I was doing some sewing for a young friend one evening recently. She asked me how long I had been doing sewing. I responded, “Since I was 9 years old.” Suddenly I realized just how long ago that was.
Yes it was a long time ago, but it is a skill that I have never been sorry to have learned. I was about 9 when I first tried my hand at sewing. My mom and my older sisters all knew how to do that, and I was eager to learn myself. My first attempt I don’t really remember—as I said, it was a long time ago. But I do remember when I was 10, I joined the local 4-H club, the Busy Bees.
I took sewing that first year in 4-H, and there were two things that I had to attempt to make. The first was a square scarf. The scarf had to be a specific size, and I was to sew a line around all four sides of the scarf at a specific distance from the edge of the material. The idea was to sew as straight a line as you possibly could. Simple, right? It may seem so, but I recall at the age of 10, how hard I worked to make the line perfect and how proud I was when I had finished. Then, I was to pull the threads making up the fabric to the line of stitching. This created a fringe around the scarf. It was beautiful, or at least it was to my young eyes.
The second project required was to make a skirt. My skirt was made out of seersucker; some of you will know what that is. I loved that pink seersucker — I thought it was beautiful. The skirt was very simple, two seams down the sides and then a casing around the top to slide elastic through. I recall sewing part of the skirt when my mom was out helping my dad on the farm. I also recall that she wasn’t too happy that I had done it without her supervision. She warned me about getting my fingers in the sewing machine needle and checked my work to see if I had done an acceptable job. I thought it was the best thing I had ever seen. I can’t remember what I need when I go to the store, but I do remember that skirt. Even today, if I sit down at my sewing machine, I hear my mother’s voice warning me about keeping my fingers out of the way of that needle.
Four-H ... do you know what that stands for? In my day as well as now, it represents head, heart, hands and health — the 4-Hs you see.
“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, by hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world.” The 4-H pledge, simple and straightforward, good words to live by.
I spent many years in the local Busy Bees 4-H club. My mom eventually became one of the leaders. I learned a lot through those years. I made more complicated sewing projects every year; I took numerous baking projects, knitting, photography, meal planning (which included proper table setting), public speaking and many more. There were 4-H meetings, 4-H Fairs, demonstrations, style shows and “Share the Fun” nights. Some of the skills I learned are now rather old fashioned, but some of them, like the sewing and the baking, I still use today. I don’t make clothes very often now, although I do a lot of hemming for both my height-challenged self and my only slightly taller daughter. I make curtains for my home and occasionally for others. And, I still enjoy doing it even though I don’t like to count the number of years since I was 9 and first wanted to learn what my mom and sisters knew how to do.
That 4-H club helped make me who I am today. I made many friends and learned so much. I thank the 4-H club for providing me with skills I have carried with me throughout my life. I haven’t visited the local 4-H Fair for many years. I think I need to do that this year. I will put it on my “to do in my retirement” list.
Being a member of that club is such a wonderful memory for me. If you have memories of being in 4-H, maybe we met at the fair or at a meeting, who knows? If you have memories of those years, I hope you remember them as fondly as I.
Nita Wyatt of Wyanet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.