Q&A with Joi Mahon of the Young Sewers’ Boot Camp

The 20th annual American Sewing Expo is coming up Sept. 27-29, 2013 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. And one of the popular events isn’t for adults – it’s for kids. Designer Joi Mahon, or “Designer Joi,” is back on Saturday, Sept. 28 to teach another Young Sewers’ Boot Camp!

This year, tweens/teens get to make some killer neon-colored dresses out of vibrant T-shirts and lace material. This three-hour class (it goes 1:30-4:30 p.m.) is open to kids ages 10-18 – and it’s topped off by an awesome, fashion-model worthy photo shoot for each child, plus some surprise goodies from Joi, all for just $35. If you want to participate, though, you’d better hurry and register: There’s a max of 25 kids (and, as of Tuesday, Sept. 10, organizers told us it was about two-thirds full – and it’s likely to sell out!). You can learn about the class in the American Sewing Expo brochure (see page 8) – then, visit the official registration page.

Before the big event, Make It had the chance to ask Joi a few questions about this year’s event. Here’s our interview!

Tell us a little bit about the Young Sewers’ Boot Camp.

The Young Sewers Boot Camp is a fun, fashionable sewing event where I can share fashion sewing with the future sewers of tomorrow. Kids love to sew and are eager to learn. They want fashionable projects – not just a potholder or pillow, which are common projects for beginner sewers. Students will bring a colorful T-shirt and refashion it to a popular style they see in stores, combining stretch lace as the bottom of their shirt. This year, we’re solely creating our project on a serger (a souped-up sewing machine that can sew, trim and finish seams in one sweep – among some other cool tricks).

Is prior sewing experience necessary for interested young sewers?

Prior sewing is not a prerequisite; however, many of the kids have at least sewn a seam. We have a good group of assistants this year, and there will be small groups of kids assigned to a helper. The neat thing is that the more experienced kiddos jump in and help the newbies. Why do you think it’s important for children and young adults to learn how to sew? Aside from the fact it’s a life skill, it’s a fantastic creative outlet. So many kids have no way to express themselves. This gives them a sense of achievement, something to work at and sew on. Plus, when you’re an adult, you shouldn’t have to pay someone to do basic things like sew on a button.

How long has the boot camp been taking place at the American Sewing Expo?

I taught my first kids’ class to other kids when I was only 14 and have taught kids and boot camps for more than 20 years now!

Do you think sewing is a lost or underappreciated craft for young adults today?

When I was a teen I would have said “yes,” because sewing was very old school then. To some extent, some teachers and classes are still the old-school unattractive to young adults. However, and that is a big however, sewing is fashionable again and, as a professional fashion designer and educator, I don’t teach boring or old school. Fashion sewing doesn’t have to be eccentric, but it’s colorful and interesting. That’s me and that’s what I teach. That’s who I am and that’s what people aspire to.

What’s your favorite part about the boot camp?

I just love the fact that kids finish a project and we have a blast. Kids are often more fun than adults, because they don’t have the mindset that they know it all or know more then the teacher or have a better way. They just jump in and sew. Even my shy kids open up and have fun.


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