Stitch up to sewing success

Michigan 4-H clothing and textiles involves over 3,600 volunteers and youth.

Sewing! Close your eyes and you might have images closer to a museum or historical park than today’s sewing world! Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H clothing and textiles is anything but “old-school.” Last year over 3,600 Michigan 4-H members and volunteers participated in 4-H clothing and textiles experiences. These range from making pillowcases for community service to sewing to designing a garment for a specialized need to making a prom dress or tuxedo.

Today’s 4-H clothing and textiles is all about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). Yes, sewing is about the elements and principles of design and proportion to form, color and shape and so much more. The same elements you would think about in visual art also applies to working in the multi-dimensional world of textiles.

The University of Nebraska published a series of 4-H Youth Development on STEAM clothing. These are excellent resources for your 4-H or afterschool program!

Careers abound for young people who are interested in clothing, textiles, design and business. Television shows like “Project Runway” provide a snapshot of fashion industry. Did you ever think about how someone is creating the specialized clothing for astronauts, medical personnel or for Olympic athletes? While sewing might seem dated, the world of clothing and textiles is fast paced.

Decades ago as a 4-H member, I started out sewing dirndl skirts and aprons. Today’s 4-H members are creating home goods, re-purposing old T-shirts and jeans into something new, designing items for their 4-H Youth Development Entrepreneurship efforts and so much more! These experiences are contributing to their development of life skills.

MSU houses the Michigan 4-H History Project, which contains 4-H clothing and textile items from the span of Michigan 4-H. If you have items you would like to contribute, please check out the Michigan 4-H History Project website for information. The collection includes 4-H dresses and clothing, which their seamstresses in the 1950s were nationally recognized, to simple scarves and aprons. This truly is a time capsule of Michigan 4-H clothing and textiles. Fast forward to 2030. Just think, the next world famous designer or patent owner textile chemist might just be able to say they got their start in Michigan’s 4-H clothing and textiles project!

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