Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Theme Thursday - Polka Dots

This week's theme was suggested by Siobhan. For more Theme Thursday posts, click here.

I offer this post with apologies in advance, in case I am repeating myself. It's just that when I saw "polka dots" there was one story that popped to the front of my mind, and I just had to tell it, because it haunts me. I loathe polka dots - with good reason.

I think I was eleven years old when it happened - or maybe ten. It was a turning point in my life, the moment when I saw a door close.

I was a good student, for the most part. I loved anything to do with words or music, and I could hold my own at math and science. There were only two classes that defeated me. One was physical education. I enjoyed exercise, but I lacked self-confidence, so team sports were (and are) torture to me - but that's another story.

My second nemesis was home economics.  Anybody who has seen my house knows that I am still, shall we say, challenged in the matter of housekeeping, but at the age of ten(nish) I was completely hopeless. I remember my frustration with cooking class, where we had to measure and/or weigh every single ingredient for every single dish, which I found intensely boring. I would still rather ad lib in the kitchen, thank you. However, I muddled through.

Then came the second semester of home ec class, the half that still makes me tremble with fear. That was sewing. With a machine.

We made aprons. I have absolutely no idea what the apron I made looked like, which is strange, considering what happened in the course of its construction.

We laid out the fabric and applied the pattern, pinning it in place; then we cut out the pieces and assembled the aprons, using straight pins to hold the edges together. I went over to my assigned sewing machine and prepared to sew.

I was dressed that day in a circle skirt. You remember those, don't you? Some of them were decorated with poodles or monograms. Mine wasn't. Mine was a navy blue percale with white polka dots the size of quarters. I was very fond of that skirt. It was almost as pretty as the one Audrey Hepburn wore in Roman Holiday.

You know where this is going, don't you?

I placed the yet-to-be-sewn apron on the sewing machine's work surface, raised the foot, slipped the fabric under the needle, lowered the foot, and pressed on the foot pedal. The machine whirred, the needle went up and down, up and down, up and down with alarming rapidity, and I did my best to keep up. My panic was such that it didn't occur to me that I had any control over the speed with which the machine worked. I just laboured on like Lucy on the assembly line, losing ground with every scream of the motor - and it was screaming, because my pedal foot was in a state of rigour.

Meanwhile, it transpired, one of the straight pins with which I had joined the sections of the apron had become entangled in my beloved navy blue and white polka dot circle skirt. As I - or the demon machine - secured my apron's seam with thousands of tiny stitches, my skirt was drawn up into the maelstrom, and soon skirt and apron were inextricably joined, like Humpty Dumpty in reverse. All the king's horses...couldn't get skirt and apron apart again. My tearful attempts resulted in nasty little holes all over the front of my skirt. I don't know what happened  to the apron, and I don't care.

Let's see. There must have been a bright side to the story. Oh, yes. The other girls in my class got a really good laugh out of it - and I learned bright and early that I would never be a seamstress. That saved me ever so much time, being able to wipe a career path off my list like that. To this day, though, I am intimidated by sewing machines, and whenever I make something (once in a while I decide that it can't have been that bad, and I try again) the item I produce looks as if it were made by a ten-year-old. And a search of my closet would not produce a single polka-dotted item.


Brian Miller said...

lol. laughing with you i hope. i remember my my trying to show me the sewing machine. its a wonder i did not sew my fingers to the cloth...the i love lucy vid fits so well...happy tt!

The Clever Pup said...

Ho Ho!

I remember learning to embroider at my aunt's house and going right through my skirt.

Home Ec. What a larf, eh? I had to make cream puffs but broke an egg and had to do with make them with one egg. What a flat globby mess that was.

Sandra Leigh said...

Brian, I'm sure I have stabbed my finger somewhere along the line, but I don't think it was that day.

Hazel, it's a wonder any of us ever want to cook, once we've been through the home ec mill. I hope you've made cream puffs since then, because they're fun to make - and delicious.

Alan Burnett said...

Wonderful story - great memories. And the video was a real reminder of watching the show in my youth. Happy TT to you.

AngelMay said...

LOL! Wonderful story, Sandra! Brought back memories of my first Home Ec sewing class. We didn't get to make anything as simple as an apron - no! We had to make a skirt! With a zipper! Oy! I got the skirt made, but the zipper was just a disaster! BTW, I also had a circle skirt - I called it my "Pony Skirt" because it had a pony on it. Or was it a Poodle? Oh well...doesn't matter. You should have warned me about your great fear of sewing machines - and I would have put mine away instead of leaving it out on the table while you were here. I'm still sewing on my quilt. Someday - when I finish - it will be put away. LOVED this post.

Stephanie said...

That is so funny. I've sewn a few things together by mistake so hear you on taking out all those tiny little stitches...

Poetikat said...

Didn't anyone issue you a stitch-ripper? That was my favourite piece of equipment. I felt I could do anything as long as I had that in my possession. (I still have one today even though I don't sew.)
I'm with you on the Phys Ed and team sports (I've got a poem, if you're interested), but I did love Home Ec and although sewing wasn't my strong suit, I still never had any real disasters other than a few crooked seams (and the stitch-ripper fixed those too).

Baino said...

Haha . . excellent story and I've also sewn clothing onto whatever I was making in the past. Shame it spoiled your lovely skirt! I remember Home Ec although we did it in high school in years 7-10. Such a sexist proposition wasn't it. The girls did cooking and sewing or typing while the boys did woodwork or metalwork.

Anonymous said...

I never could thread the dang sewing machine! Still can't:(


JeffScape said...

I ruined my favorite sweatshirt in print class in a similar fashion.

Sucks, doesn't it?

Sandra Leigh said...

Alan, I think that episode and the one in which they stomp grapes are the top two from the series.

AngelMay, thank you, and it's okay. I'm not afraid of the machines as long as I'm not required to use them. It's sort of like bats, which don't scare me as long as they sit still, but terrify me when they're in flight.

Stephanie, it was awful. It took forever.

Poetikat, I had one of those little seam rippers. That's what I used to make the holes in my skirt!

Baino, I would probably have done better at the woodworking, though I'm not sure. I might not be safe with a band saw, either.

Angela, I can help. There's a gadget for that, and it works. The same thing you use to thread regular needles works for a sewing machine needle. It's that little silvery thing with the lasso on the front end. Works great. I have no trouble threading the machine. It's the rest of the job that drives me to tears.

Sandra Leigh said...

JeffScape - sorry, I missed you. Yes, it does suck. Next time you're doing prints, you could make a sweatshirt that reads "Sewing sucks!" I'd buy it.

Karen said...

Oh, Sandra! This brings back such memories of home economics class! These younger girls wouldn't understand that this course was required when we were in school! I learned to 1)set the table; 2) measure shortening in a cup (take the back of the knife to level it off); 3)sift flour; and 4)make an apron! I'm happy to say that I'm "domestic" as my husband says, so I was pretty good at all of these things. But my sister - who was a rebellious genius (the 60's) was ashamed of winning the school's Betty Crocker Award. She actually refused to walk up on stage and receive it. Caused quite a stir among us wannabes! Thanks for bringing back the memories. Oh, and there's a little thing called a stitch ripper that might have saved your skirt!

Sandra Leigh said...

No, no, no, Karen. That seam ripper has (1) a point on the end and (2) a razor-like blade in its curve. Do you have any idea how destructive a tool like that can be in the hands of a total klutz like me?

Sandra Leigh said...

By the way, Karen, I learned a different method for measuring shortening. To measure one cup of shortening, we put a cup of cold water into a liquid measuring cup, then added shortening until the water level rose to 2 cups, thus solving the problem of air bubbles in the shortening. Downright scientific, it was.

John Hayes said...

Wow--that is a rather traumatic experience--but a riveting good story!

Joy Keaton said...

Great story - brings back many stressful memories of the 8th grade.

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