Sew What?

When I was in seventh and eighth grade, it was called junior high, not middle school. We left School Street School and moved to “The Flats,” where the kids from “The Hill” and “The Park” sections of town joined those from “The Flats.” My homeroom was appropriately named since it truly looked like a room in someone’s house. It was also the Home Economics room with all the luxuries of home including the kitchen sink. When I would come there at the end of the day, I would be greeted by all the savory aromas cooked up by all the classes which occupied the room that day.

Only the girls got to experience the joys and the torture of Home Ec. I say torture because not only did we get to prepare and eat great meals, we also learned to sew. The boys went to wood shop and used sharp tools to create things. I suppose at that time the powers that be never thought boys should learn how to cook. But who ever thought it was a good idea to give thirteen year old boys access to saws?

I know I have mentioned many many times my sewing woes, and I am going to do it one more time in case I have omitted any details of the class and how it impacted all of you.

We learned how to take our measurements to determine the pattern size—bust, waist, and hip—and our teacher instructed us how to pin the very fragile tissue-like patterns to the fabric. We were also taught how to sew an invisible hem and put on a button, tasks I recently learned I never taught any of you.  I don’t know how this slipped through the cracks.  This was a shocking revelation. So my advice now is to learn via You-Tube or pay a seamstress to do these basic tasks.

We had little or no choice regarding the type of projects, and knowing we would be graded on the final result made the class very stressful and unpleasant. I hated the sewing portion of the class, and Grandma knew it. She was very sympathetic to those feelings, so much so that for my eighth grade graduation, she and Grandpa presented me with my all-time favorite gift—a sewing machine! What in the world were they thinking! Was it their way of saving on the family clothing budget, or was it a lesson on how to act graciously when receiving unpleasant gifts?

During the next few years I went to the local five and dime store, where in the basement they had books filled with pictures of clothing to make, drawers of patterns, and tables of fabric. Aunt Ar and Aunt El became my sewing guinea pigs. As eight and ten year olds, I am not certain if they had any input regarding the style of dresses or choices of fabric, but I do know they did wear the outfits I created. Aunt Ellen even wore one dress in a school picture. It was a lovely lavender dress with a zipper up the front.

Over the years, my skill increased, and since I was sewing on my own time with no one looking over my shoulder, I grew to enjoy my graduation gift. In the family room of our first house hung drapes I made, and several family members were gifted with Christmas tree skirts from the House of Karen Studios.

All of you have worn my creations in the form of Halloween costumes, and during the early years of our marriage, Dad and I went to several Halloween parties in my creations. Once we were salt and pepper shakers and another time we were Sylvester and Tweetie Bird. For the three of you, I recall Kelly and Casey dressing up in a pink poodle skirt, Jamie as the Little Mermaid and Jasmine, and Casey as a princess and Little Red Riding Hood.

So the lesson to be learned is that when receiving hideous gifts, give thanks and grin and bear it because you just may be surprised someday.

Sylvester & Tweety- aka Mom & Dad

Sylvester & Tweety- aka Mom & Dad

Aunt Ellen in Homemade Dress from House of Karen

Aunt Ellen in Homemade Dress from House of Karen


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