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Stitches in time: 4-H agent teaching children to quilt, sew

January 22nd, 2014 11:28 pm by Nick Shepherd

Stitches in time: 4-H agent teaching children to quilt, sew

Vickie Clark teaches students how to cut fabric to make a border for their quilt. David Grace.

Quilting is an art, and for some, that art is being lost. 

But in Sullivan County, one 4-H extension agent is passing along the art of quilting, and sewing, to a new generation. 

Vickie Clark, Sullivan County 4-H extension agent, received a  three-year grant two years ago from the University of Tennessee to start offering quilting classes to children.

“We have lost a whole generation of sewers,” Clark said. “Every year I have mothers asking me to teach their daughters and sons how to sew and quilt.”

So Clark applied for a grant to help sponsor a quilting class. 

The first year, classes were offered after school one day a week over a six-week period. 

Students learned how to make precise seams, safely use a rotary, square up  blocks,  make borders and bind the outside edges of a quilt. 

Things changed a little during this year’s class. Classes took place over four days during the student’s fall break. The curriculum mostly stayed the same, with a few tweaks here or there, Clark said. 

Clark has had some experience with sewing. She graduated with a degree in textiles and has been teaching children how to sew for 12 years.

“I’ve always loved teaching kids,” she said. “Every summer, I teach kids how to sew. It’s really fun for me to teach.”

Clark feels the reason quilting has suffered over the years is because of the introduction of ready made clothes. She also said it is less cost effective today for people to make their own clothes. 

But she said quilting is an art form, especially the intricate patterns that the more skilled can pull off. She also said knowing how to sew would allow kids to repair their own clothes or customize them by making their own alterations.  

She said like anything else, practice is needed to become really good at quilting.

 This year is the last year of the grant, and Clark will be offering a quilting class at the 4-H summer camp this year. Even though the grant will be over, the classes will probably continue. 

Clark hopes that the class will be self-sustaining, and she believes they have a curriculum already in place. 

The most surprising thing to Clark has been how the students have reacted to the classes. 

“It has been so fun and the students absolutely love it,” she said. “I’m amazed because I really work them hard. All of them have taken to it like a duck to water.”

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