Where Did You Learn Your Sewing Techniques?

7 Jul 2011

pokey boltonI am laughing so hard right now.

Earlier in the day, Cate Prato, online editor of Cloth Paper Scissors Today, sent me an email: "When you have a minute, I have something funny to show you from my past."

home ec sewing techniques
A page from Cate's home ec
sewing techniques book.
Intrigued, I ran down to her desk the first chance I had to find Cate grinning and holding a blue plastic three-ring binder. She opened it to reveal a project called "Sew Business." It was the culmination of her work in her 7th grade home ec class.

Among mimeographed (yes, mimeographed) pages of how to prepare your fabric to "grain perfection" and how to interpret the symbols on a sewing pattern, was a self-evaluation of Cate's physical assets and liabilities, labeled "Mirror Check."

Cate herself was laughing uncontrollably as she noted that the best she could come up with for an asset at the time was "average shoe size." Like most adolescents, she was painfully honest about her "weak points."

The point of this assignment was revealed on the next page, where Cate had pasted a picture of a dress pattern that would flatter her figure and coloring. I love this 1970s maxi dress!

But, as we paged through the binder, I could see that, fashion anachronisms aside, Cate's home ec book contained instructions on basic sewing techniques that are relevant today. There were directions (accompanied by Cate's own successful samples) describing hand basting, staystitching, backstitching (or back tacking), and slipstitch hemming.

Her book also included small sewing projects like a wrist pincushion, an apron, a potholder, and place mats. While creating these projects, the beginner learned basics like measuring seam allowances, pressing, and how to make a casing.

What's funny is, these are the same sorts of projects the new breed of home sewists are creating today, albeit with a few sophisticated twists and contemporary style (though Cate is quick to point out that owl and mushroom themes were popular back when she was a teen, too).

sewing techniques stay stitch
Tricia Waddell demonstrates staystitching.
Today's younger sewists didn't learn these basics in school, where home ec is now pretty much extinct. That's why I love the fact that in our sister publication Stitch, Editor-in-Chief Tricia Waddell always includes a stitch glossary and tutorial for basic sewing techniques.

However, as Cate knows from her home ec class, it's almost always better to watch a demonstration. And now, Tricia and her crew have put together a Stitch WorkshopTM video, "Sewing Tips + Tricks with Tricia Waddell."

This new video teaches the beginning-to-intermediate sewist easy embellishment techniques like sewing appliqués, embroidery, and beading; construction tips (like how to create the perfect skirt dart or how to reinforce seams when making softies); and easy projects you can personalize, like a sweater makeover and an artistic silk scarf.

If you are looking to increase your sewing expertise and get more creative with your projects, Sewing Tips + Tricks with Tricia Waddell is the video for you!



P.S. Where did you learn your basic sewing techniques? In home ec? From a friend or relative? Do you have some funny or educational stories to share about the experience. Anything you learned that has stuck with you all these years? Don't let Cate feel alone! Share in the comments section below.


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Comments

OvertheMoon wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 8:15 AM

My first real live sewing lessons came via 4H.  I won the county dress review in a red and blue double knit polyester princess seamed dress, with the oh-so-fashionable navy turtleneck and navy tights in 1974. Of course, turtlenecks, polyester and tights are murder to wear in the sweltering Midwest heat and humidity, and I'm sure I was as fragrant as some of the animal barns by the time the final judging arrived, but I still treasure that blue ribbon and the little clipping from the local newspaper.

Of course, home ec was still required in those days, and that year my home ec teacher (a prissy perfectionist who we thought simply MUST have a romantic alter-ego because she was too weird for us to imagine otherwise) gave me a C on a simple smock dress.  Just because she could, I think.

cfixit wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:09 AM

My sister & I were in the same home-ec class in highschool .. she would do the hard part , like putting in zippers, etc. I probably would have learned more if we'd been separated! .. though wouldn't have the fun memories... I still have the 'hand-hemmed' dish towel I toiled over... (smile)

azalea5 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:10 AM

My mother taught me to sew when I was just a child. When I was in the ninth grade, I had a home ec teacher who thought whe was the stuff. She didn't like it that I could already sew and was very unpleasant to me. I went on to be a teacher myself -- high school English! I also directed lots of plays and musicals, and I found that my sewing ability was enormously helpful in costuming and designing. Knowing how to sew has been one of the most important skills I have.

busybee1952 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:11 AM

My grandmother raised me from the time I was 8 years old and she taught me how to sew.  She entered me in a "dress the doll" contest at my grandpa's work and I won 1st place in my age group.  Joe DiMaggio handed out the $10.00 prize. 50 years later, I'm still sewing.

on 7 Jul 2011 9:11 AM

I had the best home ec teacher, Donna Issel at Tomales Highschool in Northern California. I loved her so much, I had 4 classes in her room each day senior year, the other 3 classes were civics and two art classes. She was a perfectionist, but with a lot of love and encouragement thrown in. I would love to see her or talk to her again to tell her how grateful I am for everything I learned from her (cooking too!)

jgrider wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:12 AM

I learned to sew in Home Ec classes from 7th grade to 12th grade.  Prince George's County, Maryland school system.  In the 70's there weren't alot of choices for elective classes for girls.  Every year I would get my course sheet for the coming year, the first thing my Mom would do is put down sewing as my first choice elective (and typing).  Then she would say, "what else do you want to take".    

I sold my first quilt last year and got my first quilt commission this week.

Thanks MOM!

Jackie G-R

Maryland

on 7 Jul 2011 9:14 AM

My grandmother taught me first how to sew a gathered at the waist apron and then to cross stitch a pattern on that beautiful gingham apron.  In jr high school home economics and FHA was my highlight of the day.  Thus I can say I have been sewing  for 55 years of my life and just retired as a home economics teacher ( now FACS Career and Technology Teacher)  Yes I taught middle school home economics by many titles for 39 years.  Yes I continue to sew, quilt and machine embroider.  Technology has taken us to new levels for our sewing skills.

L. Hinze

Jonesboro, GA.

LaineeBird wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:17 AM

I was tall for my age and at 10 yrs old I had a burning desire to learn how to sew like both of my Grandmas.  On summer vacation, I walked over to the Jr. High across the street from my elementary school and lied to the Secretary of the school about my age and enrolled myself in the Summer Home Ec. class to learn to sew...and I did AND I HAVE BEEN SEWING EVER SINCE...

debf wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:18 AM

I think all home ec teachers must have been, um, eccentric.  Mine named her daughter after the plane that dropped the bomb in WWII.  Honestly.  I'm not kidding.  I learned to sew from my mom, not from my home ec class.  My first school sewing project was an asymmetrical-plaid poncho.  If that choice wasn't enough of a mistake, I goofed and matched the plaids on the side seams instead of the front and back.  I got my only "C" ever on that project - not because of the plaid debacle, but because I ignored the teacher's demand that we tie knots and not backstitch to secure the seams.  My mom backstitched, and I trusted her judgment.  I still do.

lynpal wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:18 AM

I learned to sew first from my grandmother and after that in several summer sewing classes at the Singer Sewing Center near my home as a *** and young teenager.

mangomama wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:19 AM

I first learned to sew in grade 7 home ec.  I was terrible!  I made a stuffed cat that even my mom said looked like road kill.  The next year I made a t-shirt on the serger with a wonky hemline and 2 different length sleeves - again, not my best project.  For some reason, even though sewing was not my forte, I signed up for sewing in grade 9.  I did much better in that class and my abilities really developed.  I kept sewing throughout highschool, mostly patching jeans - though I did make my prom dress, but it wasn't until theatre school where I studied costuming that I really gained some skills.  Now I sew anything an everything - cloth diapers, kids clothes, my clothes, quilts, window treatments, home dec items, gifts, etc. Anytime I get a moment to myself, you will find me in the sewing room.

Today, I teach sewing to a new generation.  I am a high school Family Studies teacher (what Home Ec evolved into in Ontario).  The focus is on garment sewing but, if a student is really interested, I let them branch out into other areas.  I hope to instill a passion in them so they develop a life long love of sewing.

Mia wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:21 AM

My mom taught me by showing. I started with hand sewing scraps into Barbie clothes probably around age 6. Okay they weren't much but my Barbie liked them. When I finally took home ec in 7th grade , we had to make this stupid shirt that was ugly. I was accused of having my mother sew it since I decided to try French seams on it. I had to actually cut one of the seams and patch it to make it look the ones the others in class were making. The teacher even told my mother that she was lying when my mother said that I had done all of the work. Of course this was the same teacher who got made when I would alter the recipes we had to make for the cooking part. Um, jello mold? Think not.

I still prefer hand work to machine work though. Guess early hand sewing has led to this preference. And no I never wore that stupid shirt.

racheld18 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:23 AM

I learn to sew under the tutelage of my mom, aunt and my home economic teacher, Mrs. William.  She was quite the task master, but I loved her.  She was fair and for me  growing up in a small town where status counted, that was important.  She didn't  care who your mama or daddy were, you were expected to do the work and do it to the best of your ability.  In the 8th grade we all had to make box pleated skirts with zippers.  After taking mine out for the 3rd time, I had very little fabric left in which to make the  4th attempt, but I got it and I can still put a zipper in. I often think of her, when I am teaching or when someone comment on my sewing skills.  Basics are good!

YvonneO@7 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:24 AM

I learned to hand sew doll clothes from my father, (I grew up in a home without a mother).  We didn't have much money and it was economical to learn to sew.  I also learned from my Girl Scout leader who after exhaustive measurements determined that I would need a child size 8 pattern for my project although we would have to lengthen every piece because I was almost 5 feet tall!  Later I took Home Ec in school and learned how to sew a button (remember using two pins to adjust for button tension?), match plaids, and hem.  I still enjoy sewing.  I even made my dress for my high graduation.  

on 7 Jul 2011 9:27 AM

It feels like I have always been sewing. I remember watching my mother sewing from my earliest memories. She always had an extra sewing machine and either I or my three sisters were using it.

She was my 4-H teacher and I created dresses for the county and state fairs every year from the time I was 8 until until high school. Frequently the dresses were made of wool so I could also enter the Make-It-With-Wool contest. I loved working with wool. My grandfather was a sheep farmer and I felt a warm connection to my ancestors sewing on wool.

By the time I started HomeEc in 7th grade, I was already sewing most of my clothes. I remember when I started 7th grade, I had a red tent dress, a bright green dress and an white and orange jumper ready to the school year. I still have scraps of the red and green fabric in my quilt scraps over 30 years later.

mlenard wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:29 AM

My mother taught me to sew my first item, a gathered skirt for my Muffie Doll, when I was about 7 or 8.  I learned to sew by hand, then later I graduated to her White Rotary sewing machine (oh how I wish I still had that machine).  My big sister was an incredibly creative sewist (I love that new word) and I secretly competed with her.  This resulted in me honing my sewing skills from a very early age.  55 years later, I am still sewing.

quiltcat1 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:29 AM

My sewing lessons were in 7th grade in home ec. My mother didn't know how to sew and wasn't interested in it because her parents had both struggled to make ends meet running a dress shop they had begun as tailors and dressmakers. The home ec projects were a simple kerchief, a skirt with an inset zipper (ugly!), and a dress...i actually loved that A-line dress and its paisley fabric! My sister took home ec two years later and we convinced our parents to buy a sewing machine, with the two of us coming up with $15 from our babysitting money towards the $85 purchase price. It was our mechanically-inclined father who helped us set up the machine...and who did whatever mending needed doing if my sister and i weren't around. We made all kinds of halter tops and dresses for ourselves and our dolls...i still have some of the "kettlecloth" scraps! And now i'm sewing quilts happily, almost 40 years later!

tinacurr wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:30 AM

I learned to sew before I was in a home ec class -- in Girl Scouts.  The project was a reversible skating skirt, so we got to pick two (!) fabrics, not just one.  Reflecting on the project years later, I swear the pattern was based on a Christmas tree skirt because it was just a circle of fabric with a waistband and a slit in the circle & wasitband so you could get in & out of it.

I can't remember both fabrics, but one was definitely navy blue with red stars each outlined in white -- very patriotic.  And after we finished making our skating skirts, of course we all went skating to show them off.  Since I had just received a pair of light blue fishnet tights, handed down from an older sister, I wore them with the navy skirt (who cared if they matched or not, the fishnets were now mine!)  And of course they were the kind of fishnets not with the solid weave on the soles, but with the fishnet weave that cut into your feet after you stood on them for a while.  A slave to fashion even then, I proudly skated with the fishnets burying themselves deeply into the soles my feet.  I thought I was the height of fashion and I loved it!  And I have been a sewer ever since.

Johnni wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:31 AM

I learned to sew watching my mother sew - the youngest of 4 girls in the early 60s - we made almost all of our clothes. When I had Home Ec in school, I had to 'unlearn' a few techniques I had always used - such as double backstitching at the end of a seam. My mom always backstitched then went forward again to the edge of the fabric - easier to cut the threads. Making two passes like that lost me points on a graded skirt I made in Home Ec.

The physical evaluation in Home Ec you mention in the article sounded familiar.  We each had to measure ourselves, then give those measurements to the teacher. I guess she was making sure we used the right-sized patterns but in today;s world, sounds like invasion of privacy! Anyway - I remember that the teacher laughed when I gave her my measurements - yes, actually laughed! And what is ridiculous is that 45 years later, I can remember it! Oh, the things that affect our self-image! Praise God it makes me laugh now too!

Cornwoman wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:32 AM

As a kid I wanted to be able to sew like my aunt, but she said that I should learn the basics in HomeEc and then if I had any questions that she would answer them all!  So in the fall of 1961 in 7th grade, I took the 6 weeks twice a week sewing portion of that class.  We spent our class time learning how to follow a pattern and sew by making a blouse.  There was no stopping me after that 6 week period, and though I never had to ask my aunt any questions, she was the inspiration for my love of sewing.  These days we're both quilters, each learning independently and loving it!  I only wish that the cooking segment of HomeEc had done as good a job.  lol  To this day I am "cooking challenged".

on 7 Jul 2011 9:32 AM

My sewing education started in the 6th grade.  The nuns were trying to find my strengths for after-school activity time.  I was evidently hopeless in music and arhletics---they tried every variety available at the time.  I was sent to Sister Claire who ran the sewing room for the Convent. I started with hemming and pressing and progressed to embroidery on "Fair Linens" for the altar.  Her lessons paid off I went on to teach those traditional Home Ec classes of the 70's.   I retired after 33 years of changes in curriculum to my quilting room with embroidery and long arm machines at my side.  If only Sister Claire had those machines to work with!

Brett Selmer wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:35 AM

I took Home Ec. in Junior High and learned the basics of sewing.  Although my mom also sewed, I don't remember her sitting down to "teach" me.  I never asked!   I was my own teacher, and can you imagine how that turned out?  I put a zipper in a skirt three times once.  The first time I put the skirt together wrong, the second time I put the zipper in the hem portion of the skirt, and the third time I got it right!  I never did learn how to alter the pattern to fit my short body, and I wish sewing classes were available then the way quilting classes are available today.  When I discovered quilting, I was happy because a quilt always fits!  But my basic sewing skills really came in handy.

Brett in Laramie Wyoming

Penny@4 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:39 AM

Although I learned to sew in 4-H, I became a home economics teacher after honing my skills at Cornell.    The profession is not extinct--it now is called Family and Consumer Sciences and continues to teach "skills for life" to the current generation of students which sometimes includes sewing, especially in high school electives.

I still sew some for my granddaughters but now am mostly a quilter and continue to share my knowledge with students of all ages.

Glad to know that some remember their days in home economics with pleasure!

on 7 Jul 2011 9:40 AM

I love the Maxi dress!  And I love that you call it a Maxi dress too - I thought that term had been lost. :D  I remember Maxi, Midi and Mini's all being in style at the same time.

My initial sewing lessons came from Mrs. De Groote in 7th grade Home Ec.  The tool I learned to use most was the seam ripper!  Our right of passage in 7th grade was to make an apron and then use it to help serve lunch in the cafeteria.  I remember being very excited about this privileged although now it makes me laugh because I'm sure my girls wouldn't think the same!

I never took another sewing class  but because I learned to read a pattern in class I have been able to teach myself many skills over the years.  I'm feeling very tempted to buy Tricia's video just to see if I am doing things the "right way."

stg5708 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:40 AM

When I was about 7-8 yrs old, I was babysat by a wonderful woman named Effie Litz who did sewing and alterations for a living as well as babysitting. I was so enamored by her sewing machine, she actually had to pull the cabinet away from the wall and put me on a stool behind the machine so I could see everything and she would be able to move BOTH her elbows. She was extremely patient in explaining things and answering questions.  I began making Barbie clothes and progressed to my own clothes (I was tall and skinny back then.) and my 2 daughters' clothes and evening wear.

By the time I got to 9th grade Home Ec, I was able to tailor clothes and make bound buttonholes. Very contentious year for me and for the teacher since I was so far ahead of everyone in the class. The apron and wrap around skirt were very boring!

I don't know what I would do if I couldn't sew just for fun and creativity. Give me a good machine and I can make most anything you want. Give me a stove and I'll burn myself!

Endorph wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:42 AM

I first learned to hand sew and use printed patterns from my mother and grandmother, mostly making doll clothes. I also learned to use a sewing machine - an old Singer treadle - from my mom who was also the leader of my 4-H group. By the time I was in Junior High Home Ec classes I was a fairly accomplished sewer using self -taught short cuts and creative techniques. These did not always go over well with our instructor who was more concerned that we "follow the instructions to the letter" - but when she wasn't looking I used the faster and easier ways I had come up with for putting in sleeves, zippers and hems. I don't sew as much today as I would like to but am thankful for the time mom took to make sure I could sew, and knit and cook. . . .

nancyakibbee wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:44 AM

I grew up in a small town in Eastern Ontario Canada.  I wanted to have clothes that just weren't available so I decided to make my own.  I had no one to show me how (my mother didn't even have a needle and thread) but I had a really good freind who let me use her little portable sewing machine.  Thanks to the Simplicity Pattern company with their easy to follow patterns and clear instructions I fashioned my first pair of bell bottom pants.  Even then I had to be creative to make it fit.  40 years later I'm still learning as I go along and still really enjoying the process.

ruffus63 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:45 AM

I was fortunate to have a grandmother who loved to sew.  My first project was a patchwork quilt.  This followed by many years in 4H where I competed at local & state level dress review.  In my senior year of HS I won the state dress review with my 3 piece outfit.

I also took home ec classes when I went to school as they were still offered then.  Through these years of sewing I found my calling & have it my career.  I work in the clothing business for a company who manufacturers clothes for their stores.  I look back & say thanks to my grandmother who started it all.

chornb wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:49 AM

I rarely add comments but this topic just took me (way) back to my days as a beginner! I learned to sew as a 4-H CLub member on suburban Long Island. Each year, the weeks before 'fashion review' were filled with a flurry of planning, sewing and finishing activities, followed by the angst engendered by the thoughts of  being 'judged' and the fashion show itself. Our group supported each other through the process and for several years, collective memories of  'models' showing off features (backward kicking up a leg as announcer intoned 'and her skirt features a kick pleat') elicited peals of laughter! (clearly, this was pre-Project Runway)

The work evaluations ('judging' in our book) were strict  but mostly constructive. One judge had particularly high standards for inside garment finish work. Her name is long ago lost to me but I still can recall her facial expressions as she evaluated my seam and hem finishes.  

Still, her high standards have stayed with me for years and now, in my 'final career' as a designer/seamstress, my clients often comment that the inside of my work looks as good as the outside. And, my thanks go to her as I now guess that this was what she intended all along!

thegerards2 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:52 AM

My mother taught me to sew and I started sewing for pay while still in junior high.  When I went to high school, I signed up for home ec.  Our first project was an apron and the teacher was more than irritated that mine was finished in two class periods.  I continued to sew at home making prom dresses and bridesmaids dresses and going to school and making an apron and gathered skirt!  Such indignity for a know-it-all high school girl.

KYIS wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:59 AM

I learned to sew in junior high school, after watching my older sister sew garments for herself for years.  I hated it at first, but for some reason I was really determined to sew, thus I kept at it for years and did not get 'good' until a friend practically forced me to take tailoring! Our teacher told us on day one we had to get an 'A' on our wool garment (two piece suit or a long coat) or we would not pass the class! Panic set in, as I had never gotten better than a 'B' in sewing.  I persevered and got my 'A' and my teacher was right about one thing; she said 'you will leave this class a much better seamstress and you will be doing a lot less seam-ripping because you will learn to do it right the first time'.  It's true, I learned to take my time more and be sure to do things properly. That doesn't mean that I haven't had to pull out my seam ripper, it just means I learned more often than not to be more careful with instructions and what I'm doing in garment construction.  I sewed a lot of clothing, household decor and quilts over the last 35 years and now I have one grown daughter who is a seamstress and the other two do enjoy sewing on occasion.

Toni Rexroat wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 9:59 AM

My Mom taught me to sew when I was a girl. My sister and I would sew entire outfits and then model them for 4-H. We had so much fun coming up with little "routines" for our modelling.

Deb Barrett wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:00 AM

I took an afterschool sewing class with all the other girls in my seventh-grade class, held at our church's youth center. Many women in my family sew well, and I was starting to think about the things that I could make once I learned to sew. But I became discouraged when our instructor had all of us make the same blue corduroy jumper. I didn't care for the color or the style, and we all wore blue plaid uniforms at school. I finished the jumper and wore it once or twice, but nothing more came of it.

Five years later, I was in my senior year of high school and needed another class to fill out my schedule. I decided to take one semester of sewing despite the memory of that old blue jumper haunting my thoughts. Mrs. Backas, our teacher, expected us to make three garments during the semester and said they could be anything we wanted. When we were buying the fabric and notions for the long puffy-sleeved blouse that I'd chosen for my first project, my mom (who'd made a pressing cloth for her first sewing project in school) kept saying, "Are you SURE your teacher said this was all right??"

Mrs. Backas encouraged me and helped me through the challenging parts, and I discovered that I LOVED sewing!! I sewed jeans and tee shirts for college, suits and blouses for work, and eventually a variety of projects for our home. I do not make my living with this skill, but sewing continues to be a creative force in my life.

dekayebrat wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:01 AM

I learned to sew from my mother before I was old enough for Home Ec.  For Christmas, I would ask for pieces of fabric and spend my Christmas vacation sewing.  My home ec teacher did not like the fact that I already knew how to sew and would work on my project at home.

Every home ec class I could take as it was so much fun to sew.  I wanted to take some other sewing classes (pattern design, etc) but they were at another school several miles away and my parents did not allow me to do that.

I am still sewing over 40 years later and now even do some sewing/machine embroidery on the side for "customers".  

The industry keeps providing us with great projects, patterns and supplies and I wonder sometimes what my grandmother would think of the things we have available now.  (I have a treadle machine from 1910 and a 1891 Wilcox & Gibbs machine - they serve as reminders of what my grandmother used).

My grandmother also sewed and could make her own patterns.  I have started doing that and enjoy it so much.

Mcgeary wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:07 AM

I learned to sew in the 50's in middle school where sewing was a required subject and in the neighborhood 4-H Club . Since I was very small, making my own clothes was the only way to get clothes that fit.  (It was before the days of junior petite.) In high school sewing was an elective and I continued to take more classes.    After that I sewed off and on for years and in 1999 I discovered quilting. I was thrilled to find that I just needed a quarter inch seam & didn't have to set in sleeves, collars & cuffs.  So I was off and running.  Now I have my own on-line shop, belong to 3 quilt groups, enter shows (was juried into Houston in 2002) & curate shows locally.    So what has early sewing classes meant to me?? Well I'm 70 and still at it & that should say it all.  Peggy McGeary, Union City, NJ

on 7 Jul 2011 10:08 AM

I learned to sew as a child.  My mother (who learned everything she knew from books) was determined keep this fidgety daughter still, and taught me to knit, crochet, embroider, needlepoint and sew.  I remember her hands guiding mine at the sewing machine, and her warnings to this day about "sewing your fingers down" still resound in my head every time I get rockin' on the presser foot!  We girls started Home Ec class in the 7th grade (1972, but who's counting?).  Our project was a calico apron, as an intro to using sewing machines.  I remember how totally special and superior I felt when the teacher told me I should use her Singer Touch-n-Sew machine since it was silly to sit me at one of the old machines when I used a Singer at home.  In 8th Grade, all the rest of the girls made an A-line skirt, and I made a beautiful scoop-necked, princess-seam maxi dress complete with sash, like the one pictured in this article.  Only mine was made from bright yellow floral fabric.  What was I thinking?  It came out great, and I wore it to my Pioneer Girls Club annual dinner.  I was asked to stand up and everyone clapped for the dress I had made with my own hands.  Sadly, I have 3 sons and no daughters.  It would have been amazing to sit with my daughter the way I sat with my mom.  Here's hoping for lots of grandchildren some day!

PattyP wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:11 AM

My home ec experience was eye opening. I had a very snooty teacher who used to amuse me with her "perfect little view" of herself. Most of my friends were very intimidated by her. I chose to find the humor of her. Well, she didn't really like my attitude and when she would walk around to "help" us at our sewing machines with our apron project, she would always have a special trick for my visit. She would lean done close to look at my seams and - oops!- she would always knock over my plasic container of straight pins. Seeing them scatter all over the table, she would apologize and tell me to call her back over when I had picked them back up. And then she would smile ( like the Cheshire cat did).

So being left on my own to sew, I sewed my apron with my unique creative touches and she gave me an F because I didn't follow the directions "perfectly".

I was proud of my apron and (even at that young age) I felt sorry for my teacher.

And my creative-minded parents didn't mind the F grade at all.

My grandmother worked in Kingston NY at a sewing factory. I loved visiting her when I was very young. The room was full of very long tables with many women at their own sewing stations, all busy sewing away, clipping threads and chatting to each other. The hum of machines and all the colors were fascinating to me. At my grandmother's home, she had a beautiful sewing machine and a huge armoire full of fabrics. But the best of all was this small kitchen drawer that held balled up paper pattern pieces. Lots of them, no rhyme or reason to the order.

But she would go through all the "paper balls" and select a few and then spend maybe an hour at her machine. She would then have made the prettiest two dresses, one for me and one for my sister. Then she would take us to church in our new dresses.

So I have no fear of sitting in front of my machine. I know it does magic and I love the sound it makes!

BNelsonAK wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:19 AM

I had 7th grade home ec, but then didn't do much sewing until a friend got married in college. She handed me fabric and a pattern and said, "Here's your bridesmaid dress"....Umm, yeah...:-) But I made it and I was hooked. I took some pattern design classes in college, and my first job at age 22 was head dressmaker at a tailor shop (everyone else there had quit at the same time, so I was head dressmaker by default:-)) That four year job was worth more than my college education, I learned so much. Eventually Quilting Arts magazine came along and changed my sewing completely, I now have a business selling mini art quilts and teaching free motion stitching/thread sketching, Thanks, QA!

EvieDunmore wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:25 AM

I was born in England and went to school there, and sewing and cooking were a main part of our education. Even in grade school we learnt some very basic sewing, (boys too). When we went to Secondary School  (which was all girls) half a day, once a week, was dedicated to sewing and this was at the age of 11 through 15. We were fortunate enough to have two teachers with excellent sewing skills and they passed on so much to us.

I remember at 13 making babydoll pyjamas. Here I learnt how to make gathers evenly, french seams and just so many other things. I think I wore-out those pj's.

My sewing skills helped me when my children came along (3 boys) not only in the making of clothes and toys but in adjusting, altering and repairing clothes.

Our finally project at 14-15 years-old was making a garment for ourselves, which we wore with pride.

To this day, if anyone ever mentions that they have a project which they can't seem to get to, I volunteer to do the sewing for them, it relaxes me, especially the hand sewing.

It seems that the schools now are cutting these classes here in Pennsylvania, which is a great pity. Thank goodness for the 4-H programs that still encourage it.

MsSuzanne wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:26 AM

I learned to sew from Mrs. Summers in 4-H at the tender age of 8 y.o.  It was a little rectangle pillow--white fabric of black flowers with yellow centers. Of course there was the lesson in seams and attaching a piece of lace on one of the ends.  It was so disappointing to recieve a 3rd place ribbon.  Gosh that thing is somewhere at my mom's house.  My next big project came in h.s.--it was a jumper made out of sweatshirt material.  Somehow the project was stolen from school and I still received an A....To this day I've never been able to figure that one out.....Least of all, trying to make pot holders, sewing my own clothes by stitching the crotch backwards in a pair of shorts causing my mom to wet herself--Luckily I've been able to inherit all of my grandma's vintage How-To Sew books from the 50's and 60's with handy tips.

AJMS13 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:29 AM

Every August my grandmother made 3-5 dresses to wear to school. I occasionally had to "unsew" a seam and usually sewed on buttons. She kept the Singer humming I have 3 younger sisters and they usually got at least one new dress if they weren't in school.  I also remember standing on the enamel topped table on the screened in back porch as my grandfather pinned my hems. The table was against the screen and the ground was almost a full story below so I stood VERY STILL.  

My mother later had her own machine and she and grandma taught me how to sew.  I had learned "bad habits" by the time I went to Home Ec. Like pin basting, and was very impatient because I had to have each seam or dart checked before I could sew the next one.  I also would cut a little wide or very close to certain parts of patterns because I knew where they wouldn't fit me properly.

I made a mini dress in college from a 1 yard remmnant on my friend's mini (FeatherLIte) singer..

Once I start a project I still hate to stop.

mkurtz10 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:32 AM

My one and only sewing lesson was in eighth grade.  They assigned us a sewing machine (I got the oldest machine out of the bunch, an all metal Viking that had seen more years than the teacher teaching the class) and there were instructions to thread the machine (which didn't apply to me, the other students were using ten year old Singers) and then we made a pillowcase.  That, was it.  Everything else, I've learned on my own by trial and error.  I've made lots of doll clothing, fixed clothing for friends, and am working on my first quilt (a modified queen size of a local shop hop)

Scrappy2 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:33 AM

How not to encourage someone to sew:  I could hardly wait to start high school for the simple reason that I would be able to learn to sew & took to it like a duck to water.  In grade 10 our project was a suit.  When our marks were handed out the teacher informed me that although I deserved a mark of 100 she had given me 95 as "no one ever gets 100 in sewing!!!

Despite her 'encouragement' I continued to sew & tailor and describe my hobby as my therapy.  Whenever I make a suit, I always give myself a mark of 100!!!

AnneC@20 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:46 AM

My mother taught me hand-sewing basics.  But, when I got to 7th grade, and Home Ec, well... At the time, I was staying with another relative, who announced - "you'll be making an apron", and bought me some orange gingham fabric in preparation.  Home Ec was going to be good - I was ahead, 'cause I could already hand sew, and I took to the machine sewing like a duck to water.  Then came "PROJECT TIME".  The teacher announced that we would not be making aprons like everyone did in the past, but a more relevent to us project - shorts. (this was the early '70's, too)  All my previous enthusiasm was dashed - I was the only one in class with an ugly pair of unwearable thin-gingham shorts.  Cooking class (half the year sewing, half cooking) fared little better, because by then I was too embarrassed and laughed at to try...  By the time I got out of Home Ec at the end of 9th grade, (by the skin of my teeth, I almost failed the last year of it!) you'd think I'd never go near a needle or a pot again - -

I love to cook everything from scratch, and I enjoy sewing my own clothes, quilting, knitting, crocheting... In other words, once I got away from all those rules, taunts, and pressure to be perfect, I could enjoy what I was making!!

To my knowledge, Home Ec is still taught in the schools here, though it is now co-ed (we used to be separated into girls - cooking/sewing home ec and boys - woods/metal shops) and all children get a few weeks of cooking, few weeks of sewing, few of metal, few of wood, and a few weeks electical shops.  Better?  in some ways, worse in others... only getting a taste of any one, instead of real learning in any...

rstevens wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:47 AM

My mother had been a home ec teacher before having children so she let us experiment with her sewing machine when we were very young.  Eventually she lead a 4H sewing group, but at that time I felt like I was being forced to learn how to sew.  I had the same attitude when she "forced" me to learn knitting and typing, so for years I didn't like any of these activities.  I had an 6-week mini home ec class in junior high that was not terribly productive.  Again, because of my negative attitude I made a very sloppy apron which disappointed my mother since she was hoping a different instructor would inspire me.  It wasn't until years later I decided to make a wall quilt and discovered I really was interested in sewing.  It was amazing how to me how much I really did remember about sewing basics considering how much I had "hated" it.  I also began spinning my own yarn and weaving yardage with it.  So of course that has lead to taking a pattern drafting class and designing my own clothes.  Now I regularly call my mother asking for sewing advice and look forward to showing her my completed projects, knowing how proud she is that my sewing skills have improved dramatically since grade school.  

Sandra G wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:55 AM

My sewing lessons started young with my mom teaching me to hand sew doll clothes.  My wonderful 8th grade Home Ec teacher saw the I was already sewing beyond what the rest of the class was sewing and let me take on more of a challenge.  That year I made a lavender swiss dot skirt and a matching blouse with short puffed sleeves.  It was finished in the winter and I almost froze wearing it at the bus stop on a cold snowy morning, but I looked great!

Charlie2 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:58 AM

My grandmother taught me the basics and all of it had to be done by hand, even button holes.  I worked on aprons and doll clothes and once that was all mastered I got to use the sewing machine and have not stopped since.  I still like to sew my hems by hand but the button holes are always done on the machine these days.

Hizy Fit wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:02 AM

I learned to sew from my mother, a very accomplished seamstress. By age 5 or 6, I was using her little Singer Featherweight to sew up doll clothes for my Barbie (from silk scraps from my Great Aunt's Bridal Shoppe). My first project using a pattern was a madras plaid jumper and it had challenges: matching plaid, facings, inset zipper, etc. It was a great garment and would you believe it, someone else liked it so much, they stole it from the locker room of our swim club. My mother was pretty livid.

Next was Home-Ec in 7th grade and the teacher didn't take very well to my having better skills than she. She insisted that we cut out our patterns with PINKING SHEARS (!) to which I asked, "how will we be able to accurately cut out our notches and double notches?" No dice. So, I counted the pinking shears, counted the students and waited patiently for everybody to get their pair. When none were left for me, I went to the teacher and said there were no more left.....I got my dressmaker shears to use! My mother was so delighted I was that clever. Still a passionate 'sewist' I now make one of a kind quilted art jackets! I wish to teach young kids how to sew. I do not intend to lower the bar, as my teacher did. Quilting and appliqué is also my relaxation.

cmkozy wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:02 AM

My mother taught me to sew. My earliest memories are of playing with buttons and fabrics while she sewed. I was embroidering by 6 and started to sew shortly afterwards. I received my first "real" sewing machine for my 12th birthday. I still have it. My mother, born and raised in Germany, decided to take a quilting class around the Bicentennial and then proceeded to teach me that skill as well. Working with needle and thread has been one of my greatest joys in life and it was my mother who gave me that gift.

johnson56481 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:03 AM

Although I took a home ec class when I was in the seventh grade, I really learned how to sew in high school.  I took two years of home ec sewing.  Our instructor taught the Bishop method, which I still use today.  I won't go into how long ago all this was but it has been an invaluable skill for my entire adult life, from making my daughter's school clothes when she was in grade school to being able to create designer clothes for my self.  It also allowed me to have a little home business for a few years, doing custom sewing.

mbcrui wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:03 AM

My mother is not a patient teacher by any means.  So when I wanted to learn to sew, I asked my grandmother to teach me.  She had made a living, during the depression, sewing for other people (as well as herself and her family) and had done tailoring for a shop in town.  I made an A line maxi dress for my uncle's wedding and it was BEAUTIFUL :)

The first outfit I made for myself when I didn't have my grandmother to ask would have fit me and 4 other people.  It was awful... huge and ugly... more a comment on my body image and taste than on my sewing skills, tho. :)

When I joined a reenactment society, though, is when I really got sewing.  My friend, who had high school sewing, and I live far from any other group, so we decided we'd put our very rusty sewing skills to use making costumes for our friends.  We made 25 or 30 medieval costumes and by the end of that binge, we were sewing pretty well.

Then a friend asked us to make her wedding dress.  We did that at my grandmother's dining room table, so we could ask her questions if we got in trouble.  We not only made the dress,  we designed it.  We got so many compliments on that dress, we went on to make 7 more (together) and I've made 13 more since my friend and I moved apart.

I routinely throw together skirts, pants, shirts, pajamas, blankets, hats, and other clothes now, for myself and my family.  Occasionally I buy a pattern, but mostly I've sewed so much, I can make something with just measurements and a rough idea of what I want it to look like.  I don't remember the last time I exactly followed a pattern.

The most recent wedding dress I've made was for my daughter :)  A strapless silk, princess lines with purple lace inserts, embroidered rainbow butterflys and flowers on the train... my daughter looked gorgeous :)

ldunning wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:04 AM

I learned to sew doll's clothes with my Nana & clothing with my mother, the perfectionist.  After my first try at clothing with my mother (a blk & rust sleeveless striped blouse with buttons & yoke..yikes!) to match a black skirt I was making in Home Ec in 7th grade, she sent me to Singer Sewing lessons to avoid more tears & arguements!  It worked because I went on to make many of my clothes in hign school, won several sewing contests (I still have the gold charm I won from Seventeen Magazine) & made all my clothes in college.  Now I am a quilter & sell my work thru several stores.  But why are we now called sewists??  Sewer is gender neutral.  Why not playist, farmist, etc.?  It's not a good  word!!  

Susan Strong wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:05 AM

I started sewing Barbie doll clothes from scraps of fabric when I was 6 or 7.  I still can't believe my mother let me use her machine (the only one in the house and used by her and my 4 older sisters).  Then I joined the Home Economics Club in 4-H when I was 10 and have been sewing, quilting and crafting ever since (over 40 years!).  

JudyS@3 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:07 AM

I learned to sew in 4H staring at 10, then home ec classes in jr high, high school and fibers and textiles was my first major in college.  My mother refused to sew anything for me after age 12 because I could sew better than she. I actually won a college scholarship with my sewing in 4H.  I paid for some living expenses in college by sewing for others who did not know how to.

Over the years I have picked up tricks and new techniques from various books, videos, classes and other sewers.  My made my own wedding dress and saved a ton of money.  I will probably sew my daughter's dress when she walks down the line including knitting a lace veil.  She has been looking and is very disappointed with the fabrics used and the quality of the workmanship.  She says I taught her to be a fabric snob but her friends love to take her along shopping as she can tell them if  a garment will wear and wash well.  

on 7 Jul 2011 11:09 AM

My mother, grandmother and Mom's sister all sewed, so of course, so did I.  I learned a lot in 4-H, so when I took 7th grade sewing, the apron project was very easy.  Next, we were allowed to do anything we wanted.  I "designed" a 3-tiered skirt with set-in waist band and zipper.  The teacher said I did very well but because I did not pin or baste anything as taught, she was only going to give me a B!

The best tip I learned came from my cousin Connie who told me that if you pull the threads too snugly while putting in a hand hem, it will break more easily!

Amy@137 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:12 AM

I learned first in Home Ec class in the 7th grade, then we moved to another state, and I learned again in Home Ec class in the 8th grade.  I wasn't allowed to use my mother's sewing machine until I learned at school.  It's unfortunate that Home Ec is no longer taught.  

lms44 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:13 AM

I also learned to sew via 4H. I started when I was in the 4th grade and continued sewing through the 4H program right up to graduation from high school. I used to drive my mother and 4H leader a bit crazy because I'm not great about following pattern instructions. Unless it is a complicated step, I just look at it and put it together.

My leader was my best friend's mom and she was great with all of us. Between her and my mother sewing has been an important part of my life through out the years and still to this day. While what I sew has shifted some, it is still one of the most rewarding things in my life.

seleyrn wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:16 AM

First sewing instruction in Home Economics class in junior high.  OMG are there still HOme ec classes. The rest of my skills are self taught.  Picked up hints on TV, at quilt guilds and classes.  But mostly trial and error.  

Sherri Eley

karenadd wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:22 AM

I learned to sew as a child by making Barbie doll clothes, by hand and then by machine.  I vaguely remember home-ec classes and the sewing there.  But mostly I remember the lessons I learned from the mistakes I made.  Like not washing red fabric with other colors( all my Barbie clothes had a reddish tint).  I also learned about nap on corduroy when I made a jumper and cut half of it out upside down.  I have had a lot of fun over the years with sewing.  I made a coat in Sr. High that I wore for years, I made teddy bears out of an old fake fur coat, made countless pillows as gifts, and I made my wedding gown and attendants dresses 25 years ago.  More recently I've had a small alterations business.  It is definitely harder to remake clothing than it is to start from scratch!!  I even completely remade the canvas covering for an old pop-up camper that we found at a garage sale.  There aren't too many days that go by that I'm not sewing or quilting.

catnana wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:22 AM

I was taught to hand sew by my Mother. I have a hand stitched doll dress I made at age 5  and also embroidry done at age 6.

I was lucky enough to have Home Ec. in school. If I could find my teacher I would thank her for all her time and patience! She gave us a ton of very useful tips and tricks that I use all the time. My two piece suit made in 7th or 8th grade was great, sure glad I didnt have to button the buttons! The button holes were perfect, they just were too small for the buttons to fit in!

My Grandmother made many hundreds of quilts and never was in a quilt shop. All the tops were done with material from clothes we sent her to use. I still know what fabrics were mine!! Family traditions are hard to break!!!

on 7 Jul 2011 11:25 AM

It seems most people learned to sew in school or with family....my family didn't sew at all, and in fact my mother was known for hemming pants with a stapler and/or duct tape. But I wanted to learn to quilt....I didn't seem to have any artistic talent but I thought, even if I can't draw, surely i can cut pieces of fabric and put them toether....so at age 22 I fought down my inherent shyness, walked into a quilt shop and told them I wanted to make one. The man behind the counter started to tell me it was easy, it could be done with quarter inch seams, etc.....I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. I had never touched a sewing machine before. He was so sweet to me; he looked around, and seeing no other customers, let me sit down at one of the machines used for classes and began patiently teaching me how to thread it. By the time I left the shop that day I had made a nine-patch block, and I've never looked back.

Strangely enough, over the years I never found time to take a "real" sewing class, so there are major gaps in my knowledge.  I have made many quilts, from traditional to contemporary, quilted by hand and machine, thread sketched, and can do all kinds of bindings, but I still don't hem pants very well.

Sherrie S. wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:25 AM

I learned to sew at age 11 by following the instructions on a Simplicity pattern. I thought "Simplicity" meant the patterns were all simple, but the one I chose was a blouse and jumper complete with zipper, darts, decorative braiding, buttons and buttonholes, inset sleeves and gathered cuffs! Talk about jumping right in!

LizBeth Jill wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:40 AM

My Mother taught both my sister and I to sew, skills later enhanced in Home Ec classes.  I absolutely love the fact that my sister,  probably 7 or 8 at the time, was making a pair of pajama bottoms for her dolly.  The turned out to be too long so she solved the problem by cutting the extra off the waist, not off the legs!!!!!!!!!!!!!  A story we have had many a good laugh over.

on 7 Jul 2011 11:45 AM

I learned how to sew from my mom and grandmother.  I had to take sewing in Junior High and I really hated it.   They kept trying to make me sew like a beginner and it just wasn't me.  In High School I needed a single credit and I took sewing again only this time the teacher was great and she had me teaching some of the others.  I still sew and quilt now and I guess Jr High didn't ruin it for me.

pjm933 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:47 AM

My father worked for the Canadian Dept of National Defence and was posted to the Hague, Netherlands in the early 1960s. I went to a private French catholic school, and learned to sew at age 11 from the nuns. My first project was a complicated apron with tiny bias tape edges, all hand-stitched, appliqued pockets etc. We were graded on the INSIDE of the project. Everything we made in the sewing class over the 2 years was turned inside out for its inspection. The theory was that if the inside was impeccable, the outside would have to be. The nuns were meticulous in their techniques, and what I learned has stood me in very good stead.

alicaz wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:49 AM

My mom had an old sewing machine where you had to pump with your feet and I was never able to coordinate my hand and feet to make it go forward ;) After several broken needles my mom gave up on me.. instead I did a lot of cross-stitching as a kid. Our home ec class wasn't much - we only learned how to sew on buttons, did a hand stitching sampler and then we moved onto cooking ;)

So I taught myself to sew when I was home with my first kiddo. I'm not a pro, but I manage to create things when I need to ;)

sue dyer wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:50 AM

My mom taught me to sew on the machine when I was 10. By the age of 13 I was making my own clothes from dresses, pants, jackets....I was then required to take home ec.  Our first project was an apron gathered at the waist.  Now,  money was very tight for my family and I explained to my teacher that This would be a waste of money on material and the pattern for something that neither my mom or I would wear/use.  Could I instead make a skirt? I already make my own clothes why do I have to do the beginning project? No, I had to make the apron.  Needless to say I did not participate in the project (I got a C eventually). Phone calls went to my mom who understood my point of view and reiterated them to the teacher. During the project the teacher noticed that she was really only teaching about 3 girls how to sew.  The remanding 15 girls were like me, disgruntled at the apron and would rather  make their own wardrobes.  The teacher noticed this and finally asked how many of us knew how to sew and what projects we were working on at home.  When she saw that only 3 girls didn't sew she told us if we finished the aprons we could then bring our sewing projects from home and work on them instead of the set curriculum.  Yeah! The following year the curriculum was modified so that girls who already knew how to sew could work on their own and those who didn't sew got individual sewing lessons.  Sometimes it pays to be a rebel.  

sue dyer wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:50 AM

My mom taught me to sew on the machine when I was 10. By the age of 13 I was making my own clothes from dresses, pants, jackets....I was then required to take home ec.  Our first project was an apron gathered at the waist.  Now,  money was very tight for my family and I explained to my teacher that This would be a waste of money on material and the pattern for something that neither my mom or I would wear/use.  Could I instead make a skirt? I already make my own clothes why do I have to do the beginning project? No, I had to make the apron.  Needless to say I did not participate in the project (I got a C eventually). Phone calls went to my mom who understood my point of view and reiterated them to the teacher. During the project the teacher noticed that she was really only teaching about 3 girls how to sew.  The remanding 15 girls were like me, disgruntled at the apron and would rather  make their own wardrobes.  The teacher noticed this and finally asked how many of us knew how to sew and what projects we were working on at home.  When she saw that only 3 girls didn't sew she told us if we finished the aprons we could then bring our sewing projects from home and work on them instead of the set curriculum.  Yeah! The following year the curriculum was modified so that girls who already knew how to sew could work on their own and those who didn't sew got individual sewing lessons.  Sometimes it pays to be a rebel.  

Cluemaker wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:56 AM

i learned to sew in my 7th grade Home Ec. class. The first thing we made was a PE drawstring bag to cary our PE clothes to and from school. That was a fun project. Then we went on to make a blouse and an A-line skirt. I did fine until it came time to do the hemming. I hated hemming! I wish they had the fusable tape way back then..it would have made it so much easier. I didn't really sew much after that. About 8 years ago, i decided to learn to quilt and I haven't stopped. I love it and am getting away from the traditional quilts and heading down the road of art quilts!

Cluemaker wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:56 AM

i learned to sew in my 7th grade Home Ec. class. The first thing we made was a PE drawstring bag to cary our PE clothes to and from school. That was a fun project. Then we went on to make a blouse and an A-line skirt. I did fine until it came time to do the hemming. I hated hemming! I wish they had the fusable tape way back then..it would have made it so much easier. I didn't really sew much after that. About 8 years ago, i decided to learn to quilt and I haven't stopped. I love it and am getting away from the traditional quilts and heading down the road of art quilts!

woofie1 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 11:57 AM

My grandmother and her sister shared a double when I was a child. They also shared a treadle sewing machine and teaching me and my sisters to sew.  When I was old enough, I joined 4-H, but had to go to grandma's to finish my projects. My mom was hopeless;she once made me a nightgown which fell apart as I slept. She was always on us about the "Mess that sewing made."  then when I was in college she took lessons and learned to sew-made a bigger mess thatn we ever did.  I still sew many things.

Cluemaker wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 12:05 PM

I learned to sew in 7th grade Home Ec. We made a P.E. drawstring bag, a blouse and an A-line shirt. It fas fun until it came to hemming. I hated hemming!After that, i didn't sew again until about 8 years ago, when I took a quilting class and loved it. I've been making quilts ever since! I've mostly done traditional quilts, but am now trying to create art quilts. I especially like landscape and picture quilts. This kind of quilting, for me, is so cool...it's so freeing. I don't have to measure..I can just be free and creative. It's a blast.

Joan Hansen wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 12:08 PM

Thank you for your positive comments about the Home Ec. class. I have heard so many sad horror stories that I was expecting another. I taught those classes for 30 years. I taught all the 7th graders that went through middle school for 17 years. The boys did as well or better than the girls. I learned some secrets about how to teach beginners and the most helpful was telling them where to look when they were sewing and how to hold their hands when guiding the fabric. I worked with each individual until they "got it".  The projects were wonderful. We even free handed embroideried messages and names on them. I encouraged creativty. Today when I meet a former student, most tell me that they still have their chef's apron.

I learned to sew in Home Ec. also. My mother told me that she would buy all the material I wanted if I would sew my own clothes. The comments from my friends also encouraged me besides the fact that I could have a lot of clothes kept me sewing.

lisashep wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 12:08 PM

I learned at age 12 at the local Singer store -- way back when Singer had its own retail stores!  This one was in Bergen Mall (Paramus, NJ). At the end of the summer course, we had a fashion show on the mall.  I made a green striped vest, buttonholes and all, and still remember the thrill of showing off on the runway, with a bunch of strangers applauding every garment that went by ; )  At the same time my grandmother had won a sewing machine in a word-jumble contest in her newspaper, so she gave me the machine. That fall I went for a second session at the same store on Saturdays.  I hear so many home-ec teacher horror stories, but learning at Singer was fabulous!

cskb2001 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 12:10 PM

When I was in junior high Home Ec was still required. We had WHOLE SEMESTERS of sewing and then cooking! The students that were in cooking and sewing the first semester switched the next semester, so it went all school  year long. It was awesome! At the end of each semester we would have a tea and fashion show that we invited our mother to, while the sewers modeled what they made and the cookers made the refreshments. And our teacher videotaped the show. It was great! As it was the mid-70's, I remember making a blue and yellow peasant blouse that I wore out. I took two years of home ec in junior high and then advanced Home Ec in high school. When my daughter took Home Ec in middle school, it was pathetic. She had a week or two of basic sewing and a week or two of basic cooking. I was so blessed.

on 7 Jul 2011 12:18 PM

My mother was my first teacher. She bought clothes at "rummage" sale, that dates me, and altered them to fix. She was a magnicient seamtress. I learned more from my Home-Ec teacher. But the last teacher at school almost caussed me to stop sewing. She insisted that the blousy sleeve with a 4 inch tight cuff should have no drop when my arm was straight to my side. All you had to do was bend your arm with her fitting to tear out the sleeve. I kept putting it in right for the pattern until she gave up. Got a C on the nice brown skirt and vest with the yellow blouse. I still remember my pride when I wore it. Took Home-Ec in the early 1950's.

cskb2001 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 12:19 PM

Home Ec was still required when I was in junior high. There were WHOLE SEMESTERS of sewing and cooking, and when you took cooking or sewing the first semester, you switched to the other the second semester. At the end of the semester we had a tea party and fashion show that we invited our mothers to.  The sewers modeled their clothing and the cookers made all refreshments.  Our teacher videotaped the show and we all watched it later.  As it was in the mid-70's, I remember making a yellow and blue peasant shirt that I wore out. I took two years of Home Ec in junior high and advanced Home Ec in high school. I also took sewing and pattern making using the cad system in college. I have since become a fabric artist.  When my daughter took Home Ec in middle school, she  had a couple weeks of basic sewing and a couple weeks of cooking. I was so blessed!

tsmandeville wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 12:32 PM

I bet I could guess Cate's age.  This sounds like a day in Miss Wiley's home ec class for sure.  She was a real stickler for 1/4" hems on a tea towel.  Made all those same items in sixth grade.  I'm grateful for the instruction.  My mom was an excellent seamstress but she didn't have the teaching abilities of Miss Wiley.  I bookmarked your page for reference when needed.

on 7 Jul 2011 12:36 PM

All these Home Ec stories. I wonder how many schools still have home ec sewing. Not mine. I teach sewing and art quilts in my Art class. They love that feeling of doing something magical like sewing on their own. I get to feel that excitement with them each time. I get to hear, "I sewed a seam!"

Jude61 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 12:39 PM

My grandmother first and then several years in 4-H.  By the time I got to Jr. High home ec classes I could sew circles around the teacher and she hated me for it.

on 7 Jul 2011 1:02 PM

Seventh grade was the beginning of my sewing career.  Back in the early sixty's in my home town of Deer Park Texas home ec classes were offered.  I took full advantage starting with making an apron all the way to a lined wool coat with bound buttonholes and pad stitching.  About 7 years ago I discovered quilting. And now I'm hooked. I love to try different quilting techniques so I take lots of classes and travel to quilting retreats.  About 18 months ago I discovered that I was a victim of *** cancer (for the second time).  So my sewing and quilting came to an abrupt halt for about a year.  But now after being pronounced cancer free, I'm back to the sewing machine determined that I will make a quilt for everyone who is important in my life.

sue dyer wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 1:05 PM

My mom taught me to sew on the machine when I was 10. By the age of 13 I was making my own clothes from dresses, pants, jackets....I was then required to take home ec.  Our first project was an apron gathered at the waist.  Now,  money was very tight for my family and I explained to my teacher that This would be a waste of money on material and the pattern for something that neither my mom or I would wear/use.  Could I instead make a skirt? I already make my own clothes why do I have to do the beginning project? No, I had to make the apron.  Needless to say I did not participate in the project (I got a C eventually). Phone calls went to my mom who understood my point of view and reiterated them to the teacher. During the project the teacher noticed that she was really only teaching about 3 girls how to sew.  The remanding 15 girls were like me, disgruntled at the apron and would rather  make

their own wardrobes.  The teacher noticed this and finally asked how many of us knew how

to sew and what projects we were working on at home.  When she saw that only 3 girls

didn't sew she told us if we finished the aprons we could then bring our sewing projects from

home and work on them instead of the set curriculum.  Yeah! The following year the

curriculum was modified so that girls who already knew how to sew could work on their

own and those who didn't sew got individual sewing lessons.  Sometimes it pays to be a

rebel.  I still sew my own clothes when possible and I have been  teaching beginning sewing classes for the past 6 years.  

sue dyer wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 1:06 PM

My mom taught me to sew on the machine when I was 10. By the age of 13 I was making my own clothes from dresses, pants, jackets....I was then required to take home ec.  Our first project was an apron gathered at the waist.  Now,  money was very tight for my family and I explained to my teacher that This would be a waste of money on material and the pattern for something that neither my mom or I would wear/use.  Could I instead make a skirt? I already make my own clothes why do I have to do the beginning project? No, I had to make the apron.  Needless to say I did not participate in the project (I got a C eventually). Phone calls went to my mom who understood my point of view and reiterated them to the teacher. During the project the teacher noticed that she was really only teaching about 3 girls how to sew.  The remanding 15 girls were like me, disgruntled at the apron and would rather  make

their own wardrobes.  The teacher noticed this and finally asked how many of us knew how

to sew and what projects we were working on at home.  When she saw that only 3 girls

didn't sew she told us if we finished the aprons we could then bring our sewing projects from

home and work on them instead of the set curriculum.  Yeah! The following year the

curriculum was modified so that girls who already knew how to sew could work on their

own and those who didn't sew got individual sewing lessons.  Sometimes it pays to be a

rebel.  I still sew my own clothes when possible and I have been  teaching beginning sewing classes for the past 6 years.  

on 7 Jul 2011 1:33 PM

As a pre-teen and watching my Mother sew I thought it looked easy.  My first project was an apron and the second project was a "straight skirt".  I was very concerned the sirt side seams would open so I reinforced the side seams by sewing wider and wider seams.  It was not to surprising that my skirt was too small.

KKR wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 1:37 PM

My mother and grandmother taught me to sew when they got tired of making doll clothes. By the time I got to my first home ec class, in 6th grade, I was already making my own skirts.

My home ec teacher refused to let me move beyond hand stitching because I couldn't name all the parts of the sewing machine...and I was stubborn enough to resist her for months!

CypressJoan wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 1:39 PM

We had a Singer Sewing Center in my small New Jersey town. Between 7th and 8th grade, I wanted to take lessons, even though my moum was a great seamstress. We learned to measure our patterns and bodies very carefully to achieve a good fit, but by the time the summer was done, my fitted, pin-tucked little dress no longer fit my growing body and was never worn!!! But those lessons were not wasted on me, as I've continued to sew clothing all my life, now doing art-to-wear garments.

JackieRoush wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 1:39 PM

I started sewing in $H when my Mom was the leader.  I was about 10 and I learned that when it was sewn wrong that it was taken apart.  THere were days when I thought there were much more fun things to do outside but I didn't get to go until the sewing lesson was finished.  I learned well - sewed my own clothig for many years.  I got to the point where my Mom came to me to learn how to do something a better way.  The Home Ec. sewing instuctor just wasn't very good.  I finally stopped sewing clothing in my mid 40s - just lost interest.  But, I do a lot of art quilts today - I call it "playing".  Thanks, Mom.

CypressJoan wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 1:48 PM

This is the largest string of comments I've seen on this blog! But I wanted to tell "busybee1952" how jealous I am that she actully met Joe DiMaggio ... my childhood baseball hero!

bridgidhp wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 1:49 PM

Wow that takes me back...my actually first sewing was summers with my grandmothers and I still have Nana's featherweight!

But Home Ec set the stage - we were supposed to make a simple skirt and off I went to buy a pattern.  Of course I picked a really difficult curved seams swirl skirt (from the 70s as well). The was a "hook" shape to each of the dozen panels and all hemming was a rolled hem. The teacher worked valiantly with me and it came out 'alright'.  

My first quilt pattern I chose was a drunkard's path in rainbow ginghams.  Oh the horror!

This summer karma has come to bite me as I am teaching Kid's Sewing Camp and of course I have at least one young seamstress each week that chooses the type of things I would have chosen (and of course still chose).....way too hard but I love the challenge.

jks2 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 2:02 PM

The mother of a good friend, both living on a ranch in North Dakota, taught me to sew when I was about 11 years old, pre-home-ec days in another century (circa 1959). We sewed little sleeveless western shirts out of blue bandana fabric. The trouble came when we tried to put on the snaps. Pounding fiercely on the snaps, on a wooden table with no cushioning, we broke each one. A learning experience. Later, in home-ec I gained some finesse. Oh, just remembering, when I was much younger I had a darling green hand-powered chain-stitch sewing machine, on which I sewed "clothing" for my dolls. Wish I'd kept that machine.

on 7 Jul 2011 2:05 PM

My Mother and Grandmother sewed but my first lessons started in the 6th grade.  The Nuns were at a loss because I was terrible at music and athletics and everyone had to be involved in an after-school activity!  I was sent to Sister Claira who ran the sewing room at the convent.  She first taught me how to perfectly press the long veils but before long I was hemming and then sewing on the old black machine.  By the time I moved to another school after two years of lessons I could construct simple garments and embroidering the "Fair Linens" for use on the altar.  Her patience and lessons led me to becomming one of those Home Ec teachers of the 70's.  I retired last year after 33 years and many changes in curriculium and attitude toward the art of Home Ec.  Today I am happy in my quilting room with a computer, an embroidery machine and long arm (quilter) that would have amazed Sister Claire!

Dwiggs45 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 2:08 PM

Ah, 8th grade Home Ec. Our project then was to sew a full skirt -- the oh-so-popular ones that every girl wore complete with stiff crinolins (which I startched to death and hung on the clothes line). The more gathers in that skirt, the better, but of course they added 15 lbs to one's overall look--right at the waistline. I stitched mine up and then because I am short, I had a lot of fabric to turn under for the hem. No one told me I should make it a reasonable depth; instead, I had about 7" to turn into a hem. Why, I wondered, will the fabric not lie flat so that I could perfect my handstitching? So the end result was a hem that had significant "pleats" in it in order to make it behave. I don't think I wore that aqua cotton full skirt more than twice!

millekat wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 2:13 PM

I learned basic sewing skills in high school home ec.  I also had an older sister and a cousin who were great seamstresses and they mentored me a lot.  I went to high school in the 60s and money was tight.  I made a lot of my jumpers and wool skirts and my mother knit and crocheted gorgeous matching sweaters that looked just a good - or better - than the ones "the rich girls" bought.  I never felt deprived.

on 7 Jul 2011 2:26 PM

My sister talked me into letting her teach me to sew as her high school home ec project. The irony was my sewn item got a higher grade than hers. Perhaps that's why she went into sales and I became the lifelong crafter. We both ended up as teachers.

on 7 Jul 2011 2:32 PM

I am so sad to hear about the many unflexable old school Home Ec teachers!  I had 3 perfectly wonderful teachers in High School.  When I started teaching in the 70's our students were mostly girls but many boys enrolled in "independent Living" and "Marriage and Family" classes. The 90's brought our career focused classed and many students enrolled in our  Clothing , Foods and Child Development courses and were a wonderful addition to the Kindergarten program as interns.  I still hear from many of my students through the social networks and believe their eperiences were fun and a positive part of their own development.  Every class I taught was an elective part of the schedule.  Maybe that was an important fact in the experience.

on 7 Jul 2011 2:52 PM

I must of been about 5 years old whem mom bought me the Sewing cards. I remember playing and sewing over & over again. Later my mom & the neighbor lady sewed Barbie & Ken clothes for us girls. Then I started sewing my own Barbie clothes. So when I went to Home Ec in 7th grade the teacher wanted me to leave my material down on the table and cut around the skirt pattern. I was used to holding the fabric in my hand and cutting around like I did with Barbie clothes. She made me mad so I flunked Sewing Class. The only thing she taught me was that when you lower the needle and bring it back up it draws up the bobbin thread. That really impressed me. I went home and finished the skirt and many other outfits to prove I could sew. I have sewn the rest of my like now, some  45+ years. I can do any alteration, upholstery, to baby and wedding dresses. I have 13 machines, including 2 embroidery machines. Don't mean to brag but that's my story. I'm glad I flunked because it shows my determenation.

dalericklefs wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 3:08 PM

Mom's mom taught me to hand embroider at 7, mainly cross stitching and then on to buttonhole stitching for cutwork embroidery. She was excellent at making cutworked linens.

Dad's mom taught me how to sew a corduroy skirt as my first project when I was 11. It was on an old electrified treadle machine dad picked up from the church were he volunteered. Grandma did this because the skirt had facings, interfacing, zipper, seams that would need finishing, hems, obvious grain, the basics of what I would need to learn. The machine was pure straight stitch and made the best straight stitch ever. In 1973 I made my mom a satin and velvet reversible cape at an appliance store (I was demonstrating the machine, basically). That machine I sewed on, a new Pfaff 1221, became my wedding present. Woo hoo!

I was self-taught after that in both garment construction, home dec, and crewel and traditional embroidery. I now digitize embroidery designs. That early crewel and embroidery experience helps in designing embroidery designs.

patsalvant wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 3:10 PM

It is now 66 years later, but i wanted to share my sewing experiences with you.  My mother gave me a little tin box with embroidery threads and a printed pattern on a piece of linen when I was 6.  In those days recess at school was a bunch of first graders being turned out onto the school grounds to do what ever they could dream up.  I remember sitting under a large tree on dusty roots and stitching my little embroidery pattern, sadly somehow during that year it was lost or taken while I was at school and I never finished that little project.  I was hooked, and learned to embroider and stitch doll clothes by hand.  I used to love to watch my mom at her sewing machine, first a treadle and later an Electric Singer in 1947.

In 1951 I was required to take about 6 weeks of home ec which included a brief introduction to sewing during those 6 weeks.  All but one of the machines were treadles, and we learned how to operate those, straighten fabric, lay it out, cut it and read the pattern and stitch up our chosen project.  Mine was an A line skirt. I rememnber not only mimeographed lessons, but also the purple ditto sheets we sometimes got. Each day would be a mad dash to the portable classroom (a quonset hut) to try for the one and only electric machine.  One day I managed to get there first and claim THE machine.  I took out my project and began stitching, only what I didn't realize was that the person before me in the previous class had left the stitch regulator set on 30 STITCHES PER INCH!  The machine was fast, my manual coordination was not, and the resultant seam looked like what we used to call a dogs hind leg, It was awful!!!  The teacher had no pity, and there was no such tool around as a seam ripper although I am sure they existed then.  I was told to remove the stitches before the next class.

At home that night I picked, I cried, and cried some more.  My mother finally impatient with the whole scenario picked up her scissors and simply trimmed off the whole seam allowance (it was an A line and frankly would have been plenty loose with or without that 5/8inch.)  Of course the teacher had wanted to TEACH me a lesson so she was unhappy that Mom had intervened and cut off the crooked seam which everyone knew was impossible to remove, I think I had picked out about 1 inch in 4 hours time.

Mothers intervention kept me from hating sewing forever and to learn there is always a solution if you think on your feet, logically and practically.  The teachers contribution ( a poor grade for a straight A student) made an impression too.  I never look at a stitch regulator without remembering.  I went on as a teen ager to learn how to sew on my own reading pattern sheets for directions, making mistakes and continuing to learn, sometimes with helpful input from mom. For years I made all my own clothing and many things for my home.  I now teach sewing lessons learned the hard way and from books and a couple of stretch and sew classes along the way.  From reading some of the other posts its a wonder sewing as an art ever survived when taught in public schools.  I still love sewing and passing on some hard won tips to my students.:)

ssurd1200 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 3:19 PM

Barbie needed new outfits when I was in grade school. My grandmother taught me how to make simple patterns to sew, first by hand and later on a machine, and crochet. My grandpa and dad recycled fabric from manufactures so they would bring home the ends of bolts they thought I would like to use. It wasn't until junior high I made something for myself. 50 years later I found I loved machine quilting. Those early skills still come in handy.

on 7 Jul 2011 3:41 PM

I remember sewing at about age 5, making doll clothes, tutored by my Mother. She taught me everything I knew about sewing until I was about 14, at which time I joined 4-H and Mrs. Holloway taught me (or re-taught me). It was difficult to have her tell me "this is the way you put a zipper in a dress."  I wanted (or maybe I DID) to say "But that's not how my mom taught me to do it."  I've made wedding dresses, Basque dancers' costumes, draperies, costumes for a play, you name it!  Fifty years later I am deep into quilting although I still mend clothes for my husband, kids, grandkids, and friends.   AND, still learning to sew!!

JodiW@2 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 3:43 PM

I learned from my mum, first sewing on my toy sewing machine when she was quilting or making clothes and then when I was seven she taught me to quilt- i made a had pieced log cabin quilt for my cabage patch doll

gburke@q.com wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 3:50 PM

My Mother was a dress designer and her middle name was "perfection". When I was in the 8th grade I wanted to make a skirt. I chose an A line pattern and get this suede cloth. When it came time to make the darts I was done in.....not perfect. I learned the fine art of ripping. My Mother had reached the end of her patience and took it away to finish after about the third time I had to rip. There are those who can and those who can teach. Although I didn't attempt to sew again for years I watched her steadfastly and some of those techniques I watched I use today. Would you believe I design handbags, make the patterns and sew some pretty interesting items. I might add she is impressed with my work!!

bronnie sue wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 3:58 PM

My mother was a dress designer and tried to teach me - but I never did learn well from her (I didn't listen and got impatient). I had sewing at school but at 15 (form 5 in NZ) got put in the academic stream and left it behind. I still don't make clothes - just quilts and multimedia. I'm learning as I go on the old machine (nothing fancy) I inherited from my mother-in-law. My mother stills makes her own clothes (she's 76) - but my wedding dress was the last time she sewed for me.

bronnie sue wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 3:59 PM

My mother was a dress designer and tried to teach me - but I never did learn well from her (I didn't listen and got impatient). I had sewing at school but at 15 (form 5 in NZ) got put in the academic stream and left it behind. I still don't make clothes - just quilts and multimedia. I'm learning as I go on the old machine (nothing fancy) I inherited from my mother-in-law. My mother stills makes her own clothes (she's 76) - but my wedding dress was the last time she sewed for me.

von8 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 4:53 PM

The summer of my 6th grade year Mom bought me a shirt pattern with a drawstring neck. She then told me where the glossary was for the sewing term s.  She then showed me what a 5/8 inch seam looked like, and told me that keeping that seam consistent  was the secret to successful sewing.  She then left the house to hang up the laundry on the clothes line and told me to read and sew.  She would check in on me later to see how I was doing.  Well, in the heat of the summer and thinking that I might have to work on laundry if I didn't sew, I sewed the shirt.  I LOVED sewing.  The next outfit I did was a 3 piece suit out of dusty blue courderoy,it was the mid 70's after all, and every girl needed a 3 piece suit! I continued to sew my own clothes all the way through college, my sewing machine had to go with me.  I then sewed all my kids baby and toddler clothes and now I am sewing for calmness and theraputic value. I love making origional, beautiful items.

von8 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 4:54 PM

The summer of my 6th grade year Mom bought me a shirt pattern with a drawstring neck. She then told me where the glossary was for the sewing term s.  She then showed me what a 5/8 inch seam looked like, and told me that keeping that seam consistent  was the secret to successful sewing.  She then left the house to hang up the laundry on the clothes line and told me to read and sew.  She would check in on me later to see how I was doing.  Well, in the heat of the summer and thinking that I might have to work on laundry if I didn't sew, I sewed the shirt.  I LOVED sewing.  The next outfit I did was a 3 piece suit out of dusty blue courderoy,it was the mid 70's after all, and every girl needed a 3 piece suit! I continued to sew my own clothes all the way through college, my sewing machine had to go with me.  I then sewed all my kids baby and toddler clothes and now I am sewing for calmness and theraputic value. I love making origional, beautiful items.

Quiltngma wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 5:18 PM

In about 1952, at age11, I taught myself to sew on my mother's treadle macine.  After that my mother taught me some as well.  Eventually we got a portable electric machine and, I took every sewing class available in Jr High. After all it was an easy A for me.    I remember enter a contest put on by Singer.  I made a chartruese green skirt and vest.  I didn't win but it was fun to try.  We did a sewing project one year at Summer Bible School.  It seems we made a 3 tier skirt, that was 3 shade of lavendar.  

Fabrics choices were SO limited compared to fabrics available today.   I can"t emagine not sewing.  

Lolita9 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 5:20 PM

I actually learned when I went to school for fashion design.  I had the best professor.  I learned at a trade school and learned on an industrial sewing machine and serger.  Unfortunately, I was unable to finish my degree, however, I am using the same methods to teach my daughter how to sew.  We learned by sewing doll clothes and they were placed in a folder with page protectors.  Twenty years later, I am still sewing and loving it.

Marion BP wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 5:21 PM

In Australia when you reached 3rd class (primary school) the girls did "sewing", the boys "woodwork" for an hour a week (1960's). I had a dragon of a sewing teacher for the next 4 years as her motto was "If your work doesn't look as good on the back as the front, it wasn't worth doing".Most times I had to unpick & re-do my sewing project because it didn't reach her high standard, so that even today I find myself making sure (especially in embroidery,knitting & crocheting) that the back is "as good as the front". The saving grace of this teacher was that she made "Barbie Doll" clothes & if your work was of an excellent standard, you could buy for 10 cents (Aust) one of those highly prized dresses. I suppose it was a type of bribery to enforce a high standard, but it worked. Those doll's clothes were highly prized & a great incentive.

piecemaker52 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 5:35 PM

My mother had an old Kenmore sewing machine, and she showed me how to use it and supplied me with fabric scraps and sometimes actual yardage when I was about  7 or 8.  My aunt was a 4-H leader and took over teaching me technique by the time I was about 10.  By the time I hit high school in the mid '60s, I was an accomplished seamstress, sewing many of my own clothes as well as clothes for my 3 sisters.  But, I found out from my home ec teacher, much to my dismay, that I had developed "lap habit".  Horrors!  For those unfamiliar with that term, I held my hand sewing down on my lap, inviting rounded shoulders and a curved spine.  Thank goodness for Mrs. Wilk nipping that problem in the bud!

M. Allen wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 5:41 PM

When I was growing up, there were no extra small or petite sizes.  I was so skinny nothing "store bought" would fit me so my mother, who sewed seat covers for cars all day for a living, would stay up all night sewing clothes for me.  Watching her was my first exposure to sewing.  Later I took home ec in high school.  My best friend and I were called the bopsy twins because we looked somewhat alike and dressed somewhat the same.  We made matching blue blouses and gathered skirts with three yards of fabric in each one in home ec.  Naturally, we always wore them on the same day.  As usual, my three yard skirt was flowing along behind me down the steps as I exited the bus one day.  My friend, following too close behind me, steped on the skirt and I kept on walking tearing it from the waist and leaving a huge, see through hole in the back.  This was the 50's and girls just did not go around looking like that.  If it had not been for those billowing petticoats, I would have had to move out of the state.

I must sew every day or the day just does not seem to be complete.  My machines are treasured friends.

RaeVivienne wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 5:46 PM

My mother taught me to sew on her modern electric Singer circa 1940, before I started school - I made dolls' clothes and by the time I was 10 or 11 could make my own clothes.  The machine could sew back & forward, but no swing needle.  It had a knee control, not a foot pedal, so I could operate it comfortably

About the same time I did Home Ec one whole day a week at our small primary  Rural School, cooking in the morning and sewing in the afternoon.  Girls from even smaller (1-teacher) schools around the district came in on other days to do the same work.  First we drafted our patterns using the Department of Public Instruction textbook (I still have mine) .  We made an apron, then a uniform for Home Ec day - quite demanding, with revere collar, set-in sleeves with a cuff, front buttoning to the waist, a six-gore skirt and a side zipper, or maybe it was a placket with snap fasteners and a hook & eye at the waist.

We also did "fancy work" and were required to enter a sampler in the local Show - about 10in wide and 24in long, with several different hand or machine-sewn seams, fastenings and buttonholes, and rows of decorative hand embroidery.  I went to school in clothes my mother made from cut-down adult dresses - war-time clothes rationing meant precious coupons had to be saved for essential blankets and bedlinen.

In High School I took academic subjects but I was making all my own clothes anyway, and occasionally some for other girls .At university, the residential college had a sewing machine and people were always running up garments for one another - I remember one girl stitching a friend into her ball-gown because she hadn't got the zipper in, and staying up to unpick her out of the dress at 3am.

With marriage and children I made clothes, furnishings, shirts and trousers for my husband, fancy-dress costumes and of course the ever-present mending.

I believe a woman's sewing machine was the one thing that was really hers, in the days when all property belonged to the husband.  I have always regarded the sewing machine as the most valuable and reliable piece of household equipment you could have, and the Singer man came round regularly to service it and bring new feet and attachments.

Now I leave most clothing manufacture to some lady in China, and enjoy  quilting free motion, embellishment, fabric postcards etc, and teaching my 3-year-old grandson to sew - he loves it!

krsteck wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 5:52 PM

My dad bought my first sewing machine and went to the store's classes with me!  My first pattern was a halter top and shorts in 1974 in a lightweight cotton denim print.  I took home ec, but couldn't get enough of the sewing part of the class, so I talked the teacher into letting me have my own advanced sewing class...an hour by myself to sew at school...what a great plan!  (I had run out of advanced math and chemistry classes to take :-)

Brenda@41 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 6:02 PM

When I was about 12 my older married sister and I spent several weeks in the summer sewing Barbie clothes w/ very tiny stitches, all by hand.  A few years ago I took a Sashiko class in Houston and frustrated the poor instructor because I just could not make my stitches large enough.  Old habits are hard to break.

judy Passey wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 6:40 PM

I too learned to sew in home ec. And my mom taught me also. I was so sad to see home ec discontinued in the schools. My brother took home ec and learned how to make the most delicious pies!! i am very proud of my grand daughter who is learning to do crewel work and embroidery from her mom. Both my daughters sew --it's catching and such a great expression of oneself. i used to go to seattle when I was 12 and window shop, draw what i saw and then go to the fabric store and buy several patterns to put together a dress i saw in the window. I even made a dress out of old heavy curtains my mom replaced. Love it!! Judy

cindy stamp wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 6:41 PM

When I was 12, my grandmother gave me sewing lessons for my birthday.  She trusted me to ride the city bus downtown to the local department store where they had a fabics and notions department.  My instructor was a stern-faced nun who was very particular. I chose a classic A-Line dress in a solid gold kettlecloth.  As we approached the end of the class, we planned a fashion show. The day before the show, we were to preview our garments with our instructor.  It was then that I was told I could not show my dress as my instructor thought it was too short!  We looked at the hem and there wasn't enough to let down to meet her "acceptable" length.  Mortified and heartbroken, I ran to the bus stop, hopped on what seemed like THE slowest city bus, and arrived home crying with the news.  My grandmother calmly took my hand and walked me down to the basement.  After moving several boxes, I saw the large truck, "glowing" in the corner.  It was the magical fabric stashbox!  I was smitten!  After several hours of digging, we found a remnant of brown kettlecloth with white polka dots.  With my grandmother's assistance, I scalloped the hem edge of the dress and attached a panel of the brown kettlecloth under the scallop to lengthen the dress.  I then made a long tie in the same fabric and made a simple bow to attach at the neckline.  The next day at the fashion show, I was given the OK to show my garment, so I proudly walked down the aisle, and when I got to the end, turned to look at my instructor, who gave me a nod and a wink.  I won second place in that fashion show, and have been sewing ever since.

This summer, in honor of my grandmother, I am teaching my 12 year old daughter to sew.  She started with a pillowcase and wants to make as many as she can before school starts to donate to The Million Pillowcase Challenge through our local quilt shop.  The legacy lives on!

SamDanser wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 7:01 PM

I learned to sew from my grandmother on her (Singer) treadle machine!  I loved that machine!  Later she converted it to electric.  I still have that machine to this day sitting between the Husqua Varna and the Bernina Embroidery machines.   My son learned to sew with the Singer machine as well.  Talk about family tradition...

And, yes, I remember Home Ec.  Both years. (I wanted to take mechanical drawing!)

My Jr./Sr. prom dress looked very similar to that picture.  But I can't seem to remember even one of our projects.  Perhaps it is just as well.

pacher wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 7:20 PM

I also had sewing in Home Ec, was excited when I started the class, but the teacher was into the experienced sewers more than the beginners, so didn't do the best...made an apron. Later my mother bought a sewing machine and me and my girlfriend just decided to make some shift dresses(sack). We would make up one a day to wear to school, but didn;t use the proper sleeve parts, just turned material over and stitched. We thought we were quite the seamstresses, but it got us started. I later had a costume shop and now am retired and quilt, embroider, etc.

on 7 Jul 2011 7:22 PM

I learned to sew at an early age, 8.  My older sister and I made Barbie clothes.  Then, I tried patchwork with scraps leftover from our mother's sewing.  Mom was a dressmaker. My paternal grandmother was a dressmaker, tailoress, and alterations expert and I learned from watching her, also.

By the time I took the Ec class in grade 8, I had been making my own clothes for two years. The first project was a gathered skirt, with zipper and waistband.  I was so excited to show off my skills, that I finished it the first night of homework. The instructor didn't believe that I did it myself and graded it a "C". My mother had to talk with her to make her realize that I made all my own clothes.

Home Ec was also fun, because I learned to cook, too.

I still sew for myself and I do dressmaking and alterations, like my  grandmother.

Karen W     Boerne, Texas

froglegs2 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 7:36 PM

I learn in 7th grade.  We make the basic things in 7th grade. When I sign-up agian in 8th grade I had a super teacher. We had to make a dress with zipper in it. I had trouble with that.  She said "Come in afther school and I help you with it".  Then when I had to make another dress it was easier for me.  I got A+ on it.

The funny apart is that was back the 60's.  When my two children sign up for home ec. some twenty years later. ( That in the mid 80's  to late 80's)  They got the same home ec teacher as me.   Her name change so did mine.  She remeber me when she hear my name.  My children  was a boy and the other was girl.  My daughter still do some sewing.  She maked a quilt for children.

I hope to teacher my grandchildren how to sew.  They will have fun sewing on quilts.

Freeport  IL

on 7 Jul 2011 8:17 PM

I learned to sew from my grandmother and mother. My mother had lost the first joint of her index finger and therefore used a thimble on her ring finger. I picked this up and always used my  thimble on my ring finger. However, when I enrolled in Home Ec, the teacher and I went round and round on which finger was the proper one. As I desired a good grade, I 'adapted' to the middle finger for using my thimble - at least while in her class. She was a wonderful teacher with hawk eyes - found a pattern pinned on fabric that didn't look quite right to her - sure enough it was 1/16" out of alignment. My friend had to straighten the pattern before she was allowed to cut the item out.  Memories!!

on 7 Jul 2011 8:25 PM

When I was about to enter 7th grade (an incredibly stressful time in the life of a young girl back in the 50s), my mom gave me a budget to buy an outfit for the first day of school.  I found a pair of shoes that I just had to have -- which just about blew my entire budget.  Not wanting to tell my mom how I had splurged, I decided I could sew a dress.  Hmmmm ... without much experience!  I found a pattern for a shirtwaist dress and then did the unthinkable -- I bought plaid material!  Hours and hours and hours were spent making this dress, but it was good enough to actually wear to school in September.  That was the beginning of my lifelong enjoyment of sewing and machine arts.  Now I am sewing for my grandchildren and playing with fabric arts on a daily basis!

judyann999 wrote
on 7 Jul 2011 10:38 PM

My grandmother taught me to hand sew when I was about 5, but I only made some doll clothes. She used to hand sew crazy quilts, with feather stitch covering every seam. Although I never reached her level of expertise, I made many items for my kids, and used some of her original patterns. I just wish that I had paid more attention. My preferred sewing machine is still her old treadle.

virgiewm wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 4:53 AM

My home 1955 ec classes were divided into a semester of sewing and a semester of cooking. My first experience in using a pattern I chose a jumper with a pleated skirt made out of a small dark gingham plaid. I had a problem following directions. I basted my darts alright, then proceeded to baste my sideseams before stitching my darts by machine. I got a C in that class.

Sewing has been a life long passion of mine. When I was growing up I loved watching my Mom sewing on her White treadle sewing machine. When I got married one of my first purchases was a White treadle sewing machine I found at a Christian Enterprise store near home. I still have it and about a dozen vintage sewing machines. I love them all for different reasons, and finding reasons to sew on them all.

I remember the fashion show where we modeled the garments we made. One girl had made a circle skirt out of flannel and she didn't want to model it because it wasn't felt. It was pretty anyway.

on 8 Jul 2011 5:51 AM

My mother sewed all the time when I was a child and she would give me scraps of the ever popular feed sack and show me how to make a doll dress. I had a very good home ec teacher also, who made us do everything until it was perfect. At the time I got so frustrated, but now I'm glad she did.Our machines were the old treadle kind, my favorite .In my senior year we had to make a suit and line it. I had to put the lining in by hand and couldn't have a stitch showing. Needless to say I took it out and redid it several times . I was so proud when it was finally finished, and of course it was perfect. A special thanks to my mother, Edith Cook and my home ec teacher Eva Pistole .

TesaW wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 6:11 AM

My grandmother found a pair of shorts she had cut out for her youngest daughter, who's only 7 years older than me  who had just gone off to college.  They were probably cut out years before .

I was only 10 years old, but had watched her sew all my life.  She would see an ad for a dress in the Sunday Atlanta Journal from Rich's Department store then use the rest of the paper to cut out a pattern & fashion a gorgeous dress to wear to church next Sunday.

She sat me down at her sewing machine & let me stitch those shorts.  Of course she put in the zipper for me & helped with the waistband, but I fell in love with sewing so much that next Christmas I asked for a sewing machine & precision roller skates.  My mother said we could only afford 1 of those items.  Being the practical person I am--I chose the sewing machine.  Been sewing for more than 50 years, even majoring in "clothing & textiles" in college. but was never as good as my grandmother.

kgolemon wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 6:49 AM

I have been sewing since I was 5, my dad bought me a little sewing machine, no one taught me, I  just knew how.

marty71 wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 8:47 AM

I started sewing when I was 8 because my Barbie needed more clothes! When I was 9 my mother showed me how to sew on our old sewing machine and I never looked back! When it came time to take Home Ec I was so disappointed to learn that all we would do is sew an apron - to be worn during the cooking section of that class! It was gingham check and there was no pattern - we measured and tore the fabric, but in the end had an apron. Before we could do the apron we had to learn all the hand stitches and made "samples" of each stitch to be turned in and graded. Knowledge of all those stitches still comes in handy today.

Ute Dean wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 9:47 AM

I was taught at school like every other German school girl in the early seventies. Still remember my teacher, Miss F. (who must have been the age of my grandmother), shaking her head in dismay upon inspecting my needlework. Her  comments were anything but nice and encouraging. I hated home-ec class!

Nevertheless she got me started and I would watch my mother closely when she sewed.. Many years later, when my own children were small my Mom gave me her sewing machine and I took just one class to learn the cutting basics. I still own and cherish that wonderful machine and ... 40 years later I still sew!

Thanks a bunch, Miss F. :-)

Louise@8 wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 12:18 PM

I learned to sew in 7th grade but that was 1953.  The sewing machines sewed one stitch...forward.  I made the required dirndl (yuck) but loved the sleeveless cotton sheath I made later which is now back in style if only I were the same size I was at 13. I stayed in the class for a second semester as the required cooking class was too full.(Mom had taught me to cook) The class also learned to clean sweaters, make beds and keeping the machine in tune. The teacher was a lovely person.  At home I used my grandmother's treadle machine and avoided buttonholes. And I have been sewing ever since.

mjkasz wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 1:06 PM

I learned to sew from a greatgrandmother first and then from my father in the 1950's after he became a self taught sewer.  But when I wanted to learn more he didn't want me to learn bad habits so off I went to the Singer Store for my first official class when I was 11.  My first dress is still in my possession as well as the first outfit my Dad made for me.  He also made winter coats for us and Prom dresses.  I just reired from 43 years as a Home Ec/Family and Consumer Science Teacher and I have enjoyed every minute of teaching HS and MS students how to sew including alot of males.  I am so glad to see many people continuing to sew and I now will have time to sew & quilt more.

KarenHelen wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 1:30 PM

Just as Cate did, I learned my basics in Home Economics from the 8th through the 12 grade.  In my senior year we were making suits and coats, so I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity. Because, I sewed everything I wore (well not my underwear) II learned a great deal from just reading the sewing directions in commercial patterns.  This habit re-enforced all that I had learned and much more.

bjhuff wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 7:03 PM

I learned my most valuable lessons in the 4-H program.  The most valuable lesson?  How to rip, resew, and rip and resew.  Perfection was the mantra.  It has served me well.  I am yet to be perfect, and I can rip and resew with gusto.

quiltnanny wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 8:35 PM

I learned to sew from my grandmother, who learned to sew as a young girl and became a seamstress in the days when most people did NOT buy their clothing, instead having it made or making it themselves.  (I am that old!) I still love to sew, and now do it for a living myself.  My grandmother would still recognize the hundred-year-old machines in use in the dry cleaner I do repairs and alterations for.  The clothing and styles have changed, but the job has not.

SDJune wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 10:09 PM

My mother was an excellent seamstress and my 4-H leader so I learned most of my sewing techniques from her. I did take home-ec class as well and probably improved some of my skills but mostly, it was just an easy way to start the day since I already knew how to sew (cook, etc)

juneevalyn wrote
on 8 Jul 2011 11:32 PM

I did horrible in my high school home-ec class, but later in life, when I was about 22 years old I needed work badly and took a sewing job.  I admit I was terrible at first, but I was given the opportunity to learn and succeeded!  I was able to support my son and I and eventually moved up to supervisor and later to manager in sewing rooms where I always had the utmost respect for all the sewers that came after me, no matter how much or little experience they had.  What a blessing sewing has given me in my life!  :  )

on 8 Jul 2011 11:54 PM

Basically I'm self-taught. My Mother knew how and would answer questions but while she was a good cook she hated cooking. Ditto with sewing. I learned on a treadle Singer. When I got to high school sewing was required part of "home ec". I remember an apron, a pot holder, a dress suit. I used the apron and pot holder longest, the suit wasn't bad but like any fashion went quickly out of style. I learned on a treadle Singer at home (and yes, I did sew several stitches through nail and finger. You can really move on a good treadle), and used an electric at school. Illearned to cook from my dad, and to fish, hunt, butcher, drive a team of horses to stack hay and later to buck bales of hay. Hey! I've wandered from the question. Blame it on my age. 74 tomorrow. Age can be such a good excuse.

Suntred wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 4:50 AM

I was raised in the UK and the first experience I had with needle and thread was learning to embroider with Sister Claudia at my convent school. I was about 9 or 10. I wasn't very good--my stitches were uneven, apparently. Hmm, wonder why? ;-)  I only remember one project; a lady in a crinoline. I recall being fascinated by the threads (that I now know were embroidery and perle) and the colours. We also made 'coasters' and 'place settings' with binca and thick cotton that was *not* perle. Mama threw them out saying they were 'horrid'.

Making clothes by hand was taught at secondary school, and the class was obligatory. I think I was about 12/13. We started with a 'simple' skirt. The teacher, whose name I do not recall, only that her hair was always lank and she didn't smell nice, made me pick out my seams and do them over every time she came round the class to see our 'progress'. I never finished the skirt. Only later when I was in 20s did I teach myself from patterns to make clothes. I still do occasionally but mostly, I prefer to make quilts--one size fits all!! lol

CindyC@13 wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 5:31 AM

My Dad gave me my first sewing instruction! Actually, he was helping my sister lay out her first pattern and I watched and learned. The three of us had fabric and pattern pieces all over the living room floor. Great memory; and I live by his motto to this day: "just follow the directions"!

on 9 Jul 2011 7:09 AM

I think I used the same pattern as Tricia used for my prom dress (1966).  ;-)

At the beginning of June, I was invited to my niece's junior prom photo session, and let me tell you, they dress a bit differently these days!! (and I don't think anyone made her dress.)

foxfyre wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 7:15 AM

Even though I took home ec all four years of high school (1964-68), as many of my classmates did, I hit the ground running as an experienced 4-Her. My prize possession, and sewing diary, is my 4-H record book. One vivid memory of learning the correct technique is of a judge at a 4-H show, inserting her little finger between stitches of a hem. If it fit between, riiiip, out came the hem. To this day, that eagle-eyed judge and her skinny finger would not rip out my hems! BTW, I probably competed against OvertheMoon, her descriptions are dead on!!

Midsummer wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 8:05 AM

My Mother, who was an amazing seamstress, taught me the basics.  She made all my clothes and they were perfection.  She tailored, made hats,  and made my wedding dress.  I am not nearly the expert that she was.  I also learned from following directions on the pattern sheet.  Never took a formal sewing class until I started quilting in the early 70's.  Thanks to my Mother who started me on a lifelong love of sewing!!!

MartiZ wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 9:00 AM

My mother taught me to sew.  She learned from a friend who was Cuban.  The best advice was if it's not right rip it out and do it over.  I remember when I took Home Ec in high school we had to make an outfit and model it in a fashion show.  I made a fully lined pantsuit.  The teacher gave me an F because she was convinced I didn't make it by myself.  I'd been sewing since I was 10.  Well, my mom and I headed to the principal's office and we straightened out that little problem real fast.  Never did get an apology from that Home Ec teacher.

MartiZ wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 9:07 AM

jjjj

on 9 Jul 2011 12:33 PM

I learned to sew at my godmother's knee, literally, when I was 4 years old. She had already taught me to do a simple running stitch and was going to show me how to sew on a button but I told her I could do it and proceeded to show her. My "I'm a smart 4 year old" method of sewing on the button was going up the buttonholes in the middle and coming down on the outside of the button, instead of going back through the buttonholes. And this is why I loved my godmother so much and why I learned so much from her: She let me finish the "button" and instead of telling me I did it wrong she told me to try to button it. Well, of course it wouldn't go through the buttonhole and I actually was able to figure out why on my own. Then she had me do it over the right way. Lesson learned! So she not only started me off in "sewing" but she also left me with a great self-esteem...

Lou Lou3 wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 12:53 PM

 My mother and my grandmother were both awesome with needle and thread and taught me to sew  very young child    My mother was a perfectionist in her sewing, so I had beautiful dresses ----until I left home.   As a very  young married woman with a husband graduating from college I needed a special gown for the ball.   Not having a lot of money, but  having my grandmother's old sewing machine, I set about making something.   Needless to say, I toiled, I measured, I cried, I ripped, I sewed, I cried, I ripped, and I sewed.   I couldn't call my mom as we didn't have a telephone. and we lived 100 miles away. (1964) However, I did get that dress made. A beautiful floor length silver brocade.  I still have that same  passion for sewing and quilting ( I also learned as a child)  which I have handed down to my own daughter.

Linda Lou

Friendswood, Texas

Leone2of5 wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 1:06 PM

This brought back the memories for sure!! I was a nerdy science - math type in high school, and I was also a provincial level athlete. In my final year, for the first time, I had a choice of electives. I chose to take a tailoring course (go figure). I'd always sewed at home as both Mom and Gram were very able seamstresses, so I thought I'd be up to the challenge. That course truly is one of my fondest memories. Instead of the ambiguity of theorems and equations, I was able to lose myself in the concrete. What respite! I learned to sew a beautifully tailored suit with a faux sheep skin collar. I don't know where it went, but I'd love to have that gorgeous fabric today. Thanks for bringing back these joyful thoughts.

Linda

Kate M. wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 3:37 PM

My mother and my Nana made lots of my clothes, and when I was in 9th grade I had the opportunity to take my first class at school.  I had already made Barbie and Ken things on Nana's machine, and was ready to learn more.  I was in my element!  I made everything I could think of--dresses, mostly, since girls weren't allowed to wear pants to school then--and since making my own gave me complete control of the finished project, I had the most amazing wardrobe.  The lessons I learned then have stayed with me, although putting together a notebook was not a technique used in my classes.  To this day I go gaga over color, but no longer just in fabrics; you should see my yarn, bead, and paper stashes!

Joan wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 5:47 PM

My Mom who didn't know how to sew wanted me to learn. So at age 13? (I think)she signed me up at the now long gone Singer sewing satore in the now long gone Seneca Mall in New york near Buffalo. And I have loved it ever since. My Great-Gram was a seamstress, I must have inherited her genes?

Then on to hom-ec in WestSeneca school system One funny memory I have of that time was when our teacher was ill and they assigned a male teacher to cover the class. I did most of the "teaching" that day in class. I wonder how the other classes managed :) ? Made my prom/wedding dres a Vouge, really pretty gown. Then helped my sister and friends with thiers.

I have been sewing off and on since.

Lately though I have been knitting Socks for soldiers. Hard to take the sewing machine to work. Knitting/crocheting/embroidery projects much more portable.

Linda@708 wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 8:27 PM

I came from a long list of seamstresses having both of my grandmothers, mother, aunt and sister as teachers. I started sewing when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I remember my older sister and I were making stuffed pillow dolls called "gonks" in the "60's". They had felt hair like the beatles and round bodies with arms and legs. It was my first real sewing project. I kept making the same mistake (3 times I think!). I was so frustrated but I wanted to be as good as my sister so I kept working at it until I got it right. I remember I had such a headache by the time I was done! I progressed to making most of my clothes and prom dresses in high school. We would spend our summer vacations sewing all day long. Now, I love making quilts and handmade gifts for friends and family. Sewing is truly like therapy for me. I enjoy touching the beautiful fabrics and dreaming of what my next project will be!

lcharles wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 8:46 PM

Today's column put a big smile on my face. I also learned to sew in junior high home ec, and have been sewing ever since. The pattern really gave me a chuckle as I made my senior prom dress, and it didn't look so different from the vintage pattern shown. I tried to post the picture but can't, but it was powder blue with two rows of embroidered daisies (the kind you could by on a roll) that went all the way down the front. My mom hand stitched them on for me at the last minute (because I finished the dress on the day of the prom!)

cmarles wrote
on 9 Jul 2011 9:23 PM

I did take Home Ec but altho I learned a lot about cooking, I learned very little about sewing....my dear MIL (who has now passed away) took the time to teach me to sew, when I was expecting my first child and couldn't find nice maternity clothes. A professional seamstress, she survived WWII in The Hague, Netherlands and supported her children for more than 3 years when her husband was captured and sent to a labor camp, by taking old clothes and remaking them for clients. She taught me how to make the best of the fabric, alter a pattern to fit, and quick ways to finish seams for a professional look. With her guidance and gift of an Elna Supermatic sewing machine, I went on to make kids clothes, tents, costumes, quilts and am now selling professionally online. Thank you, dear Moeder.

rdem1958 wrote
on 10 Jul 2011 3:59 AM

we had home ec when i went to school too. (I was educated in tasmania, where i grew up) as well as learning different stitches we learnt about different fabrics also. My sisters and i laugh most about the housekeeping lessons, eg: remove your apron before your husband comes home from work, freshen up your make-up, and have a drink and his slippers ready for him .........Definately doesn,t apply now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

what does everyone else think?

KarenDH wrote
on 10 Jul 2011 9:17 AM

I was about 8 years old when our neighbors daughters showed me how to applique, which I still like to do, but my first real sewing was in seventh grade.  I'll never forget Mrs Polly Stringer, she was the epitome of the "perfect" women.  Her "home making" skills were passed on to all of us lucky girls.  I don't believe any of the girls in her class's disliked her, in fact we all tried to be like her!  She was the sweetest and most loving women any of us ever met.  Her patience and praise for our sewing "master pieces" kept us all trying to do better.  We made dresses, aprons, skirts, blouses and so many other things to make her proud.  My love of sewing is due in to her careful teaching.  I don't make clothes anymore only repair them.  But my love of sewing has gone to quilting now, more of the tradional patterns, not the quilting art type.  (Which I love to try someday.)   Last time I saw Mrs. Stringer I was a young mother and she still asked me if I was still sewing, which I answered yes to.  Now many years later I still have very fond memories of her.

drawingtime wrote
on 10 Jul 2011 10:08 AM

In Amarillo TX we had shop one semester and home economics another. I am so grateful to have learned to use a table jig or scrolling saw, somewhat like a little Dremel table saw. I am delighted we made aprons and skirts since in the early days of marriage because with limited funds. In New England, I made grad school graduation outfits and husband's college teaching blazer. I still make puzzles of the grandchildren's photos with that jigsaw and oversaw a host of projects through the children's school years. Co-program chair, I am looking to communicate with Pokey about a speaking engagement at Quilters Connection in Boston!

drawingtime wrote
on 10 Jul 2011 10:08 AM

In Amarillo TX we had shop one semester and home economics another. I am so grateful to have learned to use a table jig or scrolling saw, somewhat like a little Dremel table saw. I am delighted we made aprons and skirts since in the early days of marriage because with limited funds. In New England, I made grad school graduation outfits and husband's college teaching blazer. I still make puzzles of the grandchildren's photos with that jigsaw and oversaw a host of projects through the children's school years. Co-program chair, I am looking to communicate with Pokey about a speaking engagement at Quilters Connection in Boston!

on 10 Jul 2011 11:39 AM

When I was in the 4th grade my mom began teaching me to sew. I was enrolled in sewing as a 4-H project so the County Home Demonstration Agent helped. My first attempt at tailoring was done with the aid of my other-in-law.

I took Home Ec for 2 yrs. in school. As for a funny story, I don't have one, but I can tell you the real stretch in my sewing skills came when my mom and I made my wedding gown, the gowns for all of my attendants and servers at the reception, her dress, and my brothers TUXEDO because no one had one for rent that would fit that long, skinny, drink of 15-yr-old drink of water.

JackieJ@8 wrote
on 10 Jul 2011 10:28 PM

In 7th grade home ec (1953), I learned how to hand sew an apron, with all the basic handsewing stitches.  The next year in home ec, I spent most of my classtime washing and drying my fabric choice because it would not be straight of grain.  I don't remember what grade I got, but I don't think it was good!

Although the owner of two Berninas, one Featherweight, a Janome, and several others, I still really don't sew clothing.  I am a quilter, and that's what I like best.  

coastalcat wrote
on 11 Jul 2011 5:18 AM

My final project in 8th grade home economics class was a wrapped mini-skirt.  Though we were to model our final projects, my teacher made me wear my jeans under mine because it was SO short.  It looked like I was wearing a tiny apron!

dino2 wrote
on 11 Jul 2011 11:39 AM

My first 'formal' sewing instruction also came from summer 4-H programs.  The first summer we made an apron.  The first task, after we acqired our fabric and prewashed it, was to straighten the grain.  Of course, the straightness of our grain would be 'a priori' in the judging process.  I had selected a brightly colored zig-zag print polished cotton, which, of course, had NOT been printed on grain.  I shed many tears over making the decision as to which was more important, the grainline or the appearance of the finished apron.  I remember this clearly,even though it was a half century ago.  But for the life of me , I can't remember what I decided to do or even if the judges noticed!

on 11 Jul 2011 11:40 AM

Hi-  I also laughed out loud when I read that post about learning to sew. My Maternal Grandparents had an interior design business in the 1920's, 30,'s and 40's.  My Mom sewed beautifully.  I had no interest in learning, she had to make my 4-H apron project. In high school I tried to sew a button on 3 times, it kept falling off mu Mom and I laughed till we cried. Then in college, I became a Fashion Merchandising Major, which back in the 1970's, was, you guessed it, a Home Ec major.  Try to explain that one to your cool friends.  I had to take sewing, it was the hardest class of all, besides Chem 101.  Did I sweat! But years later I opened a quilt shop in the mountains of northern NH and have not stopped sewing since.  So funny how things come full circle.  So I could totally relate to that post.  Brought back great memories and stories for me.  Thanks, Alison

on 11 Jul 2011 3:08 PM

My mother taught me, the first of her four daughters, to sew.  She began one afternoon when I was 5 and she was busy making Easter dresses for us, by teaching me basic hand embroidery stitches.   Clothing a growing family on my dad's salary as a beginning teacher, making almost all our clothes was really her only option.  I think she might have taken a home ec sewing class as a girl, but she was pretty much self-taught and in retrospect, her skills did improve as we all grew and she got so much more practice.  By the time I took the mandatory sewing class in 7th grade I'd learned many of her "bad habits" (as my teacher called them) so that class soured me on sewing garments for several years, although I have always enjoyed embroidery (by hand and by machine) and the ability to make home dec items such as pillow covers and curtains.  

Tutunis wrote
on 11 Jul 2011 7:16 PM

I love this question!  I learned to sew from my mom, who made everything. In particular, I remember her making my 3 brothers matching pants one summer, from white denim printed with stars and stripes for the fourth of July!  They had blue shirts with zippers in front that had big circles dangling from the zipper pull. The Jackson 5 never looked better!  I have made one wedding dress, a few prom and dressy dresses, many baby girl dresses and now that my daughter is 21, I have moved on to quilting more than anything. My daughter just made her first outfit, a costume for an Anime convention, without a pattern!  I am grateful for all my mama shared and the memories this question prompted are precious. Thank you.

Lindy101 wrote
on 11 Jul 2011 8:29 PM

Wow! This question drove a zillion of us to share... Mom sewed all our clothes, so I am sure I picked up something by osmosis. And then I loved to sew, even AFTER the home ec teacher got through with me. "Best" outfit, 1970, white doubleknit polyester pantsuit with Mandarin collar. So very proud, so mom took a picture. Yep! I look like a nurse!!!

kntnsewzie wrote
on 11 Jul 2011 9:04 PM

Nothing really changes. I'm 77, 63 years ago I was in grade 9. I could hardly wait to get into the Home EC. class. Well, it was a disaster for me. When I think of it now I just crack up laughing.  We were making those ugly white aprons and had to sew the hem by hand.  I was the last person in the class to finish and my sewing dreams were going out the window very quickly. I couldn't do anything right.

On this particular day I was hand sewing and was quite pleased because everything was going fairly well.  So I thought! The bell rang to change classes, I stood up and if I hadn't sewn my apron to my tunic. We had to wear uniforms.

I asked the teacher for help.  She just looked at me and said "you got yourself into this situation now get out of it yourself."  I had to go down the halls to my next class trying to untangle my dangling apron.  I saw my brother but he saw me first and dashed the other way.  I can laugh about it now but wouldn't it be nice if the teacher (I still remember her name) had just helped me a bit.  That really was the end of my sewing dreams for years and years. It was my husband who encouraged me to learn to sew.  By then there were all kinds of help books on sewing. Now, I have a beautiful sewing room which was a present from my husband.  I must admit though it took me a long time to start a project not worrying about what would I do wrong. My husband used to say.  So what if  you make a mistake. Is the world going to come apart?  Now I love sewing.

Dorothy

dfmrobinson wrote
on 12 Jul 2011 9:18 AM

I took Sewing &Cooking classes in 7th grade.....I hated every minute of it.......I asked my teacher if I could take another course...She refused.....BUT after being a total ditz in sewing class & breaking (by accident) three sewing machines & having my grandmother do my A-Line skirt project for me, I was asked nicely to PLEASE GO TAKE ANOTHER COURSE IN ANY SUBJECT that does not involve sewing or cooking!....If my grandmother was alive today, she would be so happy, not to mention SHOCKED that I can actually sew and cook!

cindy4346 wrote
on 13 Jul 2011 11:37 AM

Oh my!  I first learned to sew in 4H too!  And won a regional competiton for my corduroy wrap around skirt!  I left sewing behind after junior high home ec, and rediscovered my love for fabric and fibre a few years ago.  This past year, I taught a beginning 4H sewing module to my daughter and others.  Fun.

cindy4346 wrote
on 13 Jul 2011 11:37 AM

Oh my!  I first learned to sew in 4H too!  And won a regional competiton for my corduroy wrap around skirt!  I left sewing behind after junior high home ec, and rediscovered my love for fabric and fibre a few years ago.  This past year, I taught a beginning 4H sewing module to my daughter and others.  Fun.

bluescoop wrote
on 15 Jul 2011 3:24 PM

Learned to sew during the summer between third and fourth grades at the Singer Sewing Machine Store.

Barb Bulllen wrote
on 25 Jul 2011 10:04 AM

My Grandma first put a needle and thread in my hand when I was four years old.  My sister, who was only a year older, and I would sit with her and embroider little kittens.  Thinking back I'm sure it was her way of getting us to sit still for awhile.  Anyway that was the beginning for me, and now I love making anything with my hands.  Home Ec in 7th grade was my first intro to a sewing machine.  Making skirts with waistbands, zippers and the dreaded hem that had to be just so.  It was like a whole new world to me...a world of endless possibilities.  I've never stopped sewing!  I may get sidetracked with other crafts for awhile, but fabric will always be my first love.

jdjudypudy wrote
on 7 Nov 2011 12:41 PM

I was 10 and all we had was a treddle-my mother said I could pick out any material and pattern I wanted for my first piece.  I picked out yellow waffle cloth and the pattern was a summer dress that required boning with an attached scarf that could be an over the shoulder wrap or tied in front.  After that project, anything was easy.  Believe it or not,  on just a treddle, I managed to run the machine needle through a finger.  Even with all that, it did not discourage me from loving to sew.

maryrho wrote
on 7 Nov 2011 5:51 PM

Learned how to sew?  Well it did start in Home Ec, but my foster mother had a lot of influence when it came to techniques for sewing items...mostly clothes.  As I grew older and needed something new...I would take something old and put my own swing on it.  I made a dinner dress one time...off the shoulders and sleek.  The real kicker was that it was all sewn by hand and I learned that from my grandmother.  That was a first for me. I made many clothing items out of old ones due to finances, but I always was up to date and looking good!  Now that I am a grandmother I still sew clothing, but have moved onto the area of quilting!  Oh what a joy it is to make a quilt for someone you care about.  I make regular quilts, applique quilts, t-shirt quilts, photo quilts and painted quilts.  I am a member of the  local Quilt Guild and proud to keep an older style of handquilting alive and well!!!  I wouldn't have it any other way.

cfr wrote
on 7 Nov 2011 9:22 PM

I tried to learn how to sew from my Mother who made almost all of my clothes as I was growing up. She is a lovely person but had no patience with my sloppy attempts at the sewing machine. I hated changing the machine setting from basting back to a sewing stitch, changing thread colors or adding in a back stitch to finish my seams, so invariably my garment  would always fall apart. As I approached college I wanted to make my own clothes because I could never find anything to fit my 5'10" height. Mom signed me up for sewing lessons at JCPenny because a friend of hers, Sharon, taught sewing there. I loved Sharon's easy style of teaching. She proclaimed she was going to show us how to read the pattern instructions so we would understand everything and not only be able to finish our chosen garments but also move on to any other sewing challenge. I don't think she ever realized the enjoyment I got out of that class and how much she helped me. I went on to art school and ended up changing my major from painting to fashion design. I have worked for a number of large clothing manufactures and still love to create with cloth!

mjr4 wrote
on 28 Jun 2012 4:53 PM

My mom did!  From doll clothes to my clothes and cottage curtains for my room..she was there to help me learn to cut and fit patterns and use a sewing machine.....and encourage me through my 4H projects and home-ec assignments...She has been gone for 5 years now and I miss her and her "you can do it" words so much.

ecoviello wrote
on 28 Jun 2012 6:39 PM

Both my grandmother's taught me to sew, one was a seamstress in John Lewis in London, in the days of glamourous dresses, the other grandmother was a home economics teacher. My mother hated sewing and I it was such fun to turn the handle of her sewing machine. My godmother taught me to embroider and Mum taught myself and my sisters to knit! All good female necessities!!!

ecoviello wrote
on 28 Jun 2012 6:39 PM

Both my grandmother's taught me to sew, one was a seamstress in John Lewis in London, in the days of glamourous dresses, the other grandmother was a home economics teacher. My mother hated sewing and I it was such fun to turn the handle of her sewing machine. My godmother taught me to embroider and Mum taught myself and my sisters to knit! All good female necessities!!!

cindyjk wrote
on 28 Jun 2012 7:01 PM

my mom taught me how to sew. She was a perfectionist. Made me rip it out and do it again. Matching plaids was truly an exercise in frustration. She always said I was "slap-dash" Now she 's an admirer of my quilting and I still sew FAST

susiehamlin wrote
on 28 Jun 2012 7:41 PM

While my skills were honed by my 7th grade Home Ec teacher, Elaine Berge Hillyer, I learned to sew and use a machine from my mom - Eleanore Hadley in 5th grade. We made a turquoise gingham apron - complete with gathers and rick rack. I am still in touch with Elaine - she is the reason I am a middle school FACS teacher to this day. I do miss the days where we learned more than "how to sew" in junior high - but am so happy to see sewing coming back as a cool thing to do and know how to do.

Mary T Grady wrote
on 28 Jun 2012 8:31 PM

My first teacher was my mother, a truly wise woman because given my personality, it wasn't likely that I would want to learn to sew.  She tricked me into learning!  LOL  How dare she!!!???  When wrap-around skirts first became popular, I came home absolutely dying for one.  You know how tweens are - if they can just have the latest new thing, their lives will be perfect.  I was 12 and wanted that skirt more than life itself.  You can imagine my disappointment when Mom explained that since she sewed for me, my 2 sisters and for herself, there are a lot of demands on her time so she could only sew garments that she believed would be worn for several years.  Unfortunately, she said, wrap-around skirts were probably only a fad.  I was crushed.  I understood her reasoning, but that didn't make this any less painful.  She allowed me to "stew in my own juice" for a couple of hours, but as we were fixing supper that night, she looked off (as if thinking hard about something) and said that those skirts didn't look too difficult.  Perhaps, with her help, I could learn to make one.  Sucker for fashion that I was, I jumped on that idea and as we finished cooking, we planned how she would pick me up after school and we'd go to the fabric store.  By the time we left the store the next day, she'd gotten me so excited about this plan that I'd agreed the skirt should be lined AND a blouse should be made from the same material as the lining for a complete outfit.  I never looked back.  I had great Home Ec teachers who encouraged me and who welcomed learning techniques I already knew.  By high school, I was making my own prom dresses.

It wasn't until many years later, as I was telling this story to someone, that I realized the whole situation had been a set up to trick me into sewing.  I remembered that Mom eventually had a half dozen wrap-around skirts so obviously she never thought they were only a fad.  If I had any regret, it was that I didn't realize all of this until after my mother had passed away so I never got to thank her for doing this to me.  I'm sure she knew how much I loved sewing, but I would have like to tell her just one more time that she was right.

czwomack wrote
on 28 Jun 2012 10:35 PM

I learned to sew from my mother, on my grandmother's treadle machine.  My first projects were clothes for my Ginny doll.  I never took a home ec class, so I missed out on a lot.  I can't remember when I startred making my own dresses, but Mom was always there as my consultant.  I was introduced to quilting after I graduated from college, and now I have enough fabric to open my own shop!

LL Howard wrote
on 29 Jun 2012 1:08 AM

I learned to sew from my Mom and my two Grandmas. Mostly my Mom, until I got in Jr. High, and High School. At that time ALL girls took home ec, learning basic skills in sewing, cooking, and babysitting. Boy! were we ready for the world! By then with years of sewing behind me, I was well versed in clothing, which helped get me through as a young wife and mother. Back then, it was a luxury to go to JCP and buy a ready-to-wear item. Now, it's a luxury to buy fabric.