July 23, 2004 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson

Jenny Cocanougher helps a camper arrange fabric for a project.

More than seven years ago, two Woodford County Homemakers drew from childhood memories of learning to sew and asked Woodford County Cooperative Extension agents to create some kind of sewing day camp for kids in the county. Agents thought it was a good idea and Sewing Camp has been growing in popularity ever since.

“Because it’s been so successful, our district board purchased 10 sewing machines so that all our machines are the same,” said Jennifer Klee, Woodford County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. “We encourage sewers to bring their own machine, but if they don’t, having the same machines makes it easier for our volunteers to help the kids.”

This year campers made their choice of quilted backpacks, travel bags or duffle bags. The first day, intermediate sewers completed a small project.

“It gives them a hands-on, concrete project that they can finish,” said Jenny Cocanougher, Woodford County Extension agent for 4-H youth development. “Their first day they made a simple travel kit bag and some of the parents were surprised that the kids were able to finish something in one day.”

The first week of camp is dedicated to intermediate sewers, while beginners come the second week. Each week, the camp can take up to 15 participants. Cocanougher said they always welcome new sewers.

“Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve ever seen a sewing machine,” she said. “Some are still calling thread string. But it’s good for them and by the time they leave, they’ve created something.”

Klee said that sewing camp is more than needles and thread. Participants get a chance to incorporate some life skills as well.

“It’s good to learn to sew because we all wear clothes, but it’s really a life skill,” she said. “Once you learn to sew, that’s a skill you can use for the rest of your life. You have to use math, make decisions and work together during camp. There are a lot of job opportunities for people who know how to sew.”

Klee’s own daughter learned to sew at sewing camp and went on to turn her skills into a money-making opportunity. She made quilted purses and luggage to help pay for her college expenses.

The popularity of quilted, non-clothing projects has soared. Klee said it used to be hard to find a wide variety of quilted material in the county, so she approached a local retailer about stocking several patterns. The material became so popular that the retailer was able to sell more than $10,000-worth last year. Klee said that makes them feel good, not just that more people are sewing, but that they are helping the local economy as well.

The Kentucky State Fair used to only have sewing project categories for clothes. Klee said that left out many entries and recently non-clothing categories were added to include the more non-traditional projects.

“Now these items can go on to the State Fair,” she said. “Before, there was no category for those who didn’t want to make clothes. The addition is good because there’s so much more to sewing than just making clothes.”

Woodford County Extension also offers other sewing opportunities, such as after school sewing classes. Contact Jennifer Klee for more details at (859) 873-4601.


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Source: Jennifer Klee 859-873-4601