The Joy of Sewing: Summer Sewing Camps

The Joy of Sewing

Six awesome aspects of the {YEL!} Project Runway Summer Camp

It’s summer time.  Time for rest, relaxation and summer camps.  {YEL!} offers our Project Runway Sewing Camp with new projects each year.  Students with no experience up to intermediate experience can learn, create, sew and wear home their own swim suit coverupear bud case and mini messenger bag.

{YEL!} sat down with the authors and editors of the Project Runway curriculum, Tammy Severtson and Krista Weaver.  They spoke about sewing glowingly and the many reasons they have a joy of sewing.  To start, sewing is a skill that has historically been passed on from one generation to the next.  After a brief hiccup, sewing is making a comeback.  Here are six reasons we believe sewing is awesome for young seamstresses and tailors.

1. Do it yourself

2. Sewing Circles

3. Bonding across generations

4. Self-discipline

5. Stewardship

6. Showcase

Bonus: (What’s Next)

Do it yourself

Creativity is at the core of that “I did it myself” feel and there are studies to prove it.  Author Dan Ariely in the second chapter of his book Payoff discusses a study where novice “builders” of origami projects valued their project more than “buyers” who were asked how much they would pay for the project.  The study continued by having the “builders” build their origami with fewer and fewer directions.  In the last phase of the study, critical steps in the “builders” instructions were removed.  After building with less instruction, the “builders” valued their projects more than five times higher than “buyers” valued the same project.  The more you do yourself, the more creativity you invest, the more you value what you’ve made.

Sewing is the same.  I was at dinner one night with the family and I saw a fourth grade girl from my chess class.  I said “Hi.” and asked her how her summer was going.  She mentioned she had just finished the Project Runway sewing camp.  She then stood up to show me the dress she had just completed that morning.  Beaming with pride, she “showed off” her dress in front of my family, her family and any customer that happened to be looking.

Do you have a similar experience?  Perhaps you still have the pot holder you made in seventh grade.  Or, when visiting your mom, you still glance to see if she has the mini pottery bowl you made in fourth grade.  Personally, I have a mosaic art piece from third grade that I’ve taken with me everywhere I have lived for the last 40 years.  I have yet to outgrow that thing.

Make it your own

In addition to making projects with our guided instructions, accelerated sewers have opportunities to make their project their own by: adding a pocket or two, adding decorative buttons, finishing the hem with a unique addition.  What will they come up with this year?

Sewing Circles

In the age of text messages that truncate and “acronize” our language, where a Snap Chat that disappears in 10 seconds is the norm, how refreshing is it to see young ladies measuring, cutting, sewing and TALKING without even a glance or concern about their phone?  We call it “sit…sew…chit…chat.”

Tammy and Krista both reported that the Project Runway classes they have taught and observed have built camaraderie among the participants.  Krista recalls a class where none of the girls knew each other at the beginning of the summer camp, but by the end they were all friends, sharing in each other’s accomplishments and creativity.

Bonding across generations

What was old is now new again.  Perhaps you remember your mom or grandma going to the quilter’s club at their local VFW.  Maybe you’ve been to a church bazaar where generations of women sit together around a quilt that heralds the return of a war hero from Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.  There is something about sewing that connects us across generations.

Tammy, a baby boomer, said that she started sewing with her aunt and mom at a young age.  Tammy took a 30 year hiatus from sewing.  She had started a family and didn’t have time that sewing projects require.  She still mended seams and repaired buttons, but larger projects became a lost art.  When Tammy started crafting the Project Runway curriculum, she thought back to the last project she made.  A summer dress.  She wondered if she still had the skills and the desire to make these projects.  She wondered if kids would be interested in making their own dresses.  Six years later, the curriculum Tammy has crafted has created somewhere around 2,500 dresses.

Krista, a milennial, learned to sew from her mom and grandma.  Krista still brings projects to her grandma and her grandma “swells with pride” each time Krista brings something new to her.  Like the chess student mentioned above, Krista still gets a sense of accomplishment and joy when she “shows off” her projects to her grandma and mom.


Controlling the foot pedal while feeding the fabric across the bed of the machine; being careful to keep your fingers well away from the needle; following instructions; measuring, cutting, pinning and sewing to make the dress to spec; even the basic task of threading a needle, all of this requires self-discipline and patience.  Our instructors will guide, instruct and encourage students, but it is up to each student to construct their projects.

Things of quality take time to create.  Taking time requires patience and self-discipline.  Don’t cut corners by…cutting corners.  Students can learn that by staying focused, being patient and following instructions they could leave class sporting a fashionable summer show-piece in no time!


Taking care of what you are given is an important aspect of stewardship and the reduce, reuse, recycle philosophy.  Fixing a button, mending a worn pair of socks, patching up a pair of jeans or taking that pair of jeans and up-cycling it into a backpack…these are just a few examples of how we can take care of what we’ve been given and reduce waste in our society.

A stitch in time saves nine

Now that young sewers have the beginning skills to mend minor tears, this might be a good time to teach them the value of being proactive.  Fix it now or you’ll have to spend more time and thread to fix it later.  Is your button loose or do you have a small tear in your favorite shirt?  Patch it, today.  You have the skills.  Go get ’em, tiger!

Showcase it!

The last day of the {YEL!} Project Runway sewing camp ends with the Project Runway Showcase.  Parents, family and friends are invited to see the projects their child created throughout the week.  Children can showcase their projects while walking the runway…and they love it…even if it makes them nervous.

Krista has had dozens of reticent girls in her classes. Nervous about the crowd, nervous about what people will say about their project and apprehensive about walking the runway.  Krista says that with the support of their Runway friends and visiting family, each one of those nervous girls has loved the showcase and left exhilarated by the experience.

What’s Next?

The most common question from parents at the end of the Project Runway sewing camp is “What’s next?”  Your child has learned the basics and completed some awesome projects.

  1. I’d say the first step is to let them show off their projects in public.  Be proud of what they have learned.
  2. Look into buying a sewing machine.  The sewing machines we use in class are Brother LS2125i.  This is a very good introductory sewing machine.
  3. Check out local sewing shops for classes.  You’ve invested time and treasure into getting the basics down.  If you are ready for the next level, check out local shops for classes and ideas.
  4. After you get the machine, check out Pinterest for ideas.  It is replete with patterns, ideas and instructions.
  5. Head to Goodwill or grab some old, tattered apparel and look for opportunities to up cycle them.
  6. Start your own in-home sewing studio.  Maybe start small with a project for mom and child to work on.  Invite grandma or aunty over and watch the group grow from there.
  7. Design your own garments and give them a try.  Remember Dan Ariely‘s study referenced above?
  8. Look into future {YEL!} Project Runway summer camps.  We’ll have new projects next year!
  9. Have a great summer! And don’t forget to check out our other blogs, including “How to plan and choose summer camps.”