05/24/2012 10:38 EDT | Updated 07/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Sew cool: Youth threading needles, picking patterns as sewing makes a comeback

TORONTO - There's a pretty floral dress Holly Rueter can't wait to wear this summer. The A-line frock is one of many in her closet but it's extra special because the 15-year-old made it herself.

From picking the fabric to stitching the frills, Rueter is among a growing number of young Canadians who are threading needles and cutting patterns as sewing comes back into style.

"I love designing clothing, so being able to make something that I envision is really great, said Rueter, whose close friends have now started sewing as well.

"A lot of people at school think it’s really cool that I sew ... It's made me more patient, more creative."

Rueter first got familiar with the activity two years ago at Sew Be It Studio, a Toronto operation which runs a summer camp and year-round classes geared specifically toward young sewers.

With its relaxed atmosphere and fresh approach to youth fashion, the company has given the activity an image far different than the brand of sewing associated with grandmas and great aunts.

"We made it cool again, we gave it edge, we gave it fun. They love being here, they love learning," said studio co-owner Lindsey Wise. "There’s a huge trend right now toward people learning to sew."

A lot of the young people who take sewing lessons are either interested in fashion before they pick up a needle or quickly become style mavens after they do, added Wise.

There's plenty of room for individuality to shine through too.

After learning the basics, those who stick with sewing progress to classes where they do everything from pick the colour of their thread to the cut of a skirt to make their creations entirely their own.

"They would rather sew it, make it and adorn it than go out and buy it," Wise said. "It's the pride they feel and because it's something they've made, it fits them, it fits their personality."

Angela Kelly, who runs the Little Button Sewing Studio in Edmonton sees the same enthusiasm in her young students.

"Their favourite thing is when they wear it or use it, they get a lot of comments from it,” she said. "It's also something they can do all by themselves."

Kelly has seen youth demand for her sewing classes grow in just the past year. The summer camps her studio offers have filled up fast and her student base has doubled.

Part of the interest is driven by the popularity of designer-based reality television shows like Project Runway, said Kelly, where contestants have to conceptualize and create their own garments — an activity her own students can eventually try their hands at.

"TV has totally pushed for sewing and designing," she said. "I have a lot of students that are applying for fashion schools."

In addition to getting their creative juices flowing, sewing also helps students gain a degree of independence, said Heidi de Mesa, who runs the Spools and Bobbins sewing school near Halifax.

"I'm not controlling what they're doing. They're very independent and responsible for what they're making," she said.

Students in her classes learn how to buy their own material, figure out how to calculate measurements for their designs and even practice ironing their final creations, all while enjoying the social interaction that comes with learning the activity in a group setting.

There’s also a sustainability aspect to the whole activity as sewing encourages the recycling of garments.

"It may seem simple, but these are life skills," said de Mesa. "Everyone works at their own pace. There's no competition, there's no rushing and it needs to be an enjoyable thing...I think it's having a comeback."