Dorri Partain
Assistant Editor

Stacks of felt in a rainbow of colors awaited students during the Mattie Rhodes Center’s first ever Fiber Arts Workshop, which began on March 2. Led by instructor Talitha Castaneda, most participants were getting the first opportunity to learn basic hand-sewing skills while creating cute and useful items.

During the first session, students began crafting a pincushion, which they will use for the remainder of the classes to keep their needles and pins handy. To illustrate that this is the student’s first taste of the sewing experience, Castaneda needed to explain the difference between writing pens and sewing pins.

Aimed at youngsters ages 10 and up, the Fiber Arts Workshop is a new venture for the center at 148 N. Topping.

“We’re looking at offering more Saturday activities,” stated Anthony Rea, Youth Development Coordinator. “Our after school classes are doing well, but we can offer more choices by doing classes on weekends also.”

Castaneda became interested in sewing while in high school and taught herself the basics by watching YouTube videos. She used those skills to start crafting small items such as soft keychains shaped as foods and embellished with embroidery. As she expanded her skills, she branched into creating cartoon characters such as Hello Kitty, SpongeBob, and Mario Brothers to give as gifts or sell.

Following high school, Castaneda obtained her degree in K-12 Art Education and is currently on staff at James Elementary, just across the street from Mattie Rhodes, as the Family and Community Engagement Liaison. She also teaches the Cultural Journeys art sessions held during Mattie Rhodes after school classes on Wednesdays.

Participants in the fiber arts class are given a wide opportunity to be creative, from choosing the applique decoration on their pincushion, a strawberry or donut, to the colors of thread and felt they’ll be using. They also move at their own pace as they tackle new skills such as threading a needle and tying a knot while joining their pieces together with a running stitch.

Photo: Dorri Partain

Over the course of five sessions, students will learn additional stitches, which will be used to create slightly more difficult projects. Once the pin cushion is complete, students will be crafting fun donuts with felt “icing” and embroidered “sprinkles”, which could be used as an ornament or keychain. Another 3-D project is a cake slice, and the last two sessions will focus on creating an embroidered patch they could use for decorating a clothing item.

Once the class concludes on May 25, the students will have learned a variety of stitches, including the blanket stitch, ladder stitch, backstitch, and whip stitch. Castaneda has designed the class to be “a hands-on and enriching experience where creativity knows no bounds.”

To adapt to the language skills of her students, Castaneda gives instructions in both English and Spanish along with plenty of visuals and assistance. The class currently has seven students, most attend school across the street and are familiar with Mattie Rhodes and its staff.

Student Natalie, age 10, said she signed up for the class so she could teach her mother and grandmother how to sew, and then they could make more felt food items together at home.

Prior to the first session, Castaneda was excited to “kick off this creative journey with the participants” stating, “I believe this workshop will not only provide valuable skills in fiber arts but also foster a sense of community and self-expression among the participants. I am genuinely excited about the prospect of guiding these young minds through the wonderful world of fiber art.”

 For more information about upcoming workshops, visit or contact Anthony Rea at 816-581-5661. Participants are required to register in advance.