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A new class in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward is bringing back the art of sewing
A new class in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward is bringing back the art of sewing.
Jessie Lingenfelter, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By Jessie Lingenfelter, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune on August 16, 2013 at 4:06 PM, updated August 19, 2013 at 4:27 PM
We like to say that we are not babysitting, we are feeding their brains. Carolina Gallop
If a zipper pops, a seam rips, or the hem of a dress is a bit too long, most folks head to a pricey seamstress and often wait longer than a week for a repair that could easily be fixed at home. However, New Orleans fashion designer and seamstress Carolina Gallop said the art of sewing is a concept that is now foreign to most young adults and children. That is why she is offering an entry level Sit & Sew Class at the All Souls Episcopal Church and Community Center in the Lower 9th Ward to benefit the center’s Scholar Success Tutoring Program.
“By the mid-1970s, sewing education had already been dropped from many school curriculums. American women were entering the workforce in large numbers, no longer having the time to sew or to teach their daughters the sewing arts,” Gallop said. “New Orleans is a cultural place with a new wave of artists and a unique way of doing things, so a lot of people want to learn how to sew to do projects but there aren’t that many classes available.”
The goal of the Sit & Sew class is to teach teenagers, women and men how to construct a garment, but also has an underlying focus on stimulating an interest in sewing activities for young people to keep them off the streets. The weekly class only costs $10 and will provide students with instructions on hand stitching, basic sewing, shortcut techniques and tips on how to use their sewing machines.
Nicole Blair, who participated in the summer Sit & Sew class, has wanted to learn how to sew since she was 19 but found her previous learning attempts too frustrating and unsuccessful.
“In our class there were only about three people that had any previous experience sewing, but with Carolina’s patience and enthusiasm all of us came out knowing how to sew,” Blair said. “I have always been interested in fashion and costume construction, but when I took lessons years ago my instructor basically told me to give up and go to a seamstress. Now, at 46, I look forward to being able to enhance my clothing and make costumes like I have always wanted.”
Another student, Heidi Klee, had learned how to sew from her grandmother and mother but wanted to take Sit & Sew classes to advance her knowledge of the sewing machine.
“This is a life skill that Carolina is teaching to the women of New Orleans, one that is marketable and could potentially lead to a career,: Klee said. "It is a great skill to have because even just knowing the basics can save you a lot of money on clothing repairs.” “In New Orleans, with the natural costuming traditions that exist in the city like the Mardi Gras Indians, it fosters creativity and gives you a greater appreciation of sewing.”
Gallop, who is the administrative assistant at All Souls Episcopal Church and Community Center, had the idea for the sewing program when she began exploring ways to raise money for the center's Scholar Success Tutoring Program last year.
“Diamond, one of my younger students in the tutoring program, overheard me talking about sewing one day and begged to join the class, which was usually reserved for older people, so we decided to open the Sit & Sew class to younger students,” Gallop said. “Plus one hundred percent of the proceeds go to All Soul’s tutoring program so it allows more students to participate in that.”
The Scholar Success Tutoring Program is offered four nights of the week and open to Lower Ninth’s children who need to be brought up to grade level in reading comprehension, mathematics, and writing/verbal skills.
“The tutoring program keeps these children out of trouble and out of the streets while exposing them to new ideas and activities, like ceramics, tennis, music and sewing, for example," Gallop said. "We always try to keep their parents involved as much as possible too. We like to say that we are not babysitting, we are feeding their brains.”
The proceeds from Sit & Sew will go towards transportation for the children from their schools to the tutoring program, classroom materials and software, and the dinner that is provided for them nightly.
Gallop siad she is pleased with the success of the Sit & Sew class, but hopes to continue its growth, which is solely funded by donations, and is in search of volunteers to help teach and inspire her students. Anyone interested in volunteering to assist in the sewing classes or tutoring program may contact Gallop at 504.931.7779 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Tutoring is in full swing. Please call the church office at 504-218-8995 for more information or stop by the church anytime Monday through Thursday between the hours of 9am and 5pm.
Lower Ninth Ward Success Tutoring
Session I 3:00-6:00 - Tutoring
5:00 - Dinner
The success of our children is greatly influenced by the support of their parents, guardians, and the community. We encourage you to volunteer your time to help make a difference.