INSIDE the spare, gray room, 7-year-old Erin Cameron of Silver Spring is bringing something into being. Under her careful fingers flesh-colored felt, yellow yarn, red pom-pom and bright cloth scrap are changing . . . being transformed into a body, hair, nose and skirt. Finally Erin smooths the cloth assemblage over her hand, adjusts a flounce and -- presto! -- a clown puppet waves.
Erin's magic tools? A needle, thread and gentle guidance from sewing wiz Carol Ahrens, who teaches workshops for 5- to 7-year-olds. Erin chose Ahrens's "My First Sewing Class" from an array of three-hour, one-time weekend workshops and five-day summer classes offered for children and teenagers by G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Centreville and Falls Church. Depending on their age and skill level, kids can try their hand at projects ranging from a simple pillow with four straight seams to a dress and matching jacket, complete with darts, facing, zipper and hem.
On the Sunday I visited, Erin was the sole participant in a workshop that usually accommodates about eight kids. This meant, of course, that she reaped the benefit of Ahrens's undivided attention as she learned how to thread a needle, hand-stitch a seam, create a gathered flounce and tie a knot. "Knots are especially important," Ahrens laughs. "You don't want all your hard work coming apart."
"My First Sewing Class" has proven so popular that Ahrens has had to design approximately 20 projects to ensure new challenges for repeat attendees. Some favorites include a stuffed bear and accompanying outfit, a lace-trimmed potpourri heart and a hand-beaded felt basket. With the projects, Ahrens tries to encourage both creativity and development of different sewing skills. For example, she might supply plain tote bags on which kids can paint a tree and then sew red buttons for apples.
Attendance at G Street workshops has increased dramatically in the last several years, says Mary Goettelmann, director of education. According to Goettelmann, most young participants are self-motivated, but a number have been signed up by their parents. After all, teaching little Jane and Johnny how to sew on a button or stitch up a raveling hem should enhance self-sufficiency and stretch clothing budgets. "Sewing is a wonderful practical and creative outlet that can last a lifetime," says Goettelmann, mentioning the success of "Guy Gear," a boys-only class initiated last year. "Sewing offers an alternative to the group activities usually available to kids. All you need are yourself, a little space and the proper equipment."
AND SEW FORTH
G Street Fabrics is located at the following addresses. In addition to the one-session workshops listed below, all three sites offer numerous five-day classes for children and teens during the summer and occasionally during the fall and spring. Call 301/231-8998 for a catalogue. Supply fees of $3 to $10 may sometimes be added to workshop fees.
The five-day workshops are offered on weekdays and usually run from two to 2 1/2 hours each day. The subjects include introductory and advanced sewing classes, knitting, sewing for boys, and making a quilt or doll's clothes. The fees range from $79 to $98, plus the supply fee.
CENTREVILLE -- Sully Station Shopping Center, 5077 Westfields Blvd., Centreville. 703/818-8090. Advance registration required. Sew Fun (ages 8 to 12): June 19, 2:30 to 5:30 and Aug. 22, 11:15 to 2:15. Fee: $35. Recycle Your Old Jeans (ages 8 and up): June 19, 10:30 to 1:30. Fee: $29. My First Sewing Class (ages 5 to 7): June 20, 11:15 to 2:15 and Aug. 21, 2:30 to 5:30. Fee: $35. Jake the Friendly Snake (ages 5 and up): Aug. 4, 1 to 3. Fee: $35. Pillow-Grams (ages 8 and up): Aug. 5, 1:30 to 4:30. Fee: $35.
FALLS CHURCH - Seven Corners Center, 6250 Seven Corners Center, Falls Church. 703/241-1700. Advance registration required. Only five-day classes offered this summer. Call for details.
ROCKVILLE - Mid-Pike Plaza, 11854 Rockville Pike, Rockville (Metro: White Flint). 301/231-8998. Advance registration required. Sew Fun (ages 8 to 12): July 10, 2:30 to 5:30 and Aug. 15, 11:15 to 2:15. Fee: $35. Moms & Kids Quilt Together (ages 8 and up): Saturday, 10:30 to 2:30. Fee: $39 per parent/child team. My First Sewing Class (ages 5 to 7): June 19, 2:30 to 5:30; July 24, 10:30 to 1:30 and Aug. 22, 3 to 6. Fee: $35. Pillow-Grams (ages 8 and up): July 7, 1:30 to 4:30. Fee: $35. Jake the Friendly Snake (ages 5 and up): July 8, 1:30 to 3:30. Fee: $35. Beginning Polymer Clay for Kids and Parents (ages 5 and up): July 18, 3 to 6. Fee: $39 per parent/child team. Fragrant Heart-Shaped Necklace (ages 10 and up): July 18, 11:15 to 2:15. Fee: $35. Sew for Your 18" Doll (ages 8 and up): Aug. 7, 2:30 to 5:30. Fee: $35.