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PARENTING : A Class That's on the Cutting Edge : Sharyn Hughes teaches youngsters the art of patience in her popular sewing classes at Northridge store.

October 21, 1994|BRENDA REES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Brenda Rees is a frequent contributor to The Times

It's a most unusual classroom: Tissue paper stands in for textbooks; needle and thread take the place of pen and paper. At House of Fabrics in Northridge, surrounded by bolts of bright fabric, ribbons and bobbins, children of all ages gather to learn an age-old craft--sewing.

"Kids love to sew," says Sharyn Hughes, who has taught at the store for nearly four years. "It's creative, fun, and they end up with something they can actually use."

While Hughes also instructs adults in the art of stitchery, her specialty is working with youngsters, ages 6 to 12. Most are girls, though boys, too, occasionally enroll. Hughes models her lessons on the Simplicity Pattern Co.'s Kids Can Sew program, a method that employs simple, large-scale patterns specially designed for small hands.

Beginning with easy projects, the program introduces new skills at each class. For their opening lesson, students learn to operate a sewing machine using paper instead of cloth. Their first assignment is a basic sewing bag. By the time the class ends 11 weeks later, they have completed 11 projects.

Amy Micaletti, 14, of Granada Hills never gave sewing a second thought, but after her mother persuaded her to sign up for Hughes' program, she discovered she has a natural talent. Since then, in a matter of months, Amy has been making intricate dresses and blouses. "I love doing things with my hands and this comes so easy for me," she says.

Sewing does come naturally to some, but most students need to work at the craft, according to Hughes. "The hardest thing for kids to learn is patience," she says. "They're too anxious to get on the machine right away--they usually don't like cutting and pinning."

Hughes has a flair for inspiring patience in her students, and for generating excitement over each new accomplishment. "Sewing is about building self-esteem," she maintains. "Kids learn not to be afraid of something they don't understand right away."

Five years ago, when Hughes began teaching classes out of her Northridge home, her supportive approach quickly made her a popular teacher. Her classes filled up so fast, she was soon instructing some 40 students a day, and her house became a full-time sewing parlor.

Then her husband noticed that a new fabric store was set to open at a local mall. "He encouraged me to see if I could hold classes there," says Hughes. "It seemed like a perfect fit."

In addition to providing the right atmosphere and a ready supply of materials, House of Fabrics helps Hughes host periodic fashion shows, which give students a chance to model what they have made.

"It's a lot of fun," Hughes says. "We have prizes for everyone--it's not a competition, but a chance to show off."

Kathy Holmes of Granada Hills has watched her daughters, Elizabeth, 10, and Jessica, 12, develop into accomplished seamstresses under Hughes' tutelage. Not only have they taken pride in their new skills, but they have crafted useful garments for themselves and others. Last year, Holmes reports, Jessica made her grandmother a very special gift.

"It was a handmade apron, embroidered and dated. It was the sweetest gift she could give--something she made herself."


What: Kids Can Sew classes.

Location: House of Fabrics, 10151 Reseda Blvd., Northridge.

Hours: Classes are hourly from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year with extended times in the summer months.

Price: $8.50 per class.

Call: (818) 886-0745.

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