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Perspectives: A Summer at STEP

STEP program student using loom

This post was written by Olivia Noles and initially appeared on her personal blog. She attended STEP during the summer of 2016. Olivia is currently a senior at Freedom High School and plans to attend NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles in the fall and major in Fashion and Textile Management.

In June of 2016, I attended a program at the NC State Wilson College of Textiles for rising seniors known as STEP (Summer Textile Exploration Program). I found this program back in January 2016 because I was researching schools in North Carolina that offer a fashion merchandising major (which is not that many). I learned STEP was a week long program at the Wilson College of Textiles that explored every major, and gave students the chance to focus on one specific major and do a project related to that major.

I decided this would be the perfect opportunity for me to explore different careers offered in the textile industry, so I applied. They only accepted around 160 students, and over 200 applied. I heard back early May that I had been accepted and must pay the $200 fee and select the major that I wanted to focus on for my project.

I know the $200 fee may drive some away, but you have to consider that they provide shelter, t-shirts, transportation, amazing staff, supplies for projects and nearly every meal. I believe I only bought my own food two or three times and the rest of my money I spent shopping on a trip to the mall that we took.

There were five degree programs offered for us to focus on: apparel design, textile design, polymer chemistry, textile engineering, and business management. I decided to join the apparel design group because I thought it would be the fun and give me a chance to do something I don’t do everyday. I want to major in fashion and textile management because I believe that it is a more practical major with more job opportunities.

Apparel Design Lab

After committing to apparel design, I received an email stating that our project would be to deconstruct and use old clothing or fabric to create a new, recycled outfit and that our design would have the chance to be featured in the Redress Raleigh pre-show.

Weeks passed and before I knew it, I was arriving at the NC State Wilson College of Textiles. The first day was mainly just getting checked in and meeting everyone else at STEP. The dorms we stayed in were suite style with two people per room and about eight rooms and two bathrooms to share.

The way our schedule was set up was so we did activities with everyone at the camp in the morning and split into groups in the afternoon.

The activities we did with everyone included:

  • Touring the Wilson College of Textiles and participating in a scavenger hunt on NC State’s campus.
  • Spray painting in the Free Expression Tunnel located on main campus.
  • Shopping at South Point mall.
  • Hearing from staff about the application processes and financial aid/scholarships (STEP students are automatically nominated for the Centennial Scholarship).
  • Participating in a “Where are they Now” presentation from NC State Wilson College of Textiles alumni. One graduate we heard from now works for the luxury golf brand Peter Millar.
  • Talking with current students about their majors and experiences.
  • Visiting Glenn Raven, a company that makes weather/sun fading resistant patio furniture, and seeing their design labs and thread spinning factory.
  • Screen printing t-shirts.
STEP program students

Project Groups Offered:

1. Polymer chemistry was only offered to students in week three, so I’m not sure what they focused on.

2. Textile engineering students learned that that textiles do not always mean fashion. Textile engineering can be anything from sweat-resistant clothing like that made by Under Armor to airplane manufacturing.

3. Textile design students learned how to weave fabric and created items (scarves/place mats) inspired by whatever their passions.

4. Business management students designed a company, a website and advertisement for that company.

5. Apparel design students created a new outfit out of recycled fabric.

My Project Experience:

STEP project design illustration

I was nervous going into the camp because I had no experience designing clothes or sewing and thought that everyone else would have the experience. I quickly learned that was not the case and everything was taught to us. The first day we created a vision board and learned how to draw a design on Adobe Reader; I made my romper patchwork as seen above because I knew there wasn’t enough fabric to make it all one color.

The second day I learned how to use a sewing machine and made a “rough draft” of my romper out of muslin (a cheap fabric). After that, I spent probably a whole day seam ripping the two dresses to get as much fabric as possible. The last day I spent sewing the romper together and cutting out each individual piece of embroidery. I ended up running out of time and attaching the embroidery back in my dorm.

STEP project garment

The final day: On the last day our parents came in to see us present our projects and eat lunch. For the apparel design group, we had to walk a runway and were judged. To my surprise, I won an award for the best design! After the camp, I got the opportunity to walk with my design as a designer in the Redress Raleigh Fashion Show.

My experience at STEP was absolutely amazing and I highly recommend that any rising high school senior that is interested in textiles participate in this program. The deadline to apply is May 1 and recommendation letters are required so definitely click this link to learn more/apply!