By Megan Reece
The Berthoud Recorder
Jan Gurnsey is starting her 21st year as a 4-H leader, but her role in the program continues to evolve. Gurnsey teaches beginning sewing and beginning quilting to 4-H participants and helps them to prepare their annual fair projects.
She started with 4-H when her son was young. At first she taught first aid. Since then she has played the role as organizational leader. Once her son grew up, she became less involved at the club level, but still wanted to give back so she decided to help keep an old art alive and teach the children to sew. When one sewing participant asked to learn about quilting, Gurnsey decided to give it a try. “It’s in the development phase,” she said.
She has evolved the quilting class to include several techniques so participants can pick their favorite for their own quilts. Gurnsey knows a bit about quilting herself, but also brings books to her classes so the kids have enough opportunity to learn new styles.
Gurnsey described a few of the techniques the 4-Hers will learn. They will learn appliqué, sandwiching, paper piecing and several other techniques over six Saturdays. Some of the techniques are more advanced and require exact placement of paper and fabric, but Gurnsey wants to introduce the participants to as many techniques as possible, and then it will be “up to them to hone their technique.” After learning the basics about several techniques, the participants can choose one on which to focus for their annual 4-H projects.
Gurnsey believes that 4-H helps kids to develop life skills from which they can greatly benefit. Children learn to set goals, follow through on promises, complete projects and present and defend their work. Finishing a big project for the fair also helps participants to appreciate money, as they have to prepare a financial report and a story to accompany their projects.
By getting kids interested in sewing and quilting, “we can keep those skills alive,” said Gurnsey Fewer people know how to sew – much less quilt – than they did half a century ago, and losing that art is something Gurnsey wants to help prevent. When parents watch their kids learning how to sew and quilt, they start to get interested as well, and that is a rewarding aspect for her.
She typically teaches her beginning sewing and beginning quilting classes once a year, most often in the first three months so that the participants can have enough time to develop their projects before fair time. “Procrastination is a long word,” Gurnsey says with a laugh.
The 4-Hers and Gurnsey meet at the 4-H building at The Ranch in Loveland, a vast improvement she noted. She used to go to a participant’s house and teach several children at once. Now she and the participants have space to spread out their materials and compartmentalize their work. Right now, her classes run on Saturdays. Quilting goes from 9 a.m. to noon and sewing goes from 1 to 3 p.m.