Posted by: patwogan | August 18, 2009

Home Economics-Sewing

Okay, so now you know I wasn’t perfect in school.  I had that little incident with the firecracker in math class, but that really wasn’t the first time I had difficulty in school.   Once in a while I was too smart for my own good.  My experience in home economics class in the ninth grade is a good case in point.

Mom had an old treadle machine.  To those of you much younger, a treadle machine is a sewing machine run by foot power.  It had a rocking type of platform at floor level.  This was moved in a teeter-totter motion by the operator’s foot.  Everytime it moved, a series of pulleys, etc. caused the needle on the machine to go up and down.  The speed of the needle was controlled by how fast the operator’s foot pushed the platform.

  This machine sewed one simple type of stitch, apparently enough for the sewing done in those days.  My mother made my dresses on this machine, and did a very nice job of it.  She also pieced quilts for hand quilting.  I had very little desire to learn to sew and although she did have me sew a few little projects, I was never very good at it.

When I enrolled in Junior High School, I was required to take one year of Home Economics.  I think boys were required to take one year of Shop  Class.  Boys never took Home Economics and girls never took shop.  That was just understood. 

The first semester of home economics was sewing.  We did not have treadle machines.  We had fancy electric sewing machines which were operated by pressing your knee against a lever.  The harder you pressed, the faster the needle went up and down.  My teacher was an older (to me) lady who was probably not overjoyed by teaching sewing to a class of junior high girls.  Home Economics class was on the third floor of the Junior High building.  The shop class was in the basement of the same building.  The day we were introduced to the sewing machines, the teacher told us that if we ran a needle through our finger, we would have to go down to shop class to have it removed.  She did not pull sewing machine needles out of fingers!  Talk about scaring someone to death!  I heard that and it gave me great motivation not to get my fingers in the way of the needle on the sewing machine.  Now, since you guide the material with your hands into the machine, I had a problem.  I think I used my knuckles to guide the material so that I wouldn’t get my fingers close to the needle.  I also tried to keep my knuckles back as far as possible.

The next item of business was making a garment .  We were going to make a “broomstick” skirt.  This was a gathered skirt with a waist-band and a hook and eye closure on the band.  No zippers yet, just snaps, hook and eyes, and buttons.  Mom took me to the store to buy the material for the skirt.  I liked some light blue material and so we bought it.  It was denim and though it was very pretty, it was probably heavier than we should have gotten for a first effort. 

The skirt had two side seams and then was to be gathered at the top before attaching it to the band.  Now this doesn’t sound like too difficult a task.  However, if the operator is fearful of getting the needle in her finger, it becomes a little harder.  As I finished a seam, I took it to the teacher for approval.  It wasn’t straight enough.  I bedcame a premier seam ripper! I had to try six times before I got the side seams straight enough to satisfy her.  Then came the gathering stitches.  Two parallel rows of stitching sewed at a reduced tension and then pulled to gather.  The parallel was not easy for me, but after several attempts, I managed to get them somewhat parallel enough to pass inspection. 

Now if this was all we had to sew in one semester, I might have made it.  It wasn’t.  We also had to make a shirt-waist blouse.  This entailed facings, collars, button-holes, buttons, etc.  We were given our choice of making bound button holds or worked button holes.  Now, to me, the bound button holes looked easier.

 I was all for taking the easy route by this time.  I don’t remember exactly the problems I had with facings, and other construction of the blouse, although I am sure I didn’t do it easily or well.  I do remember the bound buttonholes though.  They were extremely difficult to do and mine did not look professionally made.  In fact, they were terrible.  There were several of them, and as I remember, they were all slightly different sizes when I finished.  I think I would have been much better off had I made worked buttonholes, although with my lack of sewing skill, who knows what they might have turned out to be like.

I finally made it through that first semester and vowed never again to do any sewing.  Thank goodness, I forgot that vow later in life.

Tomorrow, the cooking semester of Home Economics.  I knew how to cook, so it should have been better….



  1. Cute Looking forward to tomorrow

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