Postcards, magnets and mugs - things people typically buy on vacation.

But when Addie Zook’s parents came back from their trip to Rome, Italy, they brought the teenager a roll of fabric. An odd gift for most, but not for Zook.

The sophomore at Aquinas High School has a passion for fashion and the art of sewing. A lot of the clothes she wears she made herself. Now, she hopes to someday make a career for herself in the fashion industry.

“First I got into sewing, and sewing just led to fashion really quickly ... This is a shirt I made, well, used to be a dress. I modified it quite a bit,” Zook said, referencing her outfit during an interview with The Banner-Press. “Most things I buy, I usually (think) ‘Oh, I can just fix this thing on it, and then I’ll wear it.’ That’s usually how I shop, honestly.”

The designer's passion for fashion began at an early age. When she was 8, her mother, Sarah, introduced her daughter to the art of sewing. Zook would sit on her mother’s lap and the two would use the family sewing machine together.

“The first thing I made was Barbie clothes,” Zook said. “ I made clothes for them and then I wanted to make clothes for me.”

When Zook was 12, her mother signed her up for a quilting class. The group of senior women in their 70s and 80s took Zook under their wing. Her mother said her skills were boosted from the mentoring process.

“She has a very creative mind and a good eye for color and fabric and patterns,” Sarah Zook said. “She's far surpassed my sewing ability years ago ... She has a lot more patience for it than I do. Her things are finished much nicer than mine.”

Zook has worked on a variety of projects. Dresses, shirts, blankets and bags - she has quite the portfolio. And it’s not too uncommon for her to make repairs to her friends' school uniforms or help fit their prom dresses. Her goal is to continue to challenge herself and grow as an artist.

“Being able to create something from your own imagination is really appealing,” Zook said about her craft. “I really enjoy being able to make something new, something different and have it be unique to myself. It’s really special being able to make something that didn't exist before, and no one else has it.”

The teen’s dream job is to design a line of modest clothing for people. She said there’s a huge demand for fashionable, yet modest clothing, but added that kind of wardrobe can be difficult to track down.

“I’ve definitely found that there’s kind of a need for that,” Zook said. “People would buy that sort of thing, but it’s just hard to find. That would be my dream job, to be able to own my own business and just sell clothing that I design.”

In 2018, Zook took top prize in the 4-H and FFA Butler County Fair for County Fair Advanced Clothing and Textiles. She’s also competed in the national Make it With Wool competition on three occasions. Once school is out for the summer, Zook plans on selling some of her designs online on the website Etsy.com.

With hard work and a little bit of luck, Zook said she hopes to make a career for herself doing what she loves.

Eric Schucht is a report for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News-Review.

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