DADE CITY — For skilled seamstress and Cox Elementary teacher Rebecca Wooten, boredom is the mother of invention.
"As a child, I would go to my grandmother's house after school," said Wooten, a Dade City native. "Sometimes I'd get bored and start driving my grandma crazy, so she taught me to sew."
This casual hobby soon evolved into an art form for young Rebecca, who also sought tutelage from her mother, Tammy Wooten.
"I always loved creating things," she said.
After first picking up a knitting needle as a third-grader, Wooten began to sew everything from aprons to dresses. And in her first year as a fourth-grade teacher at Cox Elementary, she frequently wears hand-sewn dresses to work.
"The kids know I make my own clothes," said Wooten, a graduate of Saint Leo University. "And a number of them have asked if I can teach them to sew."
In response to these requests, Wooten started the first sewing club at R.B. Cox Elementary. Sew Cute 4-H @ Cox is an after-school club composed of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. Started in conjunction with Jean Hink, a Pasco County 4-H extension agent, it is an official 4-H club as well as a school-based organization. The club meets after school on Mondays and Wednesdays.
"They get so excited about the projects," Wooten said.
More than 40 students turned out for the club's first meeting, creating and sewing fabric bookmarks. Club members are crafting handmade hair scrunchies that can double as bracelets. Each student is asked to make at least two items for each project: one to keep and one to donate for Sew Cute fundraisers, which will generate money for club supplies.
"We're making things like scrunchies and bookmarks that we can use in school," said Emely Rosas, an 8-year-old third-grader and club member.
"And we make money for our club with the things we make," said Cassandra Greene, a 10-year-old fifth-grader and veteran seamstress who is honing her skills in the Sew Cute club. "I also like to sew at home, and I made a dress for my grandma."
Other Sew Cute members are newcomers to sewing.
"I joined this club because I wanted to learn how to make dresses and clothes," said Gabriela Gonzalez, a 9-year-old fourth-grader.
"I just like to learn new stuff," said Kasandra Montes, an 11-year-old fifth-grader.
The students learn everything from hand stitching to machine sewing. They learn common words associated with the craft and are encouraged to be creative and inventive.
In the future, Wooten says, the Sew Cute club will create aprons, stuffed pillows and gingerbread people for the holiday season. They will also collaborate on a quilt for a 4-H project.
Some members have additional plans, too.
"I want to be a designer someday," said Alondra Montes, a 9-year-old fourth-grader.