Girls sharpen sewing, cooking skills

Published: Friday, Feb. 16 2007 12:37 a.m. MST

Ashley Singleton, left, Megan Hart, Lindsey Singleton and Paige Nelson cook at The Finishing School.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

Enlarge photo»

Megan Hart was only 7 when she started learning to sew at The Finishing School.

Now, years later, Hart is still at the school, but her role has changed from student to teacher, and she is passing the art of sewing on to another generation of girls.

"It gives the girls such a sense of satisfaction to make things like pajama pants, shorts, shirts, etc.," she said.

Hart is one of several teachers at The Finishing School, which teaches girls ages 6 to 16 classes in sewing, cooking and life skills. Sue Hess-Fenton, who founded the school, said she has been teaching young girls to sew for more than 25 years.

She started the business to make a little extra money. She wanted to expand the classes she offered, and when a new location at 4880 S. Highland Circle became available, Hess-Fenton took the opportunity to move her business there and fulfill her desire to offer cooking and life skills classes.

The school has around 185 students, but Hess-Fenton would like to double that number. She has a passion for the homemaking skills she says are being lost.

"Girls are being pushed more to have a career and go out and compete, and I think that's important, too, because it's likely they will have to work for at least part of their lives," she said. "I think that (homemaking) skills are being pushed aside from a time factor.... The requirement to take two years of foreign language has almost pushed all homemaking out of schools."

The sewing classes are set up so that the first day girls come, they are put on the sewing machine. One of their first projects is to make a bag to hold their works in progress. After the bag is complete, participants can choose a project, from skirts to bags or even quilts.

Cooking classes, which are geared for boys and girls, teach them about different options. For example, in a lesson about salads, they wouldn't just make a salad, they would be taught about different types of lettuce and options for ingredients.

Hess-Fenton says they try to choose recipes that are easy enough for the skill level of the participants but still something they would enjoy. At Christmastime, they made cheese balls. In January they had a lesson about how to stay healthy and made homemade chicken noodle soup, which the class members loved.

Paige Nelson, another teacher, says the participants feel more grown up after they realize how easy it is to make a nutritious meal.

"When they get it and understand, they feel so adult-like," she said.

Whitney Corbett, 11, Salt Lake City, said she has enjoyed learning how to make new things in the sewing classes. On a recent Wednesday, she was excited to complete a knee-length skirt. "I think my skirt will be my favorite when I finish it," she said. Whitney's friend, Marissa Mariger, 12, also of Salt Lake City, said her favorite sewing project was making a pillow.

"It's been fun because I've never learned how to sew before. It's fun to make things every week," she said. "My mom likes it because she hasn't taught me to do it yet. She likes it when I come home and show her what I've done."

Classes are offered weekdays after school and Saturday mornings. The cost for the sewing class is $48 a month plus supplies and the cooking and life skills class is $65 a month plus supplies.

To learn more about The Finishing School, contact Hess-Fenton at 277-9244 or visit www.thefinishingschoolslc.com.


E-mail: twalquist@desnews.com