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Hicks: Purpose in the Pedal

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Every 4-H’er has a story – an encouraging, empowering story, unique story. Here is a story of just one of our outstanding members, Penelope Deterding. Penelope has been buying chicken feed and chasing pigs around for ears, but running the pedal on a sewing machine isn’t as familiar.

Penelope displays her basic 9-patch quilt.

The Hopkins County 4-H Sewing Fun Day, held every year, provided an introduction to the 4-H Fashion & Interior Design project. Participating in that particular event was simply a way to try something new for Penelope, but in 2020, it evolved into the unveiling of raw talent with a purpose that extends beyond our country’s borders.

Penelope’s Fence Rail quilt top was completed during the 4-H Sewing Fun Day

The 2020 4-H Sewing Fun Day, “Quilts Across the County” (pre-COVID), I challenged each participant to complete two or more quilt blocks to make a pillow, lap quilt, or something larger. Not only did Penelope do that, but with the help of volunteers, she created an entire quilt top in one day.

Following that experience, she created a twin sized quilt. She entered her first quilt in the Hopkins County Fall Festival Creative Arts Contest and the 4-H Project Show, winning Best of Show in both contests.

However, blue ribbons aren’t her main focus. To date, she has competed two large quilts and works tirelessly with a group of women at her church who craft together quilts to send to third-world countries. So far, the group has helped families in 44 countries ranging from Greece to Zambia and places in between with handmade quilts.

The Fashion & Interior Design project (and quilting, in particular), has become popular because quilting not only creates a tangible output, but also involved math, design, creativity, cognitive skills, color analysis, and precision. Penelope enjoys this project because it is quite structured, yet allows for creativity in the selection of patterns, colors, and designs.

Penelope’s Fence Rail quilt garnered Best of Show ribbon at the 4-H Project Show and Fall Festival Creative Arts Contest

Penelope will continue to participate in her animal projects, food and nutrition projects, and of course sewing projects during the 2021-2022 4-H year, her last year as a member.

When asked if she has advice for other 4-H’ers, Penelope said, “If you want to try something new, just go for it. If it seems like a daunting task, like ‘I’ve never seen a sewing machine before in my life,’ just listen to what the instructors have to say. If it seems scary, like you press the pedal and it goes way too fats, just put your hands up and take your feet off, and then maybe call for some help. Just try again and you’ll do fine. You’ll get the hang of it!”

Another 4-H member who has really taken to quilting is Lena Reyes, who is currently working on a “Hugs and Kisses” quilt from pastel fabrics. We’re anxious to see her progress!

To learn more about the Family & Community Health 4-H projects in Texas, visit:

Johanna Hicks, B.S., M.Ed.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Family & Community Health Agent
Hopkins County
P.O. Box 518
1200-B W. Houston
Sulphur Springs, TX 75483
[email protected]

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Author: Ross LaBenske

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