Sewing. Did you learn to sew as a child? I did, back in the ’70s, and it sounds so “old school” now. But even at the time, most of my peers didn’t learn to sew. All girls and boys were required to take Home Ec in 7th and 8th grade. We did some basic sewing in 7th grade, pillows I think, using the sewing machine. This differs from my girls’ middle school home ec class, where kids only learn hand sewing.
In 8th grade, things became more complex. My memories of this class were of a strange boy who was fascinated by trying to stick a sewing scissors into an electrical outlet, and of making a peasant skirt, which was really in style at the time. I remember helping others in the class with how to lay out their pattern pieces and cut them out (I’m feeling sympathy for the teacher; can you imagine trying to teach a class of 25 13-year-olds how to sew?). Since I already knew how to sew, I also made a matching peasant blouse. I loved that outfit and can still imagine it — light blue calico print.
Sewing in 4-H
But long before home ec class, I had learned the basics of sewing through 4-H. Or more accurately, my mom had helped me as I made 4-H sewing projects. Up at the top, you can see me in my 2nd year 4-H sewing project. I made the skirt, Mom made the coordinating jacket. For the first several years, Mom would tell me what I needed to do, step by step, and I’d just follow directions. I was never as much of a perfectionist as she was (and to be fair, 4-H pretty much demanded perfectionism, so it was good she was in charge), and she ripped out my work many, MANY times and I would have to re-do it. To this day, I avoid patterns with zippers as I just don’t like putting them in.
At perhaps the 5-year mark in my sewing journey, I had learned enough that I could read a pattern myself. I really enjoyed understanding how to follow the steps and put outfits together on my own, and I sewed quite a few more outfits than just those I needed for the fair. In this, I was definitely an oddity for my time.
Here’s a skirt and blouse I made in the formal wear category. I wore this for various band concerts and other events where I needed a formal. 4-H sewing judging was always nerve-wracking for me. First, we had to model our creations, on a stage at a local school, for a judging panel. I was always quiet and shy; I didn’t even like people looking at me to sing Happy Birthday! So, the idea of walking (gracefully, of course) onto stage before a bunch of judges horrified me. Nonetheless, I practiced standing in a “hesitation” as they called it, turning my head to look at the judges as I walked across the front of the stage (and feeling slightly ridiculous), and then the dreaded time when I had to stand in the middle, just smiling until my cheeks shook, as the judges wrote and wrote and scrutinized everything.
A few weeks later at the fair, we had a public dress review, where an “honor group” was named. Being a decidedly non-graceful person, I was rarely ever chosen as a member of this. I usually fared better on the actual judging of the sewing. And it is still a dream to me that, during the summer after my junior year, I was named construction grand champion in sewing. This meant that I won a SEWING MACHINE!! Year after year, I’d seen this presented to seamstresses. In my world, it was somewhat akin to being named Miss America or something. It was a thing that always happened to someone else. When my name was called, you could have knocked me over with a stick!
Forgive the dust on my shoes; the public dress review was held at the fair’s grandstand, which, depending on the weather, was often either a dust bowl or a large mud pit. Getting to the stage at all was always a dicey venture.
“Sew” there you have my sewing journey. Did you learn to sew, growing up?Any sewing memories to share?