Writing without pictures

I hadn’t realised quite how long it had been since my last post. There’s been some busy-ness but mostly a little frustration with managing photos. And thinking the camera was elsewhere and unavailable when it was actually put back in its proper place.

Then I realised I’d presumed I couldn’t post without including photos. So I thought of a post without pictures, and that’s when I found the camera. You can’t tell me that doesn’t mean anything.

What I was thinking about was in response to Janice Breen Burns’ article in the Sunday Age about the dangers of thinking/wishing you can sew. That is, the dangers of a teenager who’s done Home Ek and is therefore qualified to sew anything. In one afternoon, with outrageously inappropriate fabric, the sewing skills of a gnat and expectations of Karl Lagerfeld.

So I had Home Ek and Textiles flashbacks and realised that each was completely removed from the reality of baking or sewing or other DIY. I went into Home Ek in Year 7 thinking this could be good ‘cos I already know a thing or two about cooking. And it wasn’t any good precisely because I did know how to bake scones, cakes, biscuits and put together a basic meal for a family of six (even if it did involve a packet). The subject seemed designed to ‘professionalise’ cooking, to make it a science. That’s why it’s now called Food Technology. Anything I knew about cooking was clearly irrelevant to the subject because I didn’t discuss nutritional qualities beforehand or paste magazine pictures into a workbook to illustrate the effects of my cooking (happy, smiling, white families apparently). Quite bizarrely, Home Ek seemed to have bugger all to do with food. Or eating.

I went to a different school the next year where they didn’t have Home Ek (only because it had upper middle class pretensions and if you wanted that sort of thing, you could go down the road to that other girls’ school. ask innercitygarden). But my school did have Textiles and Art and a few hangovers which meant the Year 7 textiles activity was chain stitching your name onto the pocket of your pinny. I would have been happy to wear my sister’s pinny and confuse the teachers but that wasn’t Good Form. So I wandered around nameless for the next five years.

The major Textiles activity I remember was making a clown softie. We cut out the clown from a template and our creativity was supposed to come it in the decorating thereof. The challenge was to make clothes for it. I can’t say that particularly appealed to me because it didn’t seem quite difficult enough. So I was a complete smartarse and decided to go for Pierrot. It involved only one colour, minimal stitching for the face and (most importantly), no hair. If they were going to make sewing easy, I thought, I’ll beat them at their own game.  I’ve already said I was a smartarse.

I think I would have been a little more impressed if it hadn’t been so patronising. It really isn’t that difficult to construct a top or a simple dress and learn about measurements, form and garment construction on the way. And it would have been handy.

Because then you’d really know that trying to make an outfit in outrageously inappropriate fabric, with limited skills and the expectations of haute couture was only going to end in tears. But you’d also know that you could sew up a simple, flattering dress that looked good.



  1. Mary said,

    October 28, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Home Ec for me gave me confidence with cooking but not at all with sewing. Even though we had to follow patterns and make skirts and stuff. Sewing just freaked me out.

    Still does.

  2. October 28, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Home Ec made me want to do highly inappropriate things. Like cream butter and sugar with my hands, the way my nana did. I think I was expecting (or hoping) for the CWA.

  3. kate said,

    October 28, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Our Textiles & Home Ec teacher left a lot to be desired. She inspired either mutiny or panic attacks depending on the nature of the girl.

    We started year seven with our names already sewn on our pinnies. Our mothers were sent instructions on how to do chain stitch along with the book list. Why they thought it was reasonable to have girls wearing (effectively) name tags for the first two years of high school is beyond me. Some of the mothers got bolshy and machine embroidered the names instead. It certainly didn’t do too much to make me feel like a valued individual.

    Neither did the textiles projects where every girl, regardless of height, got the same amount of material to make the same size garment. My nightie in year 8 was, in fact, a t-shirt. Perhaps they were trying to teach economy, or bargining, I ought to have made a deal with a short kid.

  4. Ali Wilson said,

    October 29, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Mrs Butler gave me a 10/10 for the chain stitch name on my pinnie. What she didn’t realise was that Mum did the night before it had to be finished. So our Mum was the Nadia Comaneci on Year 7 sewing class. I actually didn’t mind the tasks, it was the cow running the class that ruined it.

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