ROCKINGHAM — Sewing, along with most other basic life skills, is no longer taught in public schools — but this week a group of Richmond County girls are stitching away in a 4-H summer camp at Leath Memorial Library.
“Right now, they’re working on a tote bag,” said Valerie Lunceford, who teaches the class.
A mostly finished model of the bag, displayed on a table by itself, served as inspiration for the girls as they worked with pieces of fabric, pinning the hems and deftly avoiding sticking themselves.
“We cut out our fabric, our inside sheet,” Ella Munn, 9, explained. “Then we cut out our pockets and we’re designing our bag. We all cut out our favorite sheets and we’re all going to have our own tote bags.”
Lunceford gave a nod to mathematics, saying the group had to carefully measure each of the strips for the handles of their bags to four inches wide by 20 inches long.
“We do this during the Summer Fun program every year,” she said. “There was a time these things were taught in schools, but they don’t do it as much now.”
Sewing camper Delani Reep said she has attended several other Summer Fun camps this year.
“I went to Leader in Training and 4-H Congress in Raleigh,” Reep said. “I was supposed to go to Washington but I didn’t want to do that one. They’re going next week. And I went to Farm to Fork camp, it’s like a ‘Chopped’ challenge. And we went to The Berry Patch and the grain-fed beef farm in Montgomery County. We also stopped by the farmer’s market.”
Lunceford said different week-long camps are offered during the summer months.
“Part are at Millstone this week, camping,” she said. “Another part are at science camp this week, and part are here. And in August, the goat, cattle and sheep shows start.”
There are 10 to 12 regional shows, Lunceford explained, to narrow the competition for events later in the fall.
“There are different circuits across the state,” she said. “People in the western part of the state don’t have to come over here to compete, and we don’t have to go over there. We used to be called southeast, but now we’re south central.”
“You have to do five to get placed in the circuit,” Reep added. “And you compete so your animals go to the state fair.
Addison Massey, 11, and her cousin Nicole Brown, 12, decided to attend the sewing camp together.
“I found out from Addison,” Brown said. “My grandma sews. My mom will sew sometimes if she has to sew something that ripped.”
Massey has attended the sewing classes before, according to Lunceford.
“At the first one I remember, we made an apron,” Massey said. “I actually made an apron, and I still have it. I still use that apron.”
Best friends Jasmen Williams and Jaleah Leak, both 11, were registered for the class by one of Williams’ relatives.
“Her cousin signed her up for it,” Leak said. “Then her cousin signed me up for it, too. I always wanted to be a fashion designer, but now it’s between that and a cardiologist. Growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor.”
Williams also has aspirations to break into the fashion industry.
“I like fashion and clothes and I want to make something of my own,” she said. “I want to design my own line of clothes. For me, it’s between that, and being an author and illustrator. At home I write my own stories, and I’m a good artist. I’ve made like four books.”
Savannah Hinson, also 11, said she comes from a family where sewing is far from being a forgotten art.
“I like to sew and have sewn before,” she said. “My momma makes quilts. I made a quilt. I think if someone is interested, they should do it. It’s fun. It can keep you occupied.”
For information on upcoming 4-H camps and activities, visit http://richmond.ces.ncsu.edu online or call the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Office in Rockingham at 910-997-8255.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.