SALEM, Ore. – More than 40 youth from 4-H sewing clubs around the state will show off their fashion creations on the main stage of the Oregon State Fair on Aug. 30.
Participants in the event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., earned the right to the spotlight after taking home top honors at county competitions this summer.
Kyra Forester, a 17-year-old graduate of West Albany High School, will be one of those on the stage, making it her third year at the state fair. At the Benton County Fashion Review this summer, she went home with the champion award for her ready-to-wear outfit and was judge’s choice for the black wool, fully-lined jacket she spent 40 hours making.
Forester joined a 4-H sewing club nine years ago. After college she wants to work for the 4-H youth development program, which is run by Oregon State University's Extension Service.
“I fell in love with 4-H way back when I started in sewing,” she said. “It made me the person I am. I’ve become a leader. I know how to work with people of varying groups and backgrounds. I have a general knowledge of how life works because of 4-H.”
Jake Nordyke is another 4-H'er who will take the stage in Salem. He has been in a 4-H sewing club for three years. At the Benton County contest this year, he won judge’s choice for his meticulously matched, button-up plaid shirt, which qualified him for the state fair.
“I chose something hard,” said the 14-year-old. “I didn’t have enough fabric on the placket (button opening). I made a mistake on the first one and had to make another. That takes a lot of patience. And you have to know measurements and fractions.”
Joining Jake at the state fair will be Callie Horning, 13, who likes the challenge of sewing and competing. At the Benton County Fair, she won a reserve champion award in ready to wear and judge’s choice for her dress with zipper, darts and difficult-to-sew striped jersey fabric.
“Oh, there were lots of hard parts,” she said. “I had to redo things, but things are not always going to go the way you want. In the end, it was worth it.”
Confidence-building is a big part of the 4-H fashion show experience, said Betty Collins, the coordinator for the show in Benton County and a 4-H leader for 11 years.
“Sewing and then modeling a garment seems so far out of the box to them,” Collins said, “but when they accomplish it, they think, ‘Oh, I can do that, so I can do anything.’ It’s a great lesson for life.”
During the show in Corvallis, 42 kids answered questions and strode across the stage for judges Megan Collins and Olivia Echols, both graduates of OSU's apparel design program and now employees at Nike. While participants modeled, others read descriptions the students wrote about their garments entered in two categories: sewn or otherwise constructed outfits, and ready-to-wear ensembles put together for less than $25.
Hannah Hicks, 10, who modeled her pajama pants decorated with monkeys, developed persistence as she moved through her 4-H project.
“I learned that you have to sew in a straight line or else you have to take it all out,” she said. “I had to do that a few times.”
Sewing clubs are just one aspect of the 4-H program, which reached more than 94,000 youths in Oregon via a network of 10,410 volunteers in the 2013-14 school year, said its statewide leader, Pamela Rose. Activities focus on areas like healthy living, civic engagement and science. Clubs teach students everything from how to train horses to how to make robots out of Legos.