Monday, December 15, 2014

Homemade for the Holidays - Sewing

Today was a real first for me, and I quietly thanked, several times, Mrs. Abraham, who was my Home Ec. sewing teacher in high school.

It's a bit of an interesting story - that one.

The story starts when my very middle class family moved from our three bedroom, two bath ranch-style L-shaped home on a quarter acre lot in a southern suburban neighborhood and moved to a rural small town in south eastern Kentucky. As a very middle class suburban girl I knew certain things. One was that I would, some day, go to college, which meant I would have a career and needing to cultivate certain skills (like anything to do with housekeeping) was most assuredly not on the priority list.

In my very progressive suburban school down south, courses like Home Ec., were electives - mostly for those girls who didn't have career aspirations. When we moved to rural Kentucky, we found that the rules were a bit different. Home Economics was a graduation requirement - for both boys and girls. What?

Most kids took Home Ec. the first year, presumably to get it over with. That first year, however, I had decided to take Geometry, and probably, I figured there was going to be some way I could weasel out of that requirement. Home Ec.? No. way!

My sophomore year, I signed up to take French II, but when I arrived on the first day of my sophomore year and discovered that the French teacher had retired, and her replacement stood at the front of the classroom speaking French with a very distinct southern Appalachian flavor, I decided not to take French II after all.

With no other choice, I ended up in Home Ec. II. It was an advanced sewing class (as opposed to the usual Home Ec. class where students were introduced to the basics of all of the Home Ec. subjects). My class was only sewing, and we wouldn't be piecing together some chintzy apron. All of the other girls had extensive sewing experience. This was an advanced elective course for them, kind of like Algebra II and advanced biology were my electives, and they were embarking on, what seemed to me, some pretty ambitious clothing projects. One of the most impressive was a prairie skirt complete with a ruffled blouse. I never will reach that girl's skill level.

But after a year under her tutelage, Mrs. Abraham did manage to teach me to read a pattern, and I can, now, make most things I try to make (I don't pick very complicated projects, usually). When I was a very poor and pregnant college student, I sewed most of my maternity clothes (a fact of which I was very proud), and I have been happy to sew many costumes for my daughters over the years.

I'm not terribly talented, but I am creative - or just very brave or stupid (or both). I've heard people talk about how difficult certain fabrics are to work with, and I'll pretend like I know what they mean, but I don't, and I've probably sewed those fabrics wrong. I don't, really, know what a selvage is. I'm notorious for using white thread for a whole piece of clothing - no matter the color of fabric.

Like with my knitting (I knit squares - and nothing else), when it comes to sewing, I've found the one thing that I'm really good at sewing: pants.

Today, I made a few pairs, and in keeping with my life's theme of reuse, repurpose, recycle, the material was repurposed. Someone is getting pants for Christmas.

I also made a pattern today, my first attempt at making a pattern and my first attempt at making this particular item. It's a very special, very secret, mystery gift, and I'm actually really proud of how this particular gift came out. Shhh! Don't tell if you can guess what it is ;).

I hope these fit, but since I can't measure the recipient, I just had to wing it.

And while I was busy at the sewing machine, my incredibly talented daughter was wrapping presents. For one gift, we had to use some of the rescued butcher paper we've had around the house for a while. It's plain white - not terribly festive for a gift wrap, but she used her artist's eye and talent to fix it.

Did I mention how much fun this year's Homemade for the Holidays is?


  1. Most definitely incredibly talented! This year I'm using only newspaper for wrapping Christmas gifts. With colored sections, they look quite nice.
    Happy holidays to you and yours

    "what a selvage is"
    - the side edges of a length of fabric that are extremely tight woven; won't ravel out as the cut edge will; always to be cut off before cutting out your pattern pieces. I loved to sew in latter years; it gives us so much satisfaction to create, no matter the means or materials we use. I love color, colors, more colors.

    1. We use newspaper, too. My favorite gift wrap is pages from catalogs. Seed catalogs are especially colorful and pretty ;).

      Thanks for the definition. Yes, it does give a great deal of satisfaction to create. I love doing it. I just need to find a dedicated space for my sewing machine. I have some ideas. It's just a matter of getting it done ;).