A favorite part about the Charlotte Mini Maker Faire for many is the opportunity to dive in and experience a new skill first hand. This year, the Butler High School Apparel and Textile Program will give attendees of the faire the opportunity to do just that.

Stop by the Charlotte Mini-Maker Faire on Saturday, October 13 to create your own bracelet or necktie out of recycled fabrics and prints, led by students at Butler High School who participate in the Apparel Program. Expect to spend about 15 minutes at their booth, learning from students demonstrating the steps.

“Our students make such a variety of things that it was hard to pick something that we knew people would be able to do at our booth,” said Wendy Potter, a National Board Certified Teacher with Butler High School who teaches Family and Consumer Sciences and Apparel Development. “We make so many different things [in class]. We start out small with pillows and drawstring bags – all those small projects to get them acclimated to using the machinery. Then they always end the course with making a garment. The level one students make pajama pants, and the level two students make a jacket.”

Students in the Butler High School Apparel and Textile Program make garments out of a variety of materials. Photo courtesy of Wendy Potter.

The class is offered as a semester-long experience, so Wendy has the opportunity to show about 240 students a year a taste of what a career in apparel and textiles might look like. “Our program has been going for 20 years, and it’s a strong program. We’ve managed to have never been dissolved due to numbers,” she says. “It is based on a state curriculum, so we do have objectives that we cover, like textile and fashion history, globalization issues, a lot of information, on top of the hands on projects.”

Students in the program also learn how to choose the correct materials for what they’re making, and Wendy says it’s important to take the students on field trips to the fabric store so they get the hands on experience of selecting what they need. The program also relies on materials that either Wendy purchases, or those that are donated by people in the community.

“We wish there were more donations. A lot of times it’s someone cleaning out their closet and they’re like, ‘We’ve got all this fabric,’ and we’re like, ‘We’ll take it,’” says Wendy. To donate materials to the program, reach out to Butler High School for more information.

Outside of the two course levels in the Career and Technical Education track at Butler High School, Wendy also helps lead an extracurricular club called Butler Cotour for students to get more exposure to fabric and textile work.

“We’ve had [Butler Cotour] since 2010 or so. Each year we try to have two community service projects. Last year they went to a competition called Recycle the Runway instead of the project, where schools from all over compete. They completed two fashion designs made with recycled materials. They got the third place prize for one of their designs.”

While not the primary focus of most public education, Wendy believes in the impact industry-specific skills can have on a student not only as they go through their early life, but as they enter the workforce.

“There are a lot of [Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools] that have our program, and it’s one of the district’s best kept secrets. There are 11 or 12 textile education teachers, and a lot of parents don’t realize it’s available,” said Wendy. “I’m a strong believer in the career and technical education programs in the schools, because it’s important to get skilled in an industry in high school – it makes them more marketable.”

The Butler High School Apparel and Textile Program will be at the Charlotte Mini-Maker Faire on Saturday, October 13. 

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