The Ladies’ Ripping Society…and enter the July Charm Squares Giveaway!

Be sure to stop by my July Giveaway before July 24, 2010, and enter to win a set of scrappy fabric charms!

In junior or senior high school, did any of you have Home Economics classes that required a beginning sewing segment? I did, and the instructor gave me the first failing grade I ever had. However I made a new friend, and we founded the Ladies’ Ripping Society.

It was in eighth grade, and I had finished the cooking segment, learning to create colorful, healthy meals for my future family; meals that followed a preparation timetable that would make a NASA launch engineer proud. I have never again plotted out that I will remove the ingredients from the cupboard at 5:46, and start the water boiling at 5:48. It seemed rather a tedious approach to my restless, creative spirit. But I managed to get a passing grade, with a report card note to parents stating that “Mary is resistant to the idea of following class procedures.”

I had learned to sew at my mother’s side, making aprons and doll clothes at the age of seven. By 5th grade I was sewing my own skirts and jumpers regularly. I made mistakes, I made a few atrocities that I wanted to burn instead of wear. But some things were very lovely. My skills improved, and I tackled a cape, fancier dresses, and a couple of simple quilts.

In 7th grade I became very determined to make a sheath dress and jacket, very Coco Channel or Jackie Kennedy influenced. I had a truly lovely piece of apple green linen, and wonderfully smooth cotton lawn for lining. I labored carefully, making muslin fitting garments first, and even doing a wee bit of tailoring on the crisp, short swing jacket. My diligence paid off, except it took a long time, most of the spring. I was dismayed to have grown a more curvacious figure in that time, and it never fit! My mother suggested entering it in the county fair, and the blue ribbon there led to a honorable mention in the Minnesota State Fair later that year. I happily returned to simpler projects.

Until I walked into my required 8th grade sewing class, that is. The first assignment was a torn cloth apron, as we were not yet trusted with scissors. We tore to the exact measurements, and hand stitched the waist band to the carefully gathered apron skirt. A pocket was optional, but I learned the hard way that she had said a pocket, as I had to rip off the second one. This should have taught me how to play her game, but perhaps I was just stubborn. Another girl had embroidered a design on her pocket, and the control freak in charge of our class made her rip all the lovely flowers off. We renegades bonded instantly.

Next project was an a-line jumper. Our school was filled with 8th and 9th grade girls wearing this same jumper is a hideously wide range of fabrics. I hated the pattern and figured I would never wear it, so selected a plain solid brown cotton. I washed the fabric at home, pressed and lightly starched it, and had my sister help me “true” it by pulling on the corners to get the grain straight. Why had it not occurred to me that the same strict timetable would apply in this class?

Our classroom should have had this sign on the door!

“You have washed it, and I had not approved this fabric as suitable yet,” were her first words. We then spend 45 minutes being shown the right way to “true” cotton, and how to press it. Next class, we had to cut away the excess paper from our patterns! Good grief woman, get a life. Two session later we were allowed to pin our patterns, and we all watched in horror as the Master Inspector found fault with each offering. Cutting would not be allowed until everyone passed this phase.

At home I made two skirts and a blouse before cutting day came. “Start by cutting out the jumper back,” she said. I dutifully started there, and continued to cut the rest. Then I realized she was standing there, and all eyes were on me as they waited the go ahead to cut the front and facings. I had to explain to the principal that I was not intending to be insolent, and was allowed back in to class the next day.

As sewing commenced I proved to be a slow learner, as did my new friend. Well, at least slow as in regards to teacher management. We were steps ahead every day. And every day we spent half the class time in the back corner together, ripping out the parts the rest of the class had not reached yet. Perhaps we were just being obstreperous, but we each finished the entire jumper and ripped it apart again at least six times in that class. By final grading, they were unwearable for the ripping and shredding of seam allowances.

The Ladies’ Ripping Society became a private crafting club that summer. My new friend and I sewed together often, and learned to knit and crotchet. We spend many hours together crafting and mimicking the antics of our former Overlord, making each other rip and repeat.

Last night I found myself cheerfully assembling blocks for a quilt. This morning I found myself ripping them all apart, as I had turned them wrong for the pattern. Oh well, it gave me time to slip back into my Ladies’ Ripping Society mode, and reflect on how that former teacher inadvertently taught me to be a patient coach and instructor. I think I deserve a passing grade for that lesson, perhaps they graded me on the wrong thing!


About thecuriousquilter

Quilter, sewer, writer, gardener, mother, sister, friend, always learning, always curious.
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17 Responses to The Ladies’ Ripping Society…and enter the July Charm Squares Giveaway!

  1. Martin says:

    I had to suffer through wood shop, it was hell. Would have ADORED a chance to take sewing!

  2. LOL, and I would have adored a chance to take wood shop!

  3. Carrie says:

    Oy! When I took the required home ec in 7th and 8th grade, the teacher gave me B’s because I didn’t follow HER directions (nevermind that I could already sew and cook circles around my classmates). I was in a different school district in high school and purposefully did NOT take home ec because the teacher was very much controlling. By the way, for those home ec teachers who are lurking, think about whether your students might simply be highly creative/intelligent/bored. Some of us who you think don’t know how to follow rules might end up being the very inspiration you look for when trying to come up with new lesson plans for your class. *snork* (If you ever get a chance to visit the International Quilt Festival, you’ll see multiple examples of how a home ec teacher would have a heart attack, and those are the prize winning quilts!)

  4. Mimi says:

    I guess that I am not the only one with Home Ec Horror! Yikes! I am trying to forget all that and those silly rules, yup, I’m doing it my way and having a blast, laugh, and happy memories. Thanks!

  5. Despite all the above, I do want to give kudos to the wonderful home ec teachers who inspired many fledgling cooks and seamstresses too! Same kudos to math, science, English, and ANY teacher who loves teaching to the student’s abilities and not to classroom rules.

  6. Karen Hockom says:

    You took me back in time! I too had a home ec with a teacher who did things “her way”. Like you, my mother sewed and taught me how to. I had to make a dress or a jumper, I don’t remember which, but I could not make myself put the zipper in “her way”. It involved using tape and I don’t know what else. I put the zipper in the way my mom had taught me and she was amazed at how good it looked. I will give her credit, she asked me how I did it, when I explained, she said she was going to start doing that. (The method I used came on the zipper package. LOL) Karen

  7. laura says:

    Ha! I think I had the same home ec teacher. My mom was a substitute and she counted 17 ingredients/tools needed to make biscuits in that class (when really, pop n fresh just uses a pan!).
    I also learned to sew from my mom and made most of my own clothes. When the home ec teacher retaught me, I was able to follow her directions (not being quite the rebel you were, apparently). Then I turned in four of my dresses from home for extra credit (including a rockin’ long culottes with a zipper down the front!). She gave me “Cs” on each outfit (I hadn’t followed any of her rules!) but she kindly explained to me that my extra credit wouldn’t bring down my grade! How do people like that become teachers?

  8. Your post brought back memories. Those middle school home ec teachers. Ouch. I remember having to put a pin every two inches. Of course, when my mother taught me to sew, it was a pin in every corner and one or two on a very long stretch. Love your idea of a charm square giveaway.

  9. Alice Hamilton says:

    I am sure I had the same teacher, Mary. She had perfectly manicured dark red nails and I can still envision those nails pointing out my mistakes in sewing. I think that may be why I didn’t like to sew again until now. I learned more about unsewing than sewing at that time.
    Well, I’d better get to quilting. My class this morning began a Roll On Kansas Charm quilt using jelly rolls and charms. I want to win!

    • In case other readers have not figured it out, Alice and I went through high school together! Alice, I am very glad you got over your dislike of sewing.

      What I left out in the story is the fact that my Home Ec Sewing teacher, above, was also my confirmation teacher at church beginning a month after I failed her class. I didn’t come out too well there either!

  10. Alice Hamilton says:

    PS I recently started volunteering with a new acquaintance. Every time I turned around she corrected me. THEN I found out she is a retired home ec teacher. If I’d only known ahead of time…
    Yes, there really were some good ones out there. I’m sure.

  11. Sue says:

    lol I think we had the same Home Ec. teacher. I’m a southpaw, which basically made me hell spawn. I think the Home Ec. experience had some influence over me becoming a primary school teacher.

  12. Renea says:

    I learned how to sew at a young age from my mother (who made my wedding dress without a pattern!) but when I had to take sewing in home ec, I was told that I skipped to many steps and HAD to lay out the pattern the way the directions said. (That was the only time I have ever done this as it wastes fabric!!) Oh, I also had to pull one thread completely out so the fabric would be straight. Needless to say I argued this point with the teacher and I didn’t win. I did not take home ec classes in high school because I knew I didn’t want to follow the teacher’s sewing rules. I do have high regards for home ec teachers because they do have a very difficult job (think about a roomful of teenagers who all think they know best). LOL

  13. Carolina says:

    How unfortunate!

    I had a wonderful home ec teacher! I took her for 2 semesters – one cooking, one sewing. She let us pick our own cooking recipes for the cooking part. And she did have some “strange” ideas (she taught us to make a shopping list in the order you walk down the isles… I thought this was nuts, but I have since done this, and it cuts my time in the store down considerably!).

    When it came to sewing, she had some very basic projects for us. My friends and I “whipped” through these projects, and were then allowed free reign! I made my “winter formal” dress during that class! She was supportive, and let us do our own thing… we just came to her with questions, and she was able to answer them.

    Since the class was right before lunch, we often stayed in her classroom through lunch working on projects.

    I wish you all could have had her as a home ec teacher!

  14. Jeane says:

    I love your article are Home Ec. It brings back some wonderful memories. We had a sewing teacher and a cooking teacher. I was eager to learn to sew but not so for cooking. My sewing teacher was just a wonderful person. My mom was ill and in the hospital so this teacher went far beyond her duties to help me in many ways. I would have won a prize for my grade 11 Home Ec. if I would have done better on the cooking side. Oh well, I still love to sew and my husband is an avid cook.

  15. Anne-Lise says:

    Wow, that teacher taught in Norway, too? I have hated cooking ever since school (I do bake, though) and as for needlework – ouch! I knitted one sock that was so stiff it stood on the table like a statue ….. the worst was when we were to sew trousers. The teacher cut up material for each girl … all the same length – and far too short for a long-legged thing like me! I still had to make the trousers! Happily I have overcome my dread of needlework and get along quite well doing things my way 🙂

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