Friday, March 09, 2007

Sewing Class

B. mentioned the other day that she did horribly in school sewing classes. I had to admit that I’d only taken a mini sewing class in school. My abuelita was a seamstress by trade, so my mom was a good sewer who did her best to teach us the ropes. We used to sew all sorts of useless little projects when we were little. That’s why I never really considered taking sewing classes in school, or any kind Home Ec. courses.

Do they even teach Home Ec. anymore in schools? Not that I’m complaining, I was a proto-Feminist in school and definitely suspected any kind of Home Ec. as part of The System to keep me in My Place.

We did have to do one required rotation in Junior High. I think there was a cooking segment and then a sewing segment.

We had a brand new Home Ec. teacher, Mrs. Preston. She had blond, curly permed hair and dressed oh-so fashionably (I believe a straight denim acid-wash skirt, white socks with loafers, and high bangs were included.) I didn’t know quite why, but I knew she didn’t like me. It could have been that my resentment at being included in such basic, yet so obviously sexist courses, showed. I could also have been a know-it-all. (What? Not me, surely not?!) The other thing about Mrs. Preston was her chumminess with only the most popular girls in Junior High. Even back then I thought it was suspicious that she bonded only with the cheerleaders and the social stars.

We started with the cooking segment. We were using sweetened condensed milk one day and I volunteered that if you boiled a can for 3 hours, it turned into caramel. I still remember the look Mrs. Preston shot me—her slightly googly blue-eyes narrowing—as she said, “Yes, I know,” as clipped as possible and turned her attention to one of the popular girls.
“Ooookie,” I thought.

I don’t remember much about the cooking segment. I think we learned how to make an Orange Julius at home. I’m glad I learned that skill. In the face of some kind of hosting disaster I can whip out the frozen OJ, the ice cubes, and the powdered milk to make a delicious and refreshing Orange Julius: your public education tax dollars at work!

By the time we got to the sewing segment a few weeks later, Mrs. Preston had had it with me and anyone who wasn’t popular. Our assignment was to make a pillowcase. A pillowcase: sew three sides of a rectangle together, turn right-side out, voila. I guess a pillowcase can be tricky. You do have to remember to only sew three sides: the long side, a short side, the other long side and in order. Do not sew the other short side.

Anyway, we had to bring our own material from home. I’ve always been a swanky girl, so I brought some leftover satin that my mom had. Mrs. Preston took one look at the satin and wrinkled up her pug nose.

“You’re making your pillowcase out of that?” she sniffed.

“Yeah,” I said.

“But,” she sputtered, “How could you possibly lay your face on that? Pillowcases are made of cotton.”

“I think it feels nice,” I said.

“Eww, your face would get all hot,” she snickered.

“Whatever you stupid ‘ho,” I said. Just kidding, I just shrugged and cut out the shape of my pillowcase. Satin, however, is a little slippery to sew. I struggled a little trying to keep the lines straight on the unfamiliar school machines. Mrs. Preston walked by me and heaved a giant sigh.

I, at that moment, hated her more than any other living creature that had ever walked the earth. I wanted to pick up the sewing machine and throw it across the room. It was a good thing it was bolted to the desk. To Mrs. Preston's credit, I think she did try to help me, but it was through obligation and not out of desire, and we both knew it.

I finished the pillowcase and used it happily for years (until I outgrew pastel blue.) Every time I put my cheek on the pillow I enjoyed the smooth satin and felt a little thrill of power over Mrs. Preston.

So no, I didn’t take more than a little bit of sewing in school.


compulsive writer said...

Best quote I ever heard: "Sewing makes me swear!"

But your projects are mighty fine!

pflower10 said...

What's the deal with teacher's that pick favorites? And it's OH so much worse when it is just because of the poularity factor. Good job on stickin' it to da man.

metamorphose said...

What a ho indeed. A pillowcase? When I was in home ec, we made wind socks. And that's all I remember.

noelle f. said...

LOVE the new look!

April said...

We made actual pillows in Home Ec. Like character pillows. I made a turtle. :D

The only things I really remember about my cooking class was that I made the best strawberry pie and a cute boy told me I smelled good.

b. said...

Thank you. A lot.
I had a Mrs. Preston too, only she was Miss Harvey...(she MIGHT be related to the Gene Harvey Chevrolet)she was absolutely GHASTLY to me!
I sewed my finger. She and the mean girls laughed at me. the injury may or may not have occurred when I was sewing the pillow case...whatever. I sought professional help and will recover from my sewing class abuse. I will never recover from the D she gave me.

Tiffany said...

Oh dear me. Some major chords struck with this girl. First of all can I just say I hate when teachers play favorites. I saw it all the time as a kid and all the time as a teacher. So LAME. If anything, I would go out of my way to down play the popular kids and make the outcasts feel special. Those darn popular kids get enough attention as it is. blah. popular shmopular.

Second. Home Ec in the last 20 years bites. I made a "character pillow" as well. A felt ice cream cone. So lame. It came in a kit with everything marked out for us to do. My sisters and brothers went to another junior high than I did and boys AND girls ALL had to take Home Ec. (By the way, it is not called Home Ec. anymore in most places it is called Family and Consumer Science). The siblings made drawstring satchels. funny.

I opted out of the lame cooking class. I already knew how to make english muffin pizzas and strawberry milkshakes.

Where are the classes of our parent's youth? My mom had to sew an entire dress: three buttons with button holes, a zipper, darts, gathered areas, a collar, sleeves. All in seventh grade! They had a school fashion show at the end of every semester. They also had to make whole wheat bread and can fruit and make jam in the cooking segment.

The less we expect out of kids the less they will give. We need to set the bar much much higher. Expect more out of them. Let them feel the excitement of accomplishing something that they can show pride in.

A pillowcase and english muffin pizzas? Seriously America, seriously. Give these kids some credit.

This is me said...

My Mrs. Preston was a Mrs. Hamlin in seventh grade Earth Science. She had a daughter one grade below and wanted her to get in with the popular cheerleaders and, Oh! how she schmoozed them. She even let them sit under her desk (near the space heater) and eat snacks while the rest of us worked. My how I loathed that woman.

And, yes, her daughter became a popular cheerleader, too.

wendysue said...

My favorite memory of Junior High Home ec cooking segment? When one kid caught the whole roll of paper on fire. It was fantastic. . ."no more cooking class today", and I think we made little beany baby like frogs with hand sewn eyes.

Julie said...

After reading your post, I'm feeling quite proud that I never took a swearing--ooops, I mean sewing class.

My first sewing project was in a 4H class that my neighbor taught. I made shorts out of some twill Raggedy Ann fabric. They were pretty scary. It's thanks to my mom that I know my way around a sewing machine.

I detest people like your Mrs. Preston.

Rachel said...

Mrs. Preston sounds like a total bitch.

Sarah said...

You could have always asked her to come over and help you with your miserable pillowcase and then sewn her fingers to the da*n silk. In other words, I feel your bitterness here.

fijiangirl said...

Bummer your sewing teacher was such a batch! I didn't take sewing in jr. high or high school but my 4 brothers all did. One of my brothers made the coolest pair of wide wall cord pants. the teacher did play favorites as well but it was always to the boys because I think she was so happy they took the class. At the end of the semester they always had a fashion show to model off what they made, everyone had to participate.

Emily said...

Have you had your baby? I must know.