Nikki Hunnewell proves that a small hobby can go far in life

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During senior Nikki Hunnewell’s junior year, she watched a dog casually walk across the stage during a performance of Peter Pan, prancing along in a costume that she had designed and painstakingly sewed together.

“My friend, [senior] Hannah Derwent, was Assistant Student Manager at the time,” Nikki said. “She [was] like, ‘Hey, it’d be really cute—because I know you like to sew—if you would make a costume for [English teacher Robin Demeester]’s granddog, [Beans].'”

Despite knowing nothing about Demeester’s dog’s measurements, Nikki went hard to work. Laboring over her sewing machine and pulling together a miniature Peter Pan costume based off approximations, she had finally created the perfect design.

“It was really exciting [to see the costume],” Nikki said. “My first time meeting Beans was putting the costume on her. I didn’t know exactly what size she was, so I had to adjust it a little bit, and then it turned out really [good]. People really liked it, and I really had a good time.”

For this particular costume, Nikki had used her own dog as a model, basing the sizes off of him in order to be prepared for Beans; however, approximations are not the largest issue for Nikki while sewing costumes due to her belief of “better too large than too small” and eventually shrunk the costume.

Past the measuring concerns, Nikki has run into difficulties with sewing beyond that. From the machine, to fabric, or even hand sewing, working with thread and fabric can prove to be a very tedious task.

“My sewing machine especially is very finicky and needs certain types of bobbins,” Nikki said, “and sometimes it just doesn’t like certain fabrics and just bunches up and wastes a bunch of thread, so that’s always a bummer. Hand sewing—having to do large projects by hand is [also] always a bummer.”

Even with these common-place annoyances, Nikki has nothing but obvious love for her passion for sewing. Beginning around eight years ago, she has practiced in bursts, building up her talent over time.

“It’s not really a consistent thing,” Nikki said. “I always have sewing stuff in my room, and it’s just sort of on and off [depending on] if I feel like doing something.”

This self-described “sporadic” fling with sewing was derived from watching her grandmothers. With one living in Florida and the other in New Jersey, Nikki is unable to see them often, but they inspired her to continue on sewing throughout the years.

“Both of my grandmothers were both really big craft people,” Nikki said. “So it’s kind of bouncing back and forth between the two of them and like, ‘Hey, you should try knitting,’ and like, ‘Here is how you sew,’ and that kind of stuff.”

Watching them sew allowed Nikki to pick up on their tips and tricks. Learning to operate a sewing machine opened her abilities up to be applicable in a wide variety of fields.

Most commonly, she finds herself altering clothes through cuffs or sewing up holes. By utilizing old jeans and materials she has collected, Nikki has made practical and stylish uses out of her talent.

“I got a pair of pants like this that had ripped up bottoms,” Nikki said, gesturing to her jeans. “I had old pairs of denim, and I made a cuff and sewed it on. [And] I have sewn a bunch of patches on my backpack; I don’t really alter the style of clothing too much. It’s mostly just [fixing] holes, so I can continue wearing it.”

Moving from jean alterations and quick fixes, she has furthered her skills. Nikki has created various Halloween costumes, one of which won FHC’s costume contest.

“Two years ago, I was a jellyfish,” Nikki said. “I found this sweater, and then it had a half hoop skirt and a big poofy skirt that I put lights in. Then this past year, I was a garbage can. That was less sewing; that was more duct tape and cardboard. [I] just sort of figured it all out and then [went] for it.”

The depth of her costumes requires intense work. From using two skirts for a jellyfish or laboring over cardboard in order to craft a trash can replica, Nikki is no stranger to expending numerous hours of patience and energy while sewing.

Taking the challenges in stride, she employed her skills during FHC’s musical performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; despite it being her first year doing the costumes, Nikki adapted quickly, defying the deadlines and stress that come along quick changes and rapid mending.

“I was working on [the musical] on the costume crew with [senior] Susannah [Bennett],” Nikki said, “and we had to make a headdress during one of the shows because the director came up 20 minutes before and was like, ‘Hey, can you make this completely different?’ We were like, ‘Okay.'”

All of the work for the costumes—on and off set—and broken thread or other mishaps become distant memories after she is able to finish and admire her work.

“It’s a pretty good feeling,” Nikki said, “especially if you’re really stressed out about it. Being done with something, I’m sure with most anything, is just relief, and now I get to show it off.”

This feeling of accomplishment keeps Nikki going. Despite reiterating “I don’t see myself on Project Runway,” she has found ways beyond costumes to spread love and cheer to friends in families. She has added capes, a stuffed animal modeled after a friend’s actual pony, and pillows to her list of sewing triumphs.

“[Sewing] is a fun thing to do that’s more personal than just going to a store,” Nikki said, “and if you have the supplies already, it’s a lot cheaper. [It] just takes a little bit of time and practice.”

Being able to create such intimate gifts, things that she has put immense effort and love into, has allowed Nikki to disperse happiness to friends and family. Though not seeing a career in sewing, she will always appreciate having a flexible, beneficial talent.

“I felt kind of proud and happy [from the gifts] because I like seeing other people happy,” Nikki said, “and it’s one more way to do it.”

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