Six-year-old Lily and 7-year-old Leonie stand at a long workbench, threaded needles in their right hands and swaths of cloth in their left. They chitchat while they stitch, perfectly capable of doing both.
It’s all part of the low-tech, highly creative fun at The Handwork Studio in Narberth, where you can find some of the area’s Best Creative Classes for Kids. So popular are Handwork’s programs that owner Laura Kelly now runs 40 summer camps in 10 states, creating a million-dollar business from needle and thread.
Lily discovered Handwork through its summer camp and now attends weekly classes. “I didn’t know at first that I would like it,” she says. “But my mom sewed all of my Barbies’ clothes, so I wanted to try.”
Leonie first came to the studio during a bring-a-friend event. “Now I love it,” she says. “I love it so much that I’m not going to stop sewing even when I’m 100, 200 or 1,000 years old. As long as my hands work, I’ll sew.”
Lily and Leonie don’t like sewing because it’s easy. It’s not. “I poke myself all the time with the needle,” Lily says. “Also, we mess up a lot. But I give the mistake to my teacher, and she undoes it. I try again, and maybe I mess it up, but she keeps fixing it until I get it right.”
While the girls hold forth on the benefits of various stitches and debate the level of pain caused by needle pricks, 9-year-old Ruifang is in the corner knitting. With a wide smile on her face, she click-clacks away with knitting needles almost as big as her head. “She took to it right away,” says her mom, Kerstin Palombaro. “She comes here once a week and hangs out with other kids her age who are into the same thing.”
That’s exactly what Kelly had in mind when she started Handwork in 2001. Back then, classes were held around her kitchen table with a handful of kids, even her own. Quickly, Kelly found that there was a demand for needle-arts instruction, including Project Runway-style classes. “It may seem old-fashioned, but it’s an excellent outlet for kids’ artistic sensibilities,” she says. “We have students who start with us when they’re
6 and keep taking classes until they’re 16.”
The Narberth studio—with its purple walls and fabric-lined shelves—remains Kelly’s home base. Although she has a staff of expert teachers, she stays plugged into her students’ projects. She proudly shows off the work of 16-year-old Nina, who’s sewing her own dress from champagne-cream raw silk and embellished crepe. Nina plans to wear it to her prom at the Agnes Irwin School in April 2017. “It’s a long-term project,”
she says. “But I guarantee no one else will be wearing a dress like this one.”
35 N. Narberth Ave., Narberth, (610) 660-9600.