Sewing for Juniors: Teaching an art form to children to hold onto tradition

Photo Courtesy of Joanne Moros Piano keyboard (top) showcases one of the junior patterns. The sewing machine playing a record pattern was designed by Joanne Moros. Both patterns can be found at the Portage Quilt House.

In a world where most things are automatic and technology is instant, a quilting program is holding onto long-lost traditions while teaching today’s youth about the importance of making something from scratch.

The Portage Quilt House (PQH) welcomes kids all around the Copper Country to participate in the Row by Row Junior program where they can get a first glance at the meaningful aspects of the sewing field. What started back in 2017 as a way to introduce younger people to the sewing industry has returned with six new patterns that incorporates this year’s theme of “Sew Musical,” according to the Row by Row Junior press release.

The sewing patterns for the program are free for all children and there’s also the Row by Row Experience program for adults who want to participate, said Joanne Moros, owner of PQH. Though it’s Moros’ first year participating in the Row by Row Junior program, she said she’s hopeful young kids will want to get a hands-on learning experience while having something to show off in the end.

“It’s a very visual kind of activity,” Moros said. “You see color, shapes, styles and it’s a gorgeous way of expressing yourself.”

After a junior completes their pattern and brings it back to the shop, they’ll receive a paper merit detailing their accomplishment. There are seven shops in the Upper Peninsula participating in the Row by Row Experience program, with a select few hosting the junior program. Though the junior patterns mostly involve sewing straight lines, adult supervision is recommended, Moros added.

Quilting is not only a fun activity for all ages but it incorporates many different elements of STEM education, Moros continued. When sewing a pattern, it requires using rulers and measuring the length and width of material and understanding how the mechanisms of a sewing machine work. By utilizing simple math, kids can create and learn something too, she said.

“It’s hands on,” she said. “You can see your finished product. You can look at it and touch it, and it won’t go away unless you throw it away [whereas] a lot of the computer things that are generated can be gone in a flash. You can hit the wrong key and never see it again.”

This program also fosters intergenerational relationships, Moros said, explaining that it’s a way to hold onto family traditions by teaching today’s youth of the “carry-over value” of the sewing machine.

With different aspects such as hand and eye coordination, learning how to measure, cut and putting colors together, quilting leaves a lasting impression, Moros noted. Not only is there a technique implied, there’s the aspect of constructing it all together.

Quilting is like “woodwork,” she explained, instead of using power tools to create a finished product, the sewing machine is the power tool. Though Moros has been sewing for years, she said there’s still an “exciting” element to it whether she spends 15 minutes, an hour or four hours working on a project.

“Quilting has always been a warm kind of feeling,” said Moros, “when I get done doing a project, I love seeing the finished product.

“You can hang it on your wall or put it on your bed. You can wear it, give it to someone, make a pillowcase and do all kinds of things in the quilting field. That’s what’s so great about it because you can see something for your time.”

The Row by Row Junior program will end Oct. 31.

The PQH hours are Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Patterns can also be found at the Row by Row Experience’s website along with free tutorials and activities at www.rowbyrowexperience.com.