Teaching Sewing At Bishop Gibbons

Me, Nehemiah, and Jazz in the Sewing room in Sue’s art room.   Photos by Jon Katz

It was good to be back in Sue Silverstein’s art room. It’s been a while since we’ve been there.  So many delays kept us away including covid which was taking a tour of the school when the students first came back in September.

I filled up the back of the car with boxes that people had sent us weeks ago.  Some had fabric and yarn others with broken bits of old jewelry and metal.

I was stunned walking down the staircase and through the cinderblock hallway to Sue’s room.  The walls had come alive.  Paper mache pumpkins popped off the painted walls. Dreamcatchers hung in the stairway as if to make safe passage.

But I didn’t get to see much more of what was going on.

As soon as I got into the room Hser Nay and I started talking.  It was good to see her even though she couldn’t stay long.  She’s working on making a denim skirt without a pattern.  She had some measurements and is hoping for the best.

I wanted to work with her, but we didn’t have enough time.  I’m hoping I can show her what to do next on her skirt when we go back in a couple of weeks.

Nehemiah and Jazz getting started.

As soon as Hser Nay left, Jazz and Nehemiah showed up.  I was just about to set up one of the new sewing machines that were donated to the class when Nehemiah asked me if I could teach him to sew.

Jazz had a little experience on the machine but said she preferred sewing by hand.

First thing I did was teach both Nehemiah and Jazz how to wind a bobbin and thread the machine.  They both picked it up pretty quickly, helping each other when one of them forgot a step.

It didn’t take either of them long to get bored practicing sewing a straight line.  Even Nehemiah, who had never sewn before, was eager to make a pillow.

The thread on Nehemiah’s machine broke a few times so he got some practice threading the machine.  That was good because Sue said she was counting on them to rethread the machines and wind bobbins when they ran out of thread.

Jazz made a little purple pillow.  She was going to hand stitch the opening but decided on using the machine instead.  “Hand stitching takes too long,” she said. “Now I want my own sewing machine.”

Another student came in and wanted to learn how to sew as I was leaving.  I didn’t get his name, but I got him started on practicing and asked Jazz and Nehemiah if they would help him.  Nehemiah was sewing up the opening in his pillow when I left.

I can’t wait to go back again.

Some of the students want to learn to sew clothes, but they don’t have any patterns.  Jon got a couple of patterns with money that people have donated, but if any of you sewers out there have clothes patterns for women that you’re not using anymore, Sue could use them in her class.  You can send them directly to her at Bishop Gibbons Art Program, 2600 Albany Street, Schenectady, N.Y. 12304.

Showing Nemahmiah how to pin the opening in his pillow.

2 thoughts on “Teaching Sewing At Bishop Gibbons

  1. Maria, are there home economics/sewing classes taught in the school? I am not a sewer, but teaching these students how to sew seems like a great life skill & one that for some of them could become an income producing stream as well.

    Barring that, would you be interested in getting some books on sewing, mending, pattern making? I’d be willing to buy a few if you think that would help.

    1. Ardene, there aren’t any home ec classes in the school. But we are getting some patterns that students can use. So that will be helpful. And someone just sent me a book on patternmaking so now they have that too! Thanks for your thoughts!

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