4-H, bringing it back.

So i’ve talked about 4-h in interviews and i’ve certainly blabbed about it person, but have i really blogged about it?  Have i done it digital justice?  Don’t think so.  So here’s the story:  there are 2 kinds of 4-h, the ‘sheep scramble-my-horse-has-very-large-nuts-don’t-i-make-beautiful-vegetable-dioramas’ kind of 4-h, and then there is the ‘lampshade-making-quilt-sewing-cooking-in-front-of -judges,-clothes-sewing-and-then-modeling-them’ kind of 4-h.  

I did the latter.  

In other words, there is the ‘agriculture’ 4-h and then there is the ‘home environment’ 4-h, and as much as i wish i had also done the former, we Starkes were committed to our ‘home environment’.  

We would sew together, quilt things, decopauge, dry fruit, learn the wonders of yeast and journal about all of the above.  When i was home recently i found my 4-h scrapbook, and i was all ‘hello, documentation of adulthood formation, i’ve been looking for you’.  It all makes sense.  its almost like our childhood informs our entire lives.  huh. how very enlightening.  

  Every summer we would make all these things (clothes, decorated cakes, lampshades, quilts, meatballs) to then be judged at at the county fair (often making it from start to finish in front of judges) and if we really played our cards right and worked our little pre-pubescent behinds off we would be ‘sent to state’ (yep, the state fair) to be judged in front of them.  I did sports, sure, but these kinds of activities have always been much more up my alley.  also the fact that i just wrote ‘i did sports’ tips you off that perhaps they weren’t my thing.

So here you are, 4-h scrapbook part 1:

The first one reads:

This blue ribbon was for the presentation on how to set a table.  I had three different settings:  1 was formal, 1 was casual and 1 was desert setting.  3 dollars.

and the 2nd one:

These were cookies. They were butterscotch cookies with frosting.  I got 3 dollars. 

Did you layer on those table styles, dear young Emily?  I think yes!  And I love how i documented the dollars that my parents rewarded me (note to all parents, bribery totally works.  I was paid 1 cent per minute of piano practice throughout my entire childhood and it totally kept me motivated, and pretty good at it.   i mean there were some days where i would practice an hour, just to make 60 cents….!!!) so we won $3 per blue ribbon, which constituted in about 30 hours of my labor.  In reality, of course, i was more motivated by the idea of making something pretty, but still i don’t think the $3 hurt.  

So here is one of my masterpieces:  i think i was 9 or 10.  and yes, i made this dress and frankly just might wear it again if I still had it. 

Uh huh.  blue ribbon?  i think so, my friends.  That collar didn’t sew itself.  and i’m well aware that i looked like a monkey.  ooh ooh ahh ahh.

  1. Awesomesauce. I was in the sew-dresses-and-model-them-in-the-big-kid's-HS-auditorium kind of 4H too! Only for a year, though, mostly because the leader kept calling me "Casey" which drove me very slowly insane. I wish I had a photo of the dress + vest combo I created. It was fabooosh. Very Liberty-print inspired. And ooooh so 80s. :)
    Loving this blast from the past, thank you!

  2. That…is….amazing. Like, I'm bookmarking this right now to force my future children to do it. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I never learned how to sew. I mean, sure, I can knit like a champion (thanks to my Grammy) but that's not really going to get me far when I need to make a fabulous throw pillow with some fabulous Amy Butler fabric.

    I hope you're planning on posting WAYYY more photos and info from your 4H days. So we can make sure to give our kids the full experience.

  3. those cheeks … too cute! and you still have the same pose too =)

    btw, would love to see pictures of those table settings

  4. Bri

    My husband did the "agricultural" side of 4H (in Myrtle Point no less). I think you had the better end of the bargain. Raising livestock just doesn't sound like that much fun, but sewing and place setting?! Heck yeah!

  5. Mariah

    This is a great post! Like Wiggs above, I hope you will share some more pics and stories of your 4-H days. I was in the horses-gardening-and public speaking competition type of 4-H projects. My husband was a 4-Her as well. Even though we met when we were 30, it was one of the many ways I knew he was the one for me!! We both did the county fair and 4-H summer camp every year. I forgot about the $3 prize money for a blue ribbon until you mentioned it! Now I remember going with my mom to the administrative office at the county fair to pick up prize money checks.

  6. mkuplady

    Blast from the past alright! I grew up in Coquille and did all of the above at the Coos County fair. I have the fondest memories of making and modeling my super awesome black and white button down shirt with coordinating fitted skirt. Accessorized with a red hair scrunchie, red plastic hoop earrings, red socks and white lace up hurraches. Modeling my little booty off and winning a blue ribbon.Sassy!
    Do you remember the Purple Cow? It's was a 4-H ran ice cream stand right as you walked in by the bunny barn. Totally worked there with my 4-h group, Sugar n' Spice (original). The County Fair= ice cream, 4-H friends, the midway, elephant ears, The Zipper, corn dogs. Little kid heaven.

  7. GREAT post. I made aprons for Christmas presents this year and had to evoke the Gods of the Coos County Fair for help. Seriously. I don't think I had made any wearable items since then… But let's be honest – the table setting, modeling, huge bunnies with floppy ears, beaded leather hairclips that ended in feathers, etc. were great and all, but the only reason I went every year was for the scones at the booth where we used to work. The Purple Cow was good, but MAN that honeybutter? Excuse me while look up a fried scone recipe on FoodNetwork.com.

  8. This is so Little House on the Prairie — I LOVE it!

  9. whisterpotpie

    Head Heart Hands and Health! Yay 4-H.

    I am the proud owner of not just a blue ribbon, but a 4-H plaque for my largest sunflower in Tarrant County, Texas. (She still beams with pride.)

    We used to clean the 4-H building on Saturday mornings (after Friday night bingo) for extra money. I can still smell the stale cigarette smoke, see the bingo dobbers and hear the small town gossip.

    My sister and I also did an award winning presentation on how to make a centerpiece out of vegetables:
    LETTUCE eat vegetables to
    SQUASH illness and
    TURNIP with health and happiness!

    If I knew how to post pictures I totally would. Our red gingham shirts and matching aprons rocked.

    p.s. The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo just kicked off this past weekend with the parade of horses. Friends from 4-H now ride with the Stock Show Syndicate (the group that buys the grand champion livestock for crazy amounts of money.) I live in Atlanta now – I rarely get homesick, but that did it for some reason!

  10. Wow, the memories. It's very sad to go back to the Coos County Fair and see the Home Ec building almost completley empty. Last time I was there I think there was 3 sewing projects and about 10 plates of cookies. So sad. I love the pictures!

  11. I'm sad to say that I never got to participate in any of this ridiculously great fun…I did, however, very much enjoy the reminicing and your bravery in posting childhood pictures. (c: I'm pretty sure mine are classified at this point and never to see the light of day (except on a "need-to-know" basis)…good fun!


  12. Oh my this is bringing back memories! I love it. I was also in the 'home environment' type of 4H… winning blue ribbons for my artwork at the Topsfield Fair on the East coast. I am so happy you posted this… whenever I say I did 4H people always think I mean I was milking cows, I'm like "No we made crafts!" Super impressed with that yoke collar by the way.

  13. I am teaching my daughter to sew and she isn't getting into it. I hope as she gets older she will enjoy the creative outlet more. I feel like it is my "duty" as a good mom to teach her! I hope it is worth it…

    I have been sewing and selling skirts on etsy http://www.etsy.com/listing/66305631/colorful-striped-skirt
    hopefully she will see that sewing can make money! That may make all the difference!


  14. Hello Mrs. Henderson,

    I have now recovered from the L.B. FLEA MARKET and am safely back in Phoenix. I wanted to thank you so very much for stopping by the Metis booth. I am sure in that warm heat you were more than eager to push that wood cabinet right out the exit ~ but you stopped anyway. Happiness and bliss.

    I have returned the shoutout favor on my blog (Decor To Adore) today and will continue to cheerlead your new show.

    All the best and be blessed,


    P.S. I just KNEW we were kindred spirits. I made my junior prom dress in the Yuba~Sutter 4~H sewing club! Although my blue ribbon came from a painting I still have to this day.

  15. I have had to make this distinction when describing my 4-H days too, Emily — I settled a few years back on calling it "Suburban 4-H" instead of "Rural 4-H."

    I did make it all the way to the Oregon State Fair one year with my quickbread, and won a very similar-looking blue ribbon. Now I really feel like we're kindred spirits. :)

  16. Emily- Sweet photo and smile! Nice work on the collar!

    I sewed as a kid (even made my kid sisters first day of school dress) and its cool how sewing makes you appreciate form. All those wispy flat pieces of fabric slowly become something substantial and three dimensional.


  17. Love it. I always check out the 4H building at the state fair. My favorites are all the binders the girls put together listing their wardrobe and the cost per wear of each item. I feel kind of deprived that I didn't get to do 4H when I was a kid!

  18. Ali

    Love Sara Grey's comment, I did "suburban" 4-H too! I don't remember the cash money, but I do remember winning blue ribbons for baked goods and homemade clothes. Peach cobbler anyone? I really thought no one else out here in LA was forced to do 4-H and have meetings in people's garages, basements and on makeshift ping pong tables!! When I was 8 I used to sew tiny pillows for Barbie while my mom would take a shower.
    Speaking of sewing, I dropped my vintage Singer sewing machine off to get adjusted, and the place wants almost $200 to tune and clean it, does that seem insane? He charged $40 just to do the estimate when I left it, I figured the tuneup would be like $50 or $60, and now he's got my grandma's machine hostage? Any suggestions?

  19. Hello! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website? I’m getting fed up of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  20. The issue is though. "How do I manage to make the transition Between owning a single family unit to owning and managing apartment units?"

  21. Killers Jen Kornfeldt (Katherine Heigl) screen worn, hero, white metal and plastic fake ‘Chanel’ watch

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