Olivia Brown of Gilbert

Olivia Brown’s classmates use art or music to express their creative sides. But 14-year-old Olivia is taking it one stitch at a time: She sews.

The Gilbert girl is one of three young ladies from the Valley who have entered and won sewing competitions at the Arizona State Fair. Collectively, Olivia, 12-year-old Grace Hensel of Peoria and Stephanie Rudolfo, a 16-year-old who lives in Waddell, have been entering for more than 10 years. They have won 50 ribbons.

They will compete once again this year at the Arizona State Fair, which features a fashion show at 2 p.m. Oct. 29. For more information, visit azstatefair.com/participate/compete.

“I’m not athletic at all,” Olivia said with a laugh. “I’m more of an artistic, creative person. Then sewing came along and I found that it was really fun.

“I enjoy designing clothes and making my own things. I’ve learned a lot.”

Olivia has been competing since she was 9, according to her mom, Carole. She learned how to sew through group lessons and quickly showed an interest in it. A ninth-grade student at Perry High School in Gilbert, Olivia then moved over to private lessons with a former Chandler Unified School District teacher.

“It’s nice that she can sew,” Carole said of her daughter. “She has done projects for me. Her biggest time constraint is school. She tends to sew more over the breaks.”

During those times, Olivia has created many outfits for herself, including jackets, pairs of pants, a cape and her eighth grade formal dress. She creates outfits that are more difficult than the last because she likes to learn.

“Like in the last dress I made, I put beads on it,” she said. “That was something I’ve never done before. I made a cape to go with it. I made the entire thing. The cape was reversible.”

Sewing is going strong among adults 30 and older, according to Darren Mulqueen of Mulqueen Sewing Centers in Mesa. However, he sees very few youngsters in his store. He and his family are trying their best to see that kids enjoy the hobby as well.

“We had a post that a girl was sewing and she was 10,” Mulqueen said about a social media post. “We quickly posted on their site that we have a gift card waiting for her to purchase fabric.

“Anytime we see something with a young sewer, we try to encourage them. We have young sewer discounts on machines. We try to encourage them.”

A frequent participant in contests sponsored by Arizona Make It with Wool, Olivia said she can’t wear everything that she makes.

“We live in Arizona,” she said. “I can only wear so much of that. I do wear most of the stuff, though.

“I wore my dress to my first formal. I have more casual clothes. This upcoming winter I can wear my Chanel-style jacket.”

Sewing is good for her soul, she added.

“It’s a confidence booster,” said Olivia, who plays piano and is in the STEM scholar program at Perry. “It makes me feel proud about what I’ve made. It’s fun to go on the Arizona State Fair stage and model my clothes, and show other people what I’ve made.”

– Contact Christina Fuoco-Karasinski at 480-898-5612 or christina@timespublications.com.

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