By Jill Webb
Fourteen years ago Melissa Stasi-Thomas was a Girl Scout troop leader who would teach her scouts how to sew. Now, she’s putting on weekly fashion shows as the owner of Little Miss Sew It All.
Little Miss Sew It All is a sewing studio located in The Shoppes at East Wind in Wading River. The studio focuses on teaching sewing to children and young adults, with no experience necessary, and offers assistance to those within a range of skill levels.
Erin DeBianco who was searching for a creative outlet for her daughter Skylar, 5 at the time, stumbled across Little Miss Sew It All and had no idea how it would effect her daughter’s life.
“It really opens their minds for creativity purposes, but it also really is teaching a skill that they can carry with them,” DeBianco said of what the studio has done for Skylar, now 9. “She developed a love for sewing, and even had a mini sewing studio installed in her bedroom.”
Skylar takes the lessons she’s learned at Little Miss Sew It All into the classroom, too.
“She had an old skirt that didn’t fit her anymore, and she had a recycling project to do for school, and she made the skirt into a pocketbook,” DeBianco said. “She added the straps, and sewed the bottom shut so it would hold something. Her mind is working like that now because she goes to Little Miss Sew It All. They teach them how to repurpose things and change what doesn’t fit you into something else.”
Stasi-Thomas has come a long way with sewing. After another troop leader asked if she could teach her girls, she went troop to troop teaching the scouts how to sew pajama bottoms. Then, one girl raised her hand and asked her “what else can I make?”
That question inspired her to start a sewing class on her dining room table. At first, it was just six fifth-graders.
“I stayed on my dining room table for eight years,” Stasi-Thomas said. She opened up the shop, originally located in East Moriches, eight years ago. In October 2016, she closed her East Moriches studio to dedicate her time to her new location in Wading River.
The youth classes, called SEW U, operate in four-week sessions for an hour and a half. Beginner’s classes are broken into instruction basics on machine and hand sewing procedures, along with project construction. Experienced students will introduce design and skill drill instruction into their class. There is also an adult program, All Sewn Up, which offers basic instruction on sewing to adults.
Stasi-Thomas also added open sewing hours to her studio, called Stop-N-Sew, allowing participants to stop in and do projects ranging from $15 to $20. They are available everyday over the summer from 12 to 6 p.m. excluding Fridays.
Fridays are when she and the girls have a little fun. Project Funway, for children ages 6 to 16, offers a chance for participants to not only design and sew their own outfits, but model them in their own fashion shows.
“We were sewing for so many years and the kids were making such fantastic things and the only people who ever really saw it was [when] they went home and brought it to their parents,” Stasi-Thomas said.
This is her eighth year of Project Funway, and the theme is Bohemian RapSewDy.
The camp starts with an introduction to the theme and explanation of what to create.
“This year, I told them that they are going down the runway barefoot with flower headbands,” she said. “They get that image in their head.”
The students are given choices of which ensemble they will construct: a romper, dress or halter-top with harem pants. Experienced students have more leeway to alter the ensemble choices. On the second day, Stasi-Thomas runs through machine safety and operation. The next three days are dedicated to garment construction, and leads to a photo shoot and fashion show.
“It’s much like you see on Project Runway, sometimes there’s just fabric flying,” Stasi-Thomas said comparing her classes to the popular Bravo and Lifetime reality show competition.
Everything at Little Miss Sew It All revolves around the student’s vision.
“They make suggestions on whether things should be longer or shorter or tighter. … Pick the blue instead of the pink,” she said. “It’s great to just sit and watch what they’re doing.”
At the July 28 fashion show, best friends Katherine McCann, 12, of Moriches and Gwen Posanti, 12, of Shirley, walked down the runway in their newly-created ensembles. Gwen, who is in her sixth year at the studio, said she loves the program.
“It’s a great way to express yourself, because you get to make your own outfit and then you get to show it to a crowd,” she said. “It just feels so nice to have everybody cheering for you.”
Lorraine Mathes, of Holbrook, has been sending her daughter to Little Miss Sew It All for two years.
“Miss Melissa makes the whole program,” she said. “She’s amazing with the kids.”
One of the best parts of the studio, according to Stasi-Thomas, is watching the growth of her students over the years, providing them with a skill that can last a lifetime.
“It’s the working with your hands — I just feel is important for everybody,” she said. “Even if you’re going to go into the computer field, you have to kind of grasp your ability to create something.”