Vail Valley kids learn independence through sewing |

Vail Valley kids learn independence through sewing

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyCorey Hanrahan, 14 knits a hat Thursday during the "Life Skills" class at Berry Creek Middle School.

EDWARDS, Colorado ” The knitting circle makes perfect sense for a middle school.

The students grab their looms and yarn, gather around a couple large tables, and talk. They talk about movies, television, other students, who likes who, whatever. But their hands keep knitting.

They’re knitting hats, to be exact. One is bright red, another is pink, another is purple, another is a bright, psychedelic spectrum that would make a snowboarder proud.

The repetitive act of pulling and looping yarn has become a tightly honed skill they perhaps didn’t expect to have. Their hands keep at it like machines while they talk with each other.

“Once you start, you just go around and around and around,” said Torey Hanrahan, an eighth grader.

By this point, most of these students have already finished their first hat and have started on a second. One of each of the hats the students make will go to the Shaw Cancer Center, and the other they’ll keep. Some of the students are working on tiny, baby-sized hats that they’ll donate to the Women’s Resource Center.

This is all a day’s work in Christine Lundholm’s Life Skill’s Management Class at Berry Creek Middle School. This is the first year for the class.

“These are skills that they’re going to take into their young adult life ” they’re learning to be independent,” Lundholm said.

Students learn a little bit of everything in the class. Some kids are sewing cloth grocery bags that will replace the dozens of plastic ones their parents use at the supermarket.

Marisa Trujillo is sewing a blue blanket, which has a large picture of an angel and some children.

Earlier this year, students from all Lundholm’s classes cooked a made-from-scratch meal for the teachers in the school ” food like chicken alfredo, Caesar salad, spaghetti and meatballs, kabobs and pineapple upside down cake.

In the next couple weeks, Lundholm said she’ll start teaching them how to make healthy snacks and sweets. Another class is learning to plant their own herbs, which they’ll eventually use in the cafeteria kitchen. Basil and parsley are already in pots and growing.

All this ” sewing, knitting, cooking, healthy eating ” are the kind of skills many kids don’t naturally learn themselves, and as they get older, become people who aren’t so good at caring for themselves.

By learning to cook and sew, the students are not only learning independence, but also resourcefulness ” how to use what’s around you, and how to be frugal, Lundholm said.

In other words, Instead of going to McDonalds or having a frozen dinner, cook for yourself; instead of buying new jeans, hem your old ones.

This sort of practical, hands on learning is actually helping struggling students do better in other classes, Lundholm said.

“They work on their projects in here, they have to use problem solving skills, they see they can do it, and they take that confidence into other classes,” Lundholm said.

At the beginning of the term, when the knitting and sewing started, some of the boys in her classes asked Lundholm, “Can you close the door? I don’t want anyone to see me.”

That’s changed now, she said. The boys are some of the fastest workers in all of her classes, and have come around to admitting, it’s pretty fun. Many end up asking to take their work home with them. Chuy Martinez, 13, recently finished three hats over a weekend, Lundholm said.

“They get instant results ” they get to see something they’ve made,” Lundholm said.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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