July 7, 2016
Eleven-year-old Na’keon bit his lip and furrowed his brow in concentration as he leaned over the sewing machine, carefully guiding the fabric through with his hands.
When he finished, he snipped the thread, turned his project right side out and immediately got a huge grin on his face. “That’s very cool,” he said as he took his first look at his finished football-themed pajama pants. “This was a lot of fun.”
That was the goal of 16-year-old Ellie Guyader, who recently provided a sewing class for some of the students in YWCA Central Alabama’s Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL) program. “I love to sew,” she said. “It’s fun to teach people a life skill that I think we’re losing now. The kids pick it up really quickly.”
Ellie, a rising junior at The Altamont School, provided the class for the students who live in area homeless shelters and transitional housing as part of her Miree Project. The school’s upperclassmen create and implement a project to serve a need in the greater Birmingham community. She hopes the project, Pass the Thread, will be a regular occurrence for the boys and girls at the YW.
That would make 9-year-old Nia very happy. The soon-to-be fourth-grader has been hand sewing clothes for her dolls under her grandmother’s tutelage, but she had never gotten to use a sewing machine. “My aunt has a sewing machine and I always watch her doing it, but I haven’t asked her if I could learn to work it yet,” she said. “Now I don’t have to because I learned here!”
Ellie brought 10 sewing machines and a group of friends and volunteers who helped each student learn the basics, select the fabric, cut the pattern and sew a pair of pajama pants. Byanca Underwood, coordinator of the YW’s summer program, was amazed as she watched the project unfold. “I’m so grateful our kids got to have this opportunity,” she said. “A lot of schools have Pajama Day, and our kids will be able to wear the pajamas they made with their very own hands.”
Nia, for one, can’t wait to show off her handiwork. “I can’t wait to show my grandmother,” she said. “I think she’ll say, ‘Wow! Who made that?’ And I’ll tell her, ‘I did!’”
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