Frilly aprons and Floating Island…remembering Home Economics

Back in Junior High School days 1940/50s most American girls were required to study Home Economics. Boys had Shop Class, which familiarized them with tools like wood saws, screw drivers, hammers and drills other Man Tools used for building cool objects like birdhouses, candlestick holders, bookends and the like. Their sisters and other girls learned sewing skills like hemming, threading needles, and taught them their way around the Singer Sewing Machine…a wonder that was already familiar to housewives. The girls got to choose fabric yardage, buy a variety of sewing equipment like seam rippers and pincushions, and embark upon the adventure of sewing an apron. The making of the apron introduced the girls to cutting, pinning, basting, gathering, seam-sewing, and attaching pockets.

The girls also learned about kitchen appliances and acquired cooking and baking skills…and soon were capable of producing a delictable dessert called “Floating Islands.” The lesson involved making vanilla pudding, then adding a dollop of Merinque “floating” on top…which, to refresh the memory, involved separating egg whites from the yolks (without breaking the yolks!) and whipping the whites into a frothy cloud of topping…then browning the merinque under the broiler in an oven. (A valuable skill for learning to be a wife 😉

Girls also learned the art of washing clothes…sorting, washing, hanging on a clothesline, (no dryers yet) and proper folding….or ironing, which involved additional skills. I used to like ironing. In fact I liked it so much I may write a blog about it.

All this reminiscing about Home Ec class…and its joys or horrors for young girls, depending on their point of view…brings us to the point of this particular blog post—making homemade masks for use during the COVID19 pandemic.

Immediately the internet was flooded with pictures of masks, patterns of masks, sewing instructions, news articles from the likes of CNN, Washington Post, New York Times — in addition to all the DIY online shows, magazines — even the government produced demonstrations, patterns and tips for making masks.

So immediately upon getting everybody excited about making face masks….the fabric stores ran out of elastic; then they ran out of dark color fabric, and plain prints suitable for a small garment in place of lavender unicorns and smiling flowers. The biggest outrage of all, there was suddenly a shortage of sewing machines. All the stores were sold out. But undaunted, I decided to order one online. I found a Singer Sewing Machine site, which had numerous heavy-duty machines, each $84.00, no tax or shipping, and the promise to “ship the next day.”

So I cleared a place on my kitchen table for the new machine, and waited…and waited…and finally after about three weeks, did a USPS tracking check. Ah ha! My sewing machine had arrived from China at the USPS distribution point in Akron, Ohio. I waited for it to be shipped on to Cleveland, where it would then go to my town, North Ridgeville. About ten days later I did a PayPal search, and discovered that although my sewing machine had been indeed waiting in Akron …it had disappeared. Someone stole my sewing machine. I got my money refunded immediately, but still…

By this time I had discovered that my little Singer that I had had for maybe 20 years worked just fine once the top thread was threaded correctly. Duh. It wasn’t that I had forgotten how to thread sewing machines, a skill I learned when I was about eight years old…”they” had altered the threading sequence ever so slightly over the decades since Home Ec class.