Home Ec.

In my middle school, we had three elective arts: Visual Arts (drawing & painting) Industrial Arts (what many people call “shop”), and Home Arts (cooking and sewing). In 6th grade, I took Home Arts, and fully enjoyed learning to use a sewing machine and cook. Which was surprising, because my mother could never persuade me to learn from her (although I admired her cooking, she too fully embraced the military concept of KP, for my taste. I made enough carrot sticks and washed enough potatoes without any progress toward cooking that I only voluntarily cooked with my father, who let me actually flip the pancakes or crack the eggs.)

In 7th grade, we also had to do a Colorado history unit where we did two weeks in each art. I started the history unit with Home Arts, and after two weeks, the teacher made me her aide and refused to let me move on to the other “arts.” This was surprising to me, because while I was still taking the class, I persuaded my group that her methods for making pioneer stew (she advocated peeling potatoes, carrots, and celery) were inauthentic because pioneers would neither have the energy nor the excess food to waste for such a step. We had a public and wildly out of character (for me) argument about it in front of the rest of the class. It wasn’t our only skirmish, but apparently, she liked her aides feisty.

I didn’t do anything glamorous as her aide— I remember sewing a button on for the vice principal, one morning, and cutting out aprons she was making for a local hair salon. I did some classroom help, but with two weeks with each group of students, the projects weren’t that involved.

It’s nice to remember that I used to be decent at machine sewing (even if it was when I was 12) because I inherited my mother’s sewing machine more than 10 years ago, when my parents downsized, and honestly, I’ve been avoiding it all these years. I’ve done plenty of hand-sewing— made cushions for my rocker and have done an assortment of projects large and small. But I put together a small quilting project a few years ago and have been too gun-shy to get past the cutting and pinning, sure that sewing the pieces was going to be disheartening work filled with wavy seams and uneven quilt blocks. Through a long story I’ll tell in a later post, I have a project for which hand-stitching was not practical. And now, the project has a deadline.Tonight, I faced it head on.

I reintroduced myself to bobbins and threading a machine, to presser feet and foot pedals. And although it’s slow work, I’m getting it. My project won’t be high art, but I think I can finish the major assembly work tonight, leaving only a decorative flourish for the morning. And I bet, with the procedure fresh in my mind, I could finish the machine sewing part of the quilting project by the end of the month.

You have no idea what that idea does to me— two fewer open projects right now would be a game changer, because I’m about to open at least two more time-sensitive cans of worms, not counting my garden, and the idea of starting more plates spinning has had me completely overwhelmed. A machine, to make short work of my mending. What will they think of next?!

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