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Old School Learning Returns
Magnolia Elementary student Lily Kendig watches attentively as instructor Annette Kimball shows her how to embroider properly as part of an ASPIRE program after school. - photo by Kim Van Meter/The Leader

What’s old has become new again in the ASPIRE after school program at Magnolia Elementary School. With most home economics classes having fallen victim to long-ago budget cuts, the after school program is offering a new generation of students the opportunity to learn the basics of sewing.

Magnolia’s ASPIRE after school program supervisor Annette Kimball said that program leader II Linda Blattler has a background in sewing and suggested teaching sewing as an enrichment class. To get the sewing machines, Kimball wrote a grant request to the Oakdale Educational Foundation and received funding to purchase five sewing machines.

“We wouldn’t have been able to get them if they hadn’t funded it,” she said of the OEF grant.

Kimball added that the after school program staff had been trying to come up with a new program to interest the older girls because many of them have been involved in the after school program for several years. She said that this class provides them with skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives that they can apply toward hobbies or homemaking.

The enrichment class started up in March and meets once a week; however, it’s now being opened up as one of the free choice classes on Fridays. There are about 10 fifth and sixth grade girls who attend the class regularly but the sewing class isn’t just for girls, it’s also open to boys. Kimball said that in the past, boys have participated in some other enrichment projects that included crocheting; however, right now, she said that the boys in the program are more interested in the concurrently running rocketry class.

Blattler’s sewing students have already completed their first hand-stitching project, which was a small bag with a ribbon on it for potpourri.

Kimball noted that most, if not all, of the students are learning to sew for the first time in the class. They’re learning how to thread a needle, knotting the thread, threading the sewing machine, and sewing in a straight line.

Blattler added that they started with hand stitching but they’re also learning how to cut out a pattern, and learning basic embroidery as well.

“I really like the sewing class because I do other things out of school and this is something else I can do… It’s an opportunity to fill my free time with something different,” said fifth grader Jenny Reeves.

She noted that she didn’t know how to sew until she began taking the enrichment class and she plans to put her new skills to good use.

“I’m going to try to do more activities with it, like try to make presents for people and stuff,” Reeves said.

Now that they’re working on the machines, and there are several students in the class, Blattler said that five girls work at the sewing machines while the others do embroidery work, then they switch. The current project they’re working on is a laundry/tote style bag with a drawstring and also a pocket. Transfer patterns were ironed onto the pockets and the girls are embroidering the pocket in cross stitch style because it’s easier than a regular stitch, she added. Then when they’re done with the embroidery, they’ll either sew on the pocket or adhere it with a special product that uses the iron to fuse it to the fabric.

Kimball and Blattler, as well as other community members, have donated the fabric, needles, and other necessities for the sewing projects.