Friday 19 October 2012

Where it all began...

I've mentioned before, I learnt to sew at school, many moons ago. When we entered 3rd Class, at about age 8, the girls would do sewing once a week, while the boys did cane weaving.

I have no idea what we did first, but it was all hand sewing until we reached 6th Class. I do remember we had to keep a sampler book each year and I suspect the majority of our sewing was learning new skills by making a sample, which we then glued into the book. Oh, how I wish I had kept those sampler books!!! They contained examples of stitches, embroidery and different sewing techniques.

I did, however, keep a few things I made. Last year, during a clean up, I found this huckaback embroidery. I'm not sure what it was meant to be, but I suspect it sat unused in a cupboard for years until I wrapped it around a glass plate, to protect it.

Last year, sewing bloomers for a sew-along with Hopeful Threads, brought back memories of drafting bloomers at school. Hmmm... no fond memories there. That was my first and last experience drafting a pattern.

At some point, we made our own needle cases, again all by hand. My Mum and I swapped needle cases a long time ago. I have Mum's, with her initials embroidered on the front and Mum has mine. Here's my needle case which is a little the worse for wear.

Now that needle case was used a lot during my years at Primary School, although perhaps not always exactly how it was intended. Our sewing teacher most definitely had her favourite pupils and I was not one of them. She liked the girls who did perfect sewing.

Somehow or another, my needle case often used to defy gravity and fly out the window, ending up on the ground outside. There were no repercussions; we were allowed to go outside and retrieve our needle cases, although we were careful to only do it one at a time. 

When I was cleaning out a cupboard, about a month ago, I found my old knitting bag. I was quite excited, as I thought I had thrown it out when I gave away everything in my sewing stash.

It has to be at least 35 years old and definitely looks like it. That binding was once white!!! I made my knitting bag at home, not at school, I'm guessing when I was in my early teens. Inside, were some pieces of fabric I used to wrap my knitting in and these I did at school...

This table mat was made while I was in my pre-teen years and is all sewn by hand. I really would like to relearn how to stitch like this again!!! There'll be heaps of tutorials if I Google it.

When we were in 5th Class (about 10 years of age), we progressed to making an item of clothing; a hand sewn skirt. From memory, it was a rectangle of fabric that was 1yard (91.44cm) x the required length...
  • Sew one side seam by hand, including neatening the edges with a hem on either side.
  • Turn the waistband, baste and stitch by hand.
  • Insert elastic and finish waistband.
  • Turn the hem, baste and stitch by hand.
I wish I had a photo of that skirt of which I can remember being very proud!!! It wasn't hard, but it took a while. 

At about that age we also made dolls' clothes for a charity. Again I can remember being very proud of my handmade creations. I felt quite squashed when the teacher hardly gave them a glance. Her favourites were given all the attention. 

The next year, in 6th Class, we were into the big time and were allowed to use the black treadle sewing machines. I think there were two or three for all of us. We made muumuus. Mine was green and I loved my creation!!! At the end of the year, we had to show off our dresses at a fashion parade. I was twelve years of age, shy and a little nervous about parading in front of the whole school, but I can remember being a little excited and very proud of my dress. To this day, I can quote my sewing teacher's introduction as I walked onto the stage.... Pamela doesn't need darts in her muumuu. All those 12 year old boys were watching and listening. I was mortified!!! I didn't care if I needed darts or not. I desperately wanted them. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who didn't have darts in her dress, but it felt like it.

Off to High School after that. Sewing was compulsory again for the first two years. After that I chose it as an interest subject for the next two years and for my final two years, I chose languages (French and Latin, which I wasn't particularly good at) instead. The teachers must have been OK in High School, as I don't have any bad memories. We did a little embroidery and lots of sewing our own clothes on electric sewing machines!!!

I found this shaving towel in my knitting bag, too. I gave it to my Dad and you can see by the stain that he actually used it.

There were no fashion parades at High School, unless you seriously did sewing as an elective, so I was safe. We made all sorts of clothes, finishing up with a two piece woolen slack suit, with a fully lined jacket. Hmmm... my Mum still remembers helping me with that suit. Sadly, there are no photos of any of my High School sewing, other than the shaving towel.

At the same time as I was sewing clothes at High School, I also began sewing for myself at home, using my Mum's sewing machine. I was off and away on my sewing journey...

... Pam

Edited to add - Two years after this post was written, I found my old sampler book. Yay!!!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your sewing history with us. Some lovely pieces you still have!
    My real start was the treadle machine my father bought from the rag and bone man for 5 shillings!

    Wonderful to look back, have a nice weekend.

  2. Great to read how it all started for you Pam, it's wonderful that you still have some pieces to reminisce over!

  3. Wow, what a treasure! It makes me wish I had some of my earlier work as a child. I do have a photo of my first outfit though. I think I may add it to my "about me" page just for fun. Thanks for sharing. What wonderful talents to have acquired at such a young age. I wish more schools would get back to offering these things.

  4. I learnt to sew on huckaback too and have recently tried to find some to teach my kids but can't find it anywhere :-(. Thankyou for sharing your story.

  5. I've enjoyed reading your post and it's great that you've kept all those school projects till now! Thanks for sharing and it sure does bring back memories of my primary and early secondary years...

  6. I wish they taught sewing in school here. I kinda teach myself-which isn't always the best way. Maybe I need to move to Australia:)

  7. Nice post Pam .. Really I find you very lucky that you had sewing in school:) And you had made so many useful stuff then too !!

  8. In my area, sewing was not offered until 7th grade. I had a disastrous apron experience that year that ended any sewing until I was in my twenties. It's great that you continued on despite your teacher's nonsense.

  9. Great post, Pam! And very interesting to hear. It's interesting to hear that learning to sew was mandatory. Is that still the case? Here, it's an elective in school. K will be taking a semester of teen living (sewing, cooking, babysitting, finances) in 2013. P will be taking the 9 week class at some point this year. My mom actually taught teen living (home ec) in our school system until MG was born.:)

  10. I love this post Pam. I always find it interesting to hear stories like yours. What a piece of work that teacher must have been! It's wonderful that you've still got atleast some of those early projects.
    Thanks for sharing xo

  11. Thanks for posting this, Pam! It's so great that you had sewing in school. The school I went to had sewing many years ago, but then they took it away, so I never had sewing in school. Even when they did have it, it wasn't until 7th grade.

  12. You have had a long sewing journey, what a lovely post. Apparently I did some sewing in infant school (age about 5-7), as it was my mum who used to come in and hand sew with us. I don't remember it at all. We did nothing at Junior school (7-11), then just a little bit at Senior school. I remember making an applique wall hanging, on the machine with absolutely no guidance from my teacher at all. She just use to sit at the front of the class with a sour face, everyone hated and feared her. My wall hanging was a disaster.

  13. Goodness Pam, I was mortified right along with you after reading the teacher's insensitive dart comment! My ears are still hot! On another note, the handmade pieces you have held onto are precious. I'm thinking about an embriodery challenge for next year.....I've never really tried and would like to learn.
    Thanks for sharing!

  14. What a great post Pam. Very interesting and great stitching. Fun to see where it began...wish I had pics/samples like that!

  15. Sounds like you actually produced quite a lot at school ... our classes were awful and I don't think anyone produced anything except maybe a cushion cover. Luckily I learned to sew at hoe otherwise I wouldn't know one end of a sewing machine from the other!!

  16. OHHHHH PAM , thank you ,,, i felt we walked in many places together even if we were so far away in time and geography , the first samplers that were later made into Food bag [ for school] than a table cloth which i designed myself for mother`s day [at the age of 11] , a first skirt and first shirt .. etc,,,
    thank you for taking us back to those nice classes ,,,

  17. What great memories...I loved sewing at school, especially middle school when we would make clothes and bags and stuff...

  18. I've loved this post, it's been really interesting.
    We didn't do nearly as much sewing as you at school. In junior school we practised stitches on binca which is similar to your huckaback but more holey, and made a book mark and a needle case as I recall.
    In senior school I remember making a skirt similar to yours but it had a waistband and zip. My Mum bought me some fabric from the market which had a white background with very larger circles. These circles were patterned in blues and brown. I absolutely loved that fabric, and to this day my favourite colour combination is blue and brown.
    It took weeks to make the skirt and after wearing it a couple of times it was washed and the colours ran - literally - there were blue and brown riverlets running down the skirt!

  19. I'm desperately searching through my parents cupboards trying to find a knitted grandpa doll that I made at high school. I remember being very proud too. So far no luck - perhaps he went to charity....

  20. enJOYed reading about your history. I started in 5th grade in 4-H. Everyone made an apron for their first project. Casing in the top to run the tie through and turned up the bottom and made about 3 rows of stitching for 3 pockets. Mother got me yellow gingham so I could follow the lines for straight stitching. I still have it. Then went on to Home Ec in HS. I so wish kids were still taught how to sew, or at least have the opportunity offered.

  21. Great post Pam. What a nasty piece of work that teacher was too! We did sewing and knitting in Primary school, I remember knitting a maroon ribbed hat with a pompom tie. I don't remember wearing it though :) In High School the boys did woodwork and the girls did sewing. We had to make a short-sleeved blouse with a collar. I remember the blouse, it was green with a small white floral pattern, but I don't ever remember wearing it either! I would never attempt it now.

  22. What a beautiful post, thanks for sharing your story, and your beginnings in this beautiful adventure of sewing. I really enjoyed it. I really liked your needle case and the fact of having made ​​a swap with your mother, beautiful, this will be a treasure to keep all your life. Thanks for sharing all these beautiful stories with us. Marisa.

  23. That is so wonderful that you have kept some treasures.

  24. Fabulous memories! Thanks for sharing!
    Have a wonderful week!

    Hugs from Portugal,

    Ana Love Craft

  25. Great memories Pam, I think many of us started sewing at an early age. Thanks for sharing.
    Freemotion by the River Linky Party Tuesday

  26. Hi Pam, I loved reading your history- thanks for sharing. I'm your newest follower, found you on Rae Gun Ramblings Linky party. I'm a new sewer/seamstress myself so I'm on the look out for great and inspirational blogs to follow. I look forward to reading more about your work,
    Freya May

  27. Found you through Polka Dots on Parade. So delighted to have found your site. I am a reluctant novice. I want to sew and have completed some projects, but never seem to get over the hesitation. Maybe your tutorials will give me a leg up. Thanks!

  28. Loving reading your history. Sewing is such a wonderful and verstitle craft/art. Your fusion of embriodery / stitches are inspiring.

  29. WoW what a fab post!! loving that you still have so much of your first projects!! thanx for sharing xx

  30. Pam - I loved reading about how you started out sewing! It sounds like you did a lot at school - I remember making a teddy bear, and a shirt. I'm sure we must have done more but I don't remember it!

    Amazing too that you still have some of your pieces of work! lovely memories!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  31. How fun to revisit some of your earlier pieces and have all those memories again! Thanks for sharing at The Fun In Functional!


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