15 July, 2004
MAHWAH , N.J. ñ More than 150 years ago the pioneer women and girls in Oregon wouldn't go outside without first putting on their distinctive bonnets (think "Little House On The Prairie").
Using sewing machines donated by Janome America, students at Sojourner School in Milwaukie, Oregon have been able to construct and try on their own pioneer bonnets as part of a series of activities focusing on what life was like for the early settlers. Sojourner School is located five miles down the Willamette River from the official end of the Oregon Trail in Oregon City.
The majority of pioneer women had never used a sewing machine (and it would have been much too heavy to bring west) and it was the same for most of the two dozen girls in teacher Liz Wong's classroom who wanted to make their own pioneer bonnets.
"Most of these kids had never sewn a stitch before," said Wong. "The Janome machines were very easy for them to use." With additional help from a parent, who uses Janome machines in her home business, a group of girls chose their own fabric and constructed their bonnets from a simple pattern. The activity was purely elective, but when other girls saw how much fun it was, they wanted to make bonnets too.
"And then," said Wong, "the boys wanted to make something. We couldn't have them wearing bonnets, so they built simple models of covered wagons and sewed canopies to go over the top."
Sojourner is a charter school founded on the principle that children benefit from academic "cross-training." Studies have shown that when a child learns a musical instrument, his math scores go up, so every child at Sojourner plays the violin. According to this theory, sewing is an ideal activity for a child because it involves creative planning, mathematical measurement, fine motor skills, and team cooperation (especially if you have to share a sewing machine).
A recent study conducted by the Home Sewing Association showed that children who engage in activities like sewing demonstrate increases in creativity, while those playing hand-held computer games or watching television do not.
Janome America is the largest subsidiary of Janome Sewing Machine Company of Tokyo, which produces more than one million sewing machines annually as well as a line of related sewing products and embroidery software. It is a category leader in innovation, and Janome sewing machines are recognized throughout the industry for their ease-of-use and unsurpassed stitch quality.