New service provider connects kids to the art of sewing

New service provider connects kids to the art of sewing

February 15, 2024

Bernadine Sapp’s background in the mental health sector helps her appreciate how much her students gain from her sewing lessons. Throughout weeks-long courses, she has seen kids start expressing themselves more with their clothes and being more creative —discovering their Indigenous cultural identity.

“As a mental health worker, I really want to reach people, to talk to them and share, because I think there’s a chance that people can use my work for their mental health and to connect with their culture,” she says.

At her organization, Brave Girl Quilts, Bernadine offers courses that help revitalize the tradition of sewing, including ribbon workshops, regalia-making and beading classes. She became a registered Creative Kids service provider in 2023, and says her experience with the program has been wonderful.

“The kids that I hope to reach include those from the inner city and those from low income families,” Bernadine says. “To help them improve their mental health along with their sewing skills is a gift. Sewing is not only a good skill to have — it’s also a way for kids to express themselves. So, thank you to Creative Kids for supporting kids in this way.”

For Bernadine, it’s important to give all kids access to learning how to sew because itcomes with so many more benefits than one might think. She learned this firsthand years ago, when she first took up the craft, motivated by her daughter’s request for a Jingle Dress for dancing powwow. How much the learning transformed her was a welcome surprise.

“I realized that this [sewing] is such a powerful tool that can be used to work with people in mental health,” she says. “After a couple years, I noticed I had become much kinder, and nicer. It was just the consequence of how intentionally I was thinking when sewing and making the things I was making.”

While sewing her first Jingle Dress, Bernadine of ten thought of her grandmother, a quilter, and how she was always sewing star blankets at the kitchen table when she was growing up. Bernadine imagines that working on sewing projects must have been a great source of self-care for her grandmother — and many others, especially back when more people practiced traditional crafts.

“In my culture, we believe that when you create something, you put all of your good energy into it, and you think good thoughts for that person. You smile and you pray,” she says. “There’s no room for negative thoughts — if that happens, you stop.”

Since starting to teach and founding Brave Girl Quilts, Bernadine has seen time and time again that learning a new craft or connecting to their culture through creative projects can be empowering for people of all ages. She hopes that her teaching will continue to give others the gift she got by learning how to sew — a space to slow down and discover her unique creativity.

“Creativity can empower people to have confidence in themselves — and that’s when people start to be able to express themselves for who they truly are,” she says.

Read more impact stories from the Progress Report

Bernadine teaches kids to connect to their culture through the tradition of sewing.