Project Runway campers in Largo sew and show

Project Runway came to Largo last week. Not the TV show, but a weeklong Largo Community Center specialty camp designed to interest kids in sewing. The 10 campers, limited by the number of sewing machines, learned sewing basics at Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts store, 2500 66th St., St. Petersburg. The girls, ages 8 to 17, created nightwear over four three-hour sessions that culminated Friday with modeling their pajamas in the Sweet Dreams fashion show. "Our staff came up with the idea," said Joan Byrne, director of Largo's Recreation, Parks and Arts Departments. "We've had a wonderful response to all our specialty camps this year."

A $76 camp fee covered the class, sewing supplies and the 35 yards of material used by the girls. Project Runway campers learned to sew or honed skills creating pajama pants, embellishing tops and sewing pillowcases. Some even designed bags to carry all their nightwear in.

Campers also decorated Largo Community Center for their fashion show.

Stuffed animal centerpieces anchored blue, yellow and white balloons. Pastel-colored pillows lined the stage. Balloon columns flanked either side. Girls chose their background music, ranging from Britney Spears and Lady Gaga to Evanescence.

And while Heidi Klum and the judges were nowhere to be seen, families applauded from both sides of the catwalk.

Craig Dolan, 27, Largo Community Center program supervisor, emceed the festivities, describing each girl's fashion, favorite color, food and movie.

"I enjoyed doing it," said Dolan, whose runway experience included a high school fashion show. "The kids were great."

Designers' personalities and talents shined in the pajamas that ranged from multicolored polka-dotted pants to shorts with purple roses. Tops shimmered with embellishments of geometrical shapes, butterflies and puff paint creations.

Jewel Jones, 10, of Largo took the camp as a refresher.

"I already knew how to sew," she said. "I learned when I was 6."

Nicole Catalano, 12, of Belleair spied the specialty camp in a brochure. "I got interested in sewing a year ago, so Project Runway sounded like fun and it was," she said.

Alaina Porter, 12, and her sister, Lindsey, 9, both of Clearwater, were reluctant.

"I didn't think I'd make friends, but I made a lot," Alaina said. "It was more fun than I thought."

True to its namesake, Project Runway had drama. "My favorite part was Cassy throwing her pants in the trash," Lindsey said, with a smile.

Giggles filled the room.

Cassy Heathcote, 11, of Pinellas Park grinned.

"It was the end of our second day and I threw some things away," she said. "Miss Joyce called me over and asked why I threw my pants away. She'd pulled them out for me. I didn't know I'd done it."

Highland Recreational specialist Kinsit Cooley, 35, praised the sewing teacher, Joyce Tremain of Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts.

"Joyce prepicked fabrics and let the girls choose from various patterns," Cooley said. "She was patient, answered each question and helped when threads tangled into bird's nests."

Lindsey Albright, 12, of Pinellas Park had a great week: "Project Runway was fun and a good experience."

And for most campers a new one.

While a few knew how to sew — one said her grandmother taught her — most did not.

"I have a master's degree in math, but can't sew," said Alison Gonzalez, 41, of Madeira Beach, whose 9-year-old learned to sew this week. "For my daughter, Madi, this was the perfect camp."

Project Runway campers in Largo sew and show 07/21/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 5:09pm]

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