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Figgys turns out new generation of kids that can sew

by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Shelley Figueroa is teaching the younger generation how to sew. Here she imparts some wisdom to an eager Kendall Coyne.To say that Shelly Figueroa fills a gap is a big understatement.

As the crunch of cost cuts forces schools to do away with home economics programs, where are kids going to learn how to sew and make clothes? The place in Lake Oswego is Figgy’s Studio.

“I thought, ‘I will be home ec’,” Figueroa said. “I want to teach what schools are no longer teaching. I grabbed the reins and took over in Lake Oswego.”

She is making a heck of an effort at her home studio on Laurel Street. Figueroa has 214 students enrolled, and the numbers are really starting to rise — not only girls, but their moms who never learned to sew and even some boys who think Figueroa’s sewing machines are quite cool. Things are going so well that Figueroa will soon be seeking a bank loan so she can set up a new sewing school.

“I’m running out of space,” Figueroa said. “Mothers are signing up. So are kids from West Linn and Wilsonville. I have daytime classes now and give demonstrations on Saturdays. I’ve got $4,000 in online donations.”

Figueroa figures her timing is great because with the fading away of home ec programs the current generation of mothers is clueless when it comes to sewing. But their daughters are eager to learn about it.

“Eleven seasons of Project Runway (a cable TV show on Lifetime) have opened their eyes,” Figueroa said. “They want to know the whole process. Now kids are mending clothes for their mothers.”

Figueroa is the right woman at the right time, because as a little girl growing up in Ohio her mother was a talented seamstress who had lots of time and endless patience in teaching her little daughter how to make clothes. The walls of Figueroa’s room were covered with blue ribbons she won in 4-H competitions for her beautiful shawls and frilly dresses.

It was not until she became a mother herself, however, that Figueroa became a clothing designer.

“I wrote a book and in the process I learned more than I had ever learned before in my career,” she said.

Her first business venture as a clothes designer was Figgy’s Patterns, which she started five years ago, but after she and her family moved to Lake Oswego four years ago she became inspired to do more.

“There is so much that can be gained through learning how to sew,” Figueroa said. “Hand-eye coordination, math skills, creativity, patience. This world is so ‘now.’ People want instant gratification. Learning to sew makes you slow down, which is a great lesson for kids. They can gain a great sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.”

Now, Figueroa is ready for her next big step.

“It’s time to fill one of those empty spaces downtown,” she said. “I hope the community sees that I can be a good business.”

For more about Shelly Figueroa, go to figgyspatterns.com.

Along with her business, Figueroa has started a foundation called Figgy’s Kids, to which people can donate handmade items, fabric or notions. This foundations provides handmade clothing for NW Children’s Outreach. The foundation can be found on the Internet at gofundme.com/18fn58.



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