A hard-working squad will march in as national champions during Penn State's Sept. 1 football home opener at Beaver Stadium.
The Penn State Blue Band's Touch of Blue majorettes covered themselves in glory last month, winning first-place awards at the National Baton Twirling Association competition at Notre Dame.
But it's a designing Duncansville seamstress who really has them covered, in uniforms that enhance their twirling talents.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Diane Speacht of Duncansville sews a new Penn?State majorette uniform. She has been the seamstress for the squad for more than 10 years.
The Penn State Blue Band’s Touch of Blue majorettes are shown during competition last month at Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., where they earned first place in the National Baton Twirling Association competition.
Diane Speacht began making doll clothes when she was 4 or 5. By the time she was in high school, she was sewing for family and friends, even making wedding gowns.
Married with a daughter and five grandchildren, she's been sewing professionally for the past 40 years.
"It's totally a God-given talent," she said.
She's been making majorette uniforms for area high school students for "30 years, for sure," she said. She began before patterns became available and when her only fabric options were from heavy swimsuit material because it stretched.
Times and fabric choices have changed. She said the teenage girls she once sewed for have become mothers whose daughters now come to her for majorette uniforms.
Some 10 or 11 years ago, she became the seamstress for the Penn State "Jettes," as they call themselves.
Every three years, the team gets a new uniform style, which must complement the Blue Band uniforms. Sketches and sometimes prototypes are required for the lengthy approval process. In addition, the Penn State licensing department must weigh in before a logo or emblem can be sewn onto the uniforms.
For the new styles, Speacht works with Jettes coach Heather Bean on color and design choices; she sketches ideas, drapes fabrics, fits the squad and sews the final product, which can be as many as 14 uniforms.
During the other years, Speacht makes fitting adjustments for Jettes who have lost weight and sews uniforms for new Jettes who don't fit into existing uniforms. She can make a new uniform in one or two days.
"I'll stay up all night," she said.
She calls Penn State "my second home."
Have there ever been any uniform crises? "Absolutely!" she said and laughed.
She recalled the time during a Rose Bowl Parade when a side zipper popped open. A hook-and-eye closure still held the uniform together. The stricken Jette ran off to Bean and Speacht. Safety pins were quickly applied and the Jette hurried back to her moving squad.
Bean calls Speacht "my lifesaver. She's just amazing."
As much as she enjoys sewing, Speacht said the most fun she has is "in getting to know the girls, watching them grow into young women."
Case in point: Sarah Wesner of Altoona, who turned 21 on Thursday. Wesner first started twirling when she was 5. She competed solo through the Carolette Studio in Altoona. After graduating from Bishop Guilfoyle, she spent a year at PSU Altoona before transferring to University Park. Now a senior, the only child is majoring in elementary education. This is her third year with the Jettes.
"I love the team approach," she said. "We're all sisters."
What does she think of the uniforms?
"They're amazing," she said. "Diane designed my uniforms while I was competing solo. Now she does our team uniforms. She definitely has watched me grow up."