Hayden Levy's big dreams sprang from dressing up her little Barbie dolls.
"I liked making clothes out of paper for them," says the 8-year-old third-grader from Roslyn. "I told my mom I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grow up."
Mom decided to give Hayden a head start.
Jessica Levy signed up her daughter for sewing classes at the new Fashion Class studio in Merrick. "I was going to schlep her into the city to do it," Mom says. "Now I don't have to."
During the fall session, Hayden made a bag from material spotted with black mustaches, a reversible skirt that's blue and black on one side and purple with white polka dots on the other, and a tunic with black-and-white stripes featuring a blue smiley face in the center.
In addition to sewing, the 60- to 90-minute weekly workshops at The Fashion Class include such choices as Illustration, Fashion Branding and Making a Fashion Magazine. The eight- to 10-week sessions for younger kids culminate in a runway fashion show during which students model their own creations for family members and friends; the teen-oriented classes end with a photo shoot that teens can add to their portfolios. The Fashion Class also offers birthday parties and camp sessions during school breaks.
Owner Kerri Quigley is a graduate of Parsons The New School for Design in Manhattan, and she launched The Fashion Class in Brooklyn five years ago. Three years ago, she opened in Manhattan. When she wanted to expand again, she chose Long Island, and opened in October: "I thought there would be girls out here who wanted to do something with sewing and fashion. They get very proud of saying, 'I made this.'"
The sewing room has hardwood floors and inspirational words such as "modern" "posh" and "gorgeous" on the walls. One wall has a bank of 10 sewing machines.
When Hayden is working on a black vest with a blue pocket, she carefully cuts out the pattern and then hunches over the sewing machine as she guides the needle through fabric. "Sewing straight lines is easy. Curves are hard," she says.
On a machine nearby, Merrick fifth-grader Sydney Eisner, 10, works on a royal-blue tube dress. Her first attempt at following the seam is crooked, so she has to rip it out and redo it. Then, her bobbin, which holds the colored thread, runs out. "Oh gosh," she says.
Quigley shows Sydney how to rethread the bobbin using a machine for that purpose. "That is so cool," Sydney says. Sydney says she likes learning how to use the equipment. "Before I came here, I knew how to sew just with a needle and thread," she says. "When I came here, it was kind of tricky because I didn't know what to do. Then we started making things and I got the hang of it."
OOH AND AAH
In front of a full-length mirror, second-grader Hannah Garcia, 7, of Bayside, pulls on a sleeveless pink tube dress over her clothes and spins, sending the skirt flaring out.
"Do you want to add some ribbon straps?" Quigley asks Hannah. She does, and she searches through a bin of ribbon and chooses one with pink flowers.
The studio door has a sign that says "Designers Only: We need our sewing space so please have a seat in the waiting area. This means you, Mom." But parents do get to ooh and aah once the projects are completed.
"Wow, did you just make that?" Jessica Levy says to Hayden when her daughter emerges in her black vest. "Wow. I'm actually sincerely so impressed. You designed it yourself?" Hayden nods.
"That's what I love about this class," Levy continues. "It's brought out a different, creative side. She kind of tapped into an interest she's always had."
Sewing and fashion classes
WHEN | WHERE Weekly at The Fashion Class, 1812 Merrick Rd., Merrick
COST $200 to $360 for eight- to 10-week sessions
INFO 516-246-2000; TheFashionClass.com
Here are other places on Long Island kids can take sewing classes:
Little Miss Sew It All, 78 Montauk Hwy., East Moriches, 631-909-3855, LittleMissSewItAll.com
Donna's Sewing Bee, 367 Lake Ave., St. James, 631-584-2238
Sew Fun!, 225 Main St., Suite 100, Northport, 631-754-2010, SewFunNorthport.com
Sew What's New and Yarn Too, 400 Main St., Islip, 631-277-4215, SewWhatsNew.com
Seams Straight to Me, 16 Leeside Dr., Great River, 631-859-1225
Creative Sewing Center, 580 Old Country Rd., Westbury, 516-997-2702, Sewtime.com