Jerilyn's Sewing School celebrates 10 years with red carpet event

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Jerilyn’s Sewing School has long since grown out of its original location in owner Jerilyn Perry’s basement of her Cranston home, and last month when Perry and her students celebrated 10 years in business, it was with a Hollywood-worthy red carpet event.

The school’s 10th annual fashion show had a formal “Red Carpet Runway” theme this year, pulling out all the stops. Held in the Cranston High School West auditorium, the annual event had a pre-show gathering in the foyer which included a photo booth backdrop and roaming paparazzi as guests enjoyed an array of hors devours. The red carpet runway was on stage with lights dazzling and music highlighting each student who showed off their handmade wares, from bags and pillowcases to clothing for both boys and girls, and costumes for both Halloween and local theater productions.

Many students who participated in the fashion show have been with Perry for many years, and oftentimes, a photo from their earlier years' projects was shown behind them as they walked the runway with their latest creations in the spotlight.

The school has grown from just handful of students in its first year to almost 100 in its tenth, and each year it has grown from the last. In the last few years, Perry has welcomed a growing staff of several teachers, some of whom started out as her students in earlier years.

Perry greeted the audience in a formal gown she sewed herself, with Lady Gaga’s “Applause” ushering her in as she made her grand entrance down the red carpet. She thanked everyone for coming and she spoke of her pride in reaching such a major milestone.

“This is the 10th annual fashion show, and who would’ve thought that ten years ago I started in my basement, and here we are ten years later on a Broadway set,” she said. “When you hit a milestone like 10 years, you tend to reflect. I was going through some pictures and there are some people I taught way back when, whose names I don’t remember, which is sad, but that’s what happens. You have kids who come, they learn to use the machines, and they make their first drawstring bag and they don’t come back. But then, you have others and they come back year after year after year, and it’s because they love it and they want to learn how to create and they want to learn new techniques and you’re going to get to see some of that, which I’m really excited about.”

She spoke about a conversation she had with one of her sons, who had recently asked her why she does what she does, and she shared her answer with the audience.

“I think it’s because in order to have independent children, they need to know how to cook and clean and be able to sew a button on or fix a seam or a hem,” she said. “They need to learn how to sew, so it’s good to learn the basics, but then you get these other kids who come and once they learn the basics they feel this sense of accomplishment when they create things and it’s a whole new world beyond computers and video games and it’s non-competitive, you only compete against yourself. You always want to do things a little bit better each time.”

Perry takes pride in her ongoing commitment to helping others, with all students taking part in a mid-year service project that changes from year to year. To that end, the annual fashion show does not charge admission, but asks that guests bring in a donation of non-perishable foods or a monetary donation for the RI Food Bank. This year’s donations totaled $300 in cash and garnered 15 boxes of food for the food bank.

With the milestone fashion show behind her, Perry is now focused on summer classes and registration for her fall semester. The sewing school has recently expanded again, doubling its space and offering even more opportunities for students to learn what she considers to be an important, life-long skill. For more information about Jerilyn’s Sewing School, visit the website at www.jerilynssewingschool.com.

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