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?“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!