Photo by Laini Reynolds
The sewing teacher, Janel Cates, was drawn to sewing at a young age. When she was younger, Cates, her mother and grandmother bonded over the hours they spent working on their creations, which in turn sparked her love for being able to design and make her own clothing and accessories. This has lasted through her life and into her career teaching it.
Cates is the passionate– yet quiet – sewing teacher here. She has taught at East for five years and has been in the district for over 30.
One of her favorite parts about her sewing class? No experience is required.
“We start from the very basics,” Cates said. “I just assume you don’t know anything about sewing and we start from there.”
Students will learn how to thread needles, avoiding the hassle of poking themselves repeatedly while trying to make the little thread go through. They will learn to work the machines and avoid grinch-like situations, careful to not sew anything but the clothing. Students will also discover how to measure out correct amounts of fabric so that one sleeve isn’t twice the size of the other.
Throughout the semester, students have several projects spanning over several weeks where they get to pick what they would like to sew and try out the techniques they’ve learned.
“We learn a ton of new sewing techniques at the beginning of the semester so now it’s just applying them,” sophomore Liza Sanborn said. “We have four of five projects that we individually get to pick for this semester.”
Sanborn is spending her time in sewing class on her 1960’s cape project, which resembles a poncho, she selected for herself and is excited to try making some fitted high waisted pants. Sanborn is also excited to try a technique she learned this semester, pleating, which is often found in tennis skirts.
Cates favorite project early this semester has been the red dress. Students demonstrated their creativity through designing and sewing their own small scale red dresses in honor of heart disease awareness month. You can see these in the display case on the fourth floor by the counselor’s office.
“They were given all the same fabric and seeing how each student took it was great,” said Cates. “Each student had an original idea which they created on their own.”
Students weren’t aware of the crucial skills they possessed used in order to complete the red dress project. They had the design and drawing skills needed, but Cates was excited to watch the students discover that they could design, as well as sew, an original piece of clothing by themselves.
But sewing doesn’t just help with drawing and designing skills. Piecing together bits of fabric so they fit, and measuring out the correct quantities adds an aspect of math to the sewing class curriculum.
“Sewing really helps with geometry,” said Cates. “It’s all about shapes and fractions when they move pieces around till they fit. Students will come back maybe having struggled with them before but now grasping [geometry and fractions] better. ”
Sewing students looking to the further their knowledge and experience on the subject were able to enroll in a new course for next year: advanced sewing.
Cates is planning to incorporate more designing tools into her new class and further share her knowledge on something she so passionately loves.