Here is my mother sitting at her old Singer sewing machine with a smiling face in the mid-1950s. She sewed many of her own dresses and skirts. Mom said she took a class in high school which taught her how to sew. The same type of class which was taught at my middle school in the 1950s was called Home Economics. I don’t think it was offered to the guys, or if it was, I do not know of any who took it. Nowadays, however, I believe these predominantly female classes have changed their curricula so that they are more relevant to modern times. My step daughter, who is a Media Specialist in middle school, told me she has not seen a sewing machine in her school in the last dozen years or so. Moreover, the “Home Ec” classes are more likely to be called Family Living or Consumer Science. Another daughter said that one of her electives was called “Child Development”, which included several boys in her class. Glad I will never have to go back to high school; I would certainly be lost.
My mother said she also learned to sew from her mother. I particularly remember the sewing machine Grandma used. It was powered by a foot pedal or tray which one could rock back and forth which then turned a belt and pulley system which made the needle arm go up and down. I was mesmerized by its mechanics. They were called Treadle sewing machines. After sewing machines were electrified, many of the Treadles, especially the bottom part with the foot pedal, were made into small tables- perfect for holding house plants.
My mother grew up during the Great Depression when many materials were scarce. Grandma took in old clothes and coats from her mother-in-law, Mrs. Franceska Gailliot, and ripped the seams apart. Then, she cut patterns from the non-worn out parts and sewed them together to make “new” dresses.
Mom said she also took a millinery class one time and learned how to make hats. All I remember was the form she had in the “sewing room”. It was shaped just like a human head and made out of wood. Sort of like mine. I wish I could find one of those forms now; it would make a great hat rack and many other things that I can imagine.
Shown below is one of my mother’s sewing projects modeled by my sister. Mom even had material left over to sew a similar dress for Beverly’s doll. Judging by the looks of the TV and knowing when Beverly was born, I believe the picture was taken about 1955.