Sewing is a family affair for the Dicksons. What began as a hobby for LeeAnn Dickson has been passed down to her three daughters, who are now busily preparing for the Douglas County Fair, which begins Aug. 1.
“I grew up as a 4-H member, and my mom grew up as a 4-H member, so I guess my kids would be the third generation of 4-H’ers in our family,” Dickson said. “I am really supportive of the program because it provides our kids with a lot of educational and leadership opportunities. It’s not just the farm kids anymore.”
The 4-H organization has seen many changes during the past several years, including the addition of programs that allow members to work with computers and technology. But traditional endeavors remain important. In fact, the sewing competition, which may have once been viewed as old-fashioned, is making a comeback in the 4-H community, said Margaret Kalb, executive secretary for the Douglas County Fair board.
Seventy-five items had already been pre-entered for judging, she said, an increase of about 25 percent from the same time last year.
“Maybe just with the economy, people are teaching their youngsters to sew more,” she said.
Kalb also attributed some of the renewed interest to a new division of judging called Sew ’N’ Go, which allows participants to be more creative.
“These Sew ’N’ Go projects could be a Halloween costume or a costume for a school play or if a girl wanted to make her own prom dress,” Kalb said. “Maybe they’re not perfect, but they’re judged more on whether it fits you and whether it fits the occasion.”
Mariah Dickson, 15, said dresses are her specialty. The one she’s working on for the upcoming competition is blue and white and still needs a bit more work.
“Whenever I go to school for a big volleyball tournament or we have to wear dresses for soccer, I usually wear one of the dresses I made and everyone says: ‘Oh, I can’t believe you made that!’” she said. “It’s a lot of fun hearing that.”
LeeAnn Dickson said the fair helped get her kids interested in sewing. But 4-H is more than that.
“They’ve learned how hard it is to meet a deadline and complete a project, and then they see the reward, depending on the quality of work they did,” Dickson said. “4-H has really provided them with a lot of life skills that will help them out beyond just sewing. My kids are starting to get to the point where they’re interested in things beyond the fair. It’s not about the ribbon anymore; it’s about what you get out of the programs.”