffed animals.
The five hour trip included getting supplies at JoAnn’s Fabrics, Michael’s, Wal Mart, the 99 Cent Store, and Goodwill Thrift Shop. In the end, Cat treated them to ice cream at Baskin Robbins.
This trip was not just a chance to get off the hill for the day, Cat said, but a genuine learning experience. The students had to stick to a $20 budget to buy their material, and supplies, such as the pattern, thread, elastic for the waistband, and any other embellishments.
“Sticking to a budget can be difficult, especially when they see all of the material available,” Cat said. “They usually go crazy when they get to JoAnn’s, but we have to limit their material choices to only two.”
They also had to figure out and measure how much material they’d need to make the skirt or pajama bottoms.
“Nothing’s worse than coming up short of material,” Cat said. “Many of these students will come back to JoAnn’s to make clothes on their own.”
She said that teaching a sewing skill was rewarding, and something they can use the rest of their lives. In fact, after each class, she often gets calls from parents about purchasing sewing machines for their teens.
Cat and her daughter, Catalina, practice what they preach. In January, Catalina got married, and Cat made her wedding dress from blending two patterns and material that they purchased from JoAnn’s Fabrics. Then they both also made all of the bridesmaid’s dresses.
For the past 20 years, Cat has a booming bear-making business online, and now Catalina is going to showcase her denim creations online on Etsy.
“Do you think I can get all of this stuff for $60?” asked Catalina, showing off a cartload of material.
In the end, Catalina made it under budget, with the help of JoAnn’s 20 percent off coupons that Cat brought.
“We always go to JoAnn’s first because they honor the coupons that we print online,” Cat said.
She also talked to the students about the value of coupons, and how they can affect the bottom line.
Since this was a beginning sewing class, the students wouldn’t be sewing any zippers onto their clothes. To make the skirt, the students would attach and “dart” the material to the elastic waistbands.
However, they get plenty of experience sewing zippers and seams in class, Cat said. There are about 10 sewing machines available for them to use. Most of them came from Cat’s trips to thrift stores and estate sales. In fact, when they stopped off at Goodwill, Cat spied another sewing machine for $50. She checked out the contents and the brand, but didn’t think it was worth the price, not in today’s economy.
“If it was only $20, I’d snatch it up in a second,” Cat said later. “But if it quit running, it costs us a lot to repair sewing machines.”
The trips to the 99 Cent Store and Goodwill were to help the students find inexpensive tops and jeans to make purses and shoulder bags.
One of their projects, Cat said, is to take a pair of old jeans apart and turn it into a purse or shoulder bag. Goodwill had jeans on sale for about $6 each, which was within their budget.
Most of the students also bought $3 T-shirts and tank tops to go with their skirt material.
“Otherwise, they’d have to go with the tops that they packed in their suitcases from home,” Cat said. “Goodwill or the 99 Cent Store is the perfect place to get inexpensive tops to match.”
“I’m having such a great time!” exclaimed Rose, a student from Mexico.
Rose was a scholarship student who took a digital photography class at Idyllwild Arts last summer.
“With the economy, I didn’t think I’d be able to come back this year,” Rose said. “But Idyllwild Arts worked it out and here I am making a skirt!”
All of their outfits will be showcased during the Children’s Fashion Show on Saturday, August 6th at 9:30 a.m. in the Children’s Center on the Idyllwild Arts Campus. The event is free and open to the public.
Cat, who usually MC’s the fashion show, will turn over the mic to Evan. He said he’s looking forward to the event.
For more information on sewing or other classes at Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, contact www.idyllwildarts.org, or (951) 659-2171.
For examples of some of Cat’s teddy bear creations, visit www.ourteddybears.com.
Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.
Published on: Jul 30, 2011 @ 13:54