Soon after the 2015 Jackson County Fair ended, Michael Claycamp began thinking about 4-H projects for the next year.
At this year’s fair, the 14-year-old from Cortland will have 18 projects, including swine, sewing and science.
His 11-year-old sister, Grace, is just as busy. She will have 17 projects completed by the time the fair rolls around July 24 through 30.
As busy as the siblings — and many other kids these days — can be throughout the year, it could be difficult to find time to work on projects.
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Luckily, 4-H offers several workshops throughout the summer, giving students a chance to dedicate time to their projects.
The Claycamps are attending the sewing workshops at Seymour High School, offered from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Tuesday this month.
A bonus for the siblings is having their grandmother, Cindy Claycamp, among the adult volunteers helping with the sewing workshop.
“Patterns are supposedly self-explanatory, but they are not,” Cindy said. “It almost takes somebody with experience, and then when you sew for 4-H, there are certain techniques and styles that they like to see accomplished. They have good books that they follow, but it still helps to have grandmas and other experienced people helping.”
Jeanie Schneider, 4-H sewing chairwoman and 4-H council member, has received help from Claycamp and other adults at two workshops this month. Two more sessions remain — this Tuesday and again June 28.
“If I didn’t have the great volunteers that I have, there’s no way we could pull this off,” Schneider said.
The first week, about 25 4-H’ers attended the workshop. That number was down a little this past week because some 4-H’ers completed their projects, received the help they needed or had something else going on.
“Some end up probably going to someone’s house to finish their project if they are not finished at the workshop,” Schneider said. “We try to get as many finished during the workshops as we can.”
Schneider said the workshops used to be conducted at a local sewing store, but it closed.
This year, 4-H received approval from Seymour High School to use its home economics classroom, which is equipped with 15 sewing machines. The volunteers brought sergers for students to use, too.
“Sometimes, girls have never sewn on those before, so we teach them how to sew before we use them, and then we go from there,” Schneider said of sergers.
During the most recent session, Michael Claycamp used a sewing machine and a serger while working on a dress shirt. He’s also making a twin-size quilt.
He said it will take about six hours to complete the shirt, while it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to make a quilt.
Michael has been sewing since he was in third grade.
“I got frustrated at first because I like going fast, and (his grandmother) makes me go slower. I still go too fast sometimes,” he said of working on a sewing project.
He said it’s nice to have the opportunity to attend a workshop, and it’s a plus to have his grandmother close by to help, whether at the workshop or at home.
“We just go to her house because she has a quilt room full of supplies we’ll ever need,” he said.
Grace has been sewing for three years.
“It was hard to learn, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy,” she said.
At first, she said she was a little nervous about using the machines. But with practice over the years, she said, it has become natural.
This year in 4-H, she is making a pajama shirt with matching pants, placemats and a quillow, which is a quilt that folds into a pillow.
She planned to finish the pajamas this past week, and she will go to the other workshops to finish her other projects.
The siblings agreed that sewing is a good skill to have.
“I’ve had pants and stuff tear. Instead of going and buying a whole new pair, I can just fix them up myself,” Michael said. “I have a confirmation suit I got for my cousin this year for confirmation, and the pants were about a foot too long, so I sewed the bottom.”
He said it’s a skill everyone should learn.
“If you lived in the old days, you weren’t allowed to go to a store and buy stuff. You had to make everything,” he said. “I like knowing the fact that I’ve learned something my ancestors liked learning.”
Grace said knowing how to sew allows her to help others, too.
“I like the fact that whenever I get older, I’ll still know something that most people don’t, and I can help share it with other kids,” she said.
Cindy said she has been a seamstress her whole life, and she’s happy to pass that on to her grandchildren.
“At one point, the schools taught sewing in seventh and eighth grade, and they learned how to put on a button and hem a pair of pants,” she said. “Now, that’s not available, so it’s important that somebody picks up that slack and teaches them. 4-H is the opportunity.”
She said she likes being able to help her grandchildren and other 4-H’ers.
“I want them to learn,” she said. “It teaches them patience, it teaches them to be careful, and it teaches them respect of the equipment and supplies. It’s a pleasure.”
Schneider also learned how to sew at a young age. She was in 4-H, and two of her daughters were 10-year 4-H clothing members, so she sees the importance of the organization and all that it offers, including sewing.
“It’s something I love to do, and I look forward to it,” she said of conducting the summer workshops.
Sewing takes a lot of time and dedication, Schneider said.
“Some kids take it for a few years, and then they get really busy with sports, and then they drop their project because when you get into those upper years, it can take a lot of time, depending on what you decide to make,” she said.
It’s rewarding, she said, to see 4-H’ers stick with it and not need too much help with their projects.
One example this year is Nicole Steinkamp, who Schneider has worked with for about 10 years.
“She can read her pattern and follow it, and there she goes,” Schneider said. “That’s what you want. You want to teach them so that it’s a life skill for them because in a way, it’s a lost art, but yet it’s coming back. A lot of people are quilting more than sewing or making clothes, but it’s a life skill for them, and it’s a good life skill to have.”
The goal is to make an item that someone can’t tell you made, Schneider said.
“You want your outfit to look like you bought it someplace,” she said. “The kids feel good when they wear their clothes, and (someone else) is like, ‘Oh, that’s so cute. Where did you get it?,’ and they are like, ‘I made it.’ That gives them another sense of pride, too, when they wear their outfits. That’s really nice. That’s a neat part to see and to see them be so excited when they have their projects finished.”
For those who know how to sew, it’s also an opportunity to make money because they can fix or make something for others who don’t have that skill, Schneider said.
“A little extra cash always is good,” she said.
Jackson County 4-H is offering sewing workshops to give members a chance to work on projects and receive assistance from adult volunteers.
They are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Tuesday in June at Seymour High School (use the bus entrance on the south side of the building off of West Second Street). The remaining sessions are this Tuesday and June 28.
Workshops also have been conducted for cake decorating, photography, electric, memory books and posters.
The 2016 Jackson County Fair is July 24 through 30.
For information about 4-H, call Purdue Extension Jackson County at 812-358-6101.
For information about the fair, visit jacksoncountyfair.org.