School’s Out But I’m In The Classroom Down Under

Last week I bought some curtain material from Laura Ashley, thanks to a great sale discount. It’s been a long time since I did any sewing. My steadfast sewing machine since my days in California still works a dream thanks to a voltage converter.

Talk of sewing never fails to remind me of a certain teacher in middle school. I don’t know about you, but I did not like middle school one bit. Granted, this would have been the mid 70s when ‘Group Projects’ ruled the day. And Needlework.

Getting a group of twelve and thirteen year olds to cooperate while the teacher, a middle aged man in shiny trousers and long, black sideburns  (it was the 70s, remember) trying to keep order was not pretty.

Needlework was in a class of its own (sorry…cliches, puns, going with it today…) Teacher, a matronly woman with short hair and a never a smile to cross her face, gave instructions  on how to buy a pattern and material for our selected items. In my case, a pair of navy, flared trousers.

Teacher measured me and told me the size I needed. Except her measurements were way out. ‘But…they’re too big…’ I protested, albeit meekly, afraid of making her cross. Which I did anyway.

‘Nonsense’, she snapped.

My mother, who did a lot of sewing in those days, said the same thing when I showed her the measurements. Utter nonsense.

Better do as Teacher said, we agreed.  The last thing I wanted was to be singled out in front of the whole class…

Alas, it was as I feared; as I pinned the pattern pieces to the material and cut them out, they looked huge.  ‘I’ll look like an elephant,’ I moaned to my mother back home.

Teacher then told us to take the pieces home for the weekend and tack them together with temporary, hand stitching. But my mother had another plan. ‘Don’t mess about with tacking,’ she said, ‘here’s a short cut.’ Great, I thought, a head start, as she showed me how to stitch the items together on her sewing machine.

If I had wanted to prevent being singled out, I went the wrong way about it. Teacher, furious, made me sit through the whole class and into lunchbreak if necessary, unpicking by hand every single stitch. Then tack them together, by hand, as she had first instructed.

And yes, I ended up with what forever would became known in my family with great hilarity as those ‘Elephant Trousers.’ Needless to say, I never wore them. Strangely, it didn’t put me off sewing, thanks to my mother’s short cuts…

Lessons learned? Some of value (group projects and needlework aside…) but I couldn’t wait for the last day before the summer holidays, ‘School’s Out For Summer,’ blasting from the radio.

But of course, life long learning is a very different animal to sitting behind a desk bored and fed up and avoiding Teacher’s dirty looks. If only I had had more teachers like someone I’ve known since my early blogging days, life long educator, writer and wonderful friend, dear Norah Colvin.

Best described on her About page as an …’experienced and passionate educator. I teach. I write. I create..’, Norah also links to fantastic resources for school age children both in school and at home from her wonderful website, readilearn. She also writes flash fiction at Carrot Ranch and is a great friend to many throughout the blogosphere.

So I was thrilled when she recently invited me to share my thoughts as a guest for her ‘School Days, Reminiscences‘ series. Thank you so much, Norah! Teachers like you (and I take my hat off to you all) make the world a better place. I’m truly honoured to sit in your classroom today.

School’s out for some, the sewing can wait, but today I’m in Australia taking lessons from the best. I do hope you’ll join me!



About Sherri Matthews

While writing to publication of her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', Sherri has been published in national magazines and a variety of anthologies in memoir, essays, articles, poetry and flash fiction. Sherri gardens, walks and takes endless photos, the better ones she shares on her blog, along with articles about travel, Asperger's Syndrome and her life as a Brit Mum raising her family in California for 17 years. Today, Sherri lives in England with her husband, Aspie youngest and their pet menagerie, fondly known as 'Animal Farm.'
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74 Responses to School’s Out But I’m In The Classroom Down Under

  1. restlessjo says:

    Sewing? Don’t get me started! Ranks just ahead of cookery and science. If it wasn’t literature or language I couldn’t do it. Still can’t 😕. Have a happy summer anyway, Sherri 😚🍒🍨🍫💕

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha…it’s definitely not for everyone, that’s for sure! Thanks, lovely lady, hope you’re having a wonderful summer, it’s muggy here and we’re getting a heatwave then back down to the low 20s apparantely. Beautiful your way 🙂 Lovely to hear from you, Jo. 🙂 ❤ xxx

      Liked by 3 people

  2. purpleslob says:

    I took Home EC in 8th grade, which included sewing. I love the skirt I made, and wore it for years!! The little frog toy bit the dust shortly thereafter, however! Mama was a seamstress, as was Granny. I’m proud to be included in that legacy!! Make sure we see the curtains when they’re done!
    Love, Melinda

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Oh, did you stir some memories in me, but at least mine are more pleasant. (I would have been so traumatized if I had had to make elephant pants for myself.) For me, it was “Home Economics” in high school. I liked the sewing part except my teacher kept urging me to try something more challenging. I was a competent but lazy sewer and resisted until she assigned me to make a blazer. Sigh. That was the last thing I wanted. I found a pattern for an unlined blazer (no way was I going to mess with lining). The compromise made us both relatively happy but, after all that, I still preferred to make outfits out of old curtains and the like. It was the 70s 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ugh I hated needlework and I never developed an interest in it out of school either! Fortunately my mother’s friend was a proper dressmaker so I could always get clothes made if I wanted to! Hope you enjoy the rest of the summer and don’t expire in all this heat we’re supposed to get 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Andrea, how wonderful to have a family friend who was a dressmaker, no need to sew at all! Definitely not for everyone. Yes, thanks, and hope you’re enjoying a good summer too. Sweltering today isn’t it? Hope you’re bearing up with the heat, so humid…bring on the rain! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A great post, Sherri!
    Funnily enough, I’m gathering the means of making curtains too at the moment – I have a vintage Jones sewing machine that belonged to a long gone relative of my husbands… having spent far more than it’s worth getting it sorted so it (theoretically) now works, I have realised I now need a ‘bullet spool’ of the sort that’s not easy to come by since the last couple of decades, & I’m thinking the money would be better spent on buying the curtains!
    Hope your curtains come out well!
    Emma 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Emma! Haha…I know what you mean about just buying the darn curtains! But at least once you have your delightful vintage sewing machine up and running again, it will be well worth it for possible future projects. How wonderful! I hope you find your ‘bullet spool’. Although not vintage, I’ve had mine since the 90’s and love it. My one time mother-in-law gave it to me for my birthday not long after we moved to California and I think of her every time I use it. She never sewed a thing in her life, hated the thought. Yet she knew what it would mean to me to have one. Ahh…I miss her! Thanks so much, Emma, and all the best with yours too! We will compare notes later!!! 🙂 x


  6. Heyjude says:

    Needlework was not my forte. I recall having to make a blouse in my first year at the grammar school. It had to have a double peter pan collar, buttons and buttonholes, long sleeves with double cuffs. It took me two years by the end of which I had a bust! So it never fitted me! Only subject where I came almost bottom in the class!! I did however enjoy making curtains and blinds and childrens clothes for a while in the ’70s – ’80s 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey, Jude! Oh my…now that does sound really complicated. No wonder it took you two years and what a shame after all that, you couldn’t even wear it thanks to your new bust! It sounds so pretty! I remember tackling the dreaded button hole maker then cutting too vigourously right through the middle of the stitches and ruining the whole thing until I got the hang of it! You were obviously quite the seamstress at home. I loved making childrens’ clothes too, much easier to cope with on a smaller scale 🙂 x

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mike M says:

    Meisterclasse ! !

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Norah says:

    Thank you for this lovely introduction to your school days reminiscences post, Sherri, and your very generous and kind words introducing me.
    I was delighted to listen to School’s Out again. I do have the album in a drawer somewhere. I used to blast it on the stereo back in the day. But school was long over for me by the time it came out. And really, I didn’t leave school. I just went back into the classroom as a teacher. Funny that, when I agree with Alice Cooper’s sentiments exactly! I must admit that I did try to make the experience a little different for my little ones. 🙂
    And sewing. I remember having to hand sew a skirt – a gathered skirt, on a band (it was the sixties 😂). Mum sewed most of our clothes on a machine. Why would we need to sew a garment by hand? I did a lot of my own sewing in the early days but haven’t done any for years. Thanks for walking with me down memory lane – a very pleasant experience. SMAG. 🌻

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww Norah, it’s my absolute pleasure, I’m delighted and thrilled to spend time with you back at school…my kind of school! I love that we share a love for Alice Cooper’s iconic song too. Haha…yes, I didn’t think of it that way, you never really did leave school, did you? You certainly did make the experience so much better and happier and fulfilling for your ‘little ones’ (love that <3) None of them would know a thing about teacher's dirty looks, just your lovely smile and kind heart and the gift of life long learning right in front of their noses 🙂 I remember making a gathered skirt, too, though I also remember the elastic poking through the stitches in some parts! As with your mother, mine made a lot of our clothes on the sewing machine. She also knitted our jumpers, being cheaper to buy the wool back then. Now it seems more expensive making hand made clothes. Though I did get a little bargain with my curtain material. Just hope they turn out well! I loved walking down memory lane with you, Norah. And thank you again so much for inviting me to take part in your school reminiscises series. I've loved every minute of it, SMAG forever! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pat says:

    Ugh, Sherri, I can share in your teacher frustrations. Seems like we try but just can’t get on the same page with some teachers and others when our intuition is telling us something completely different. I’m glad you’ve come out on the other side, my friend, and have found teachers and creators that you relate with and can learn from. Life is so much nicer when that happens. Hope you’re enjoying Australia. Love and hugs! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, thanks so much, Pat…ha, yes, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, one I remember too well! But there it is…makes a good story, I guess, or should I say blog post for writing! School in Australia has been so much nicer and way more fun! Love and hugs to you, my friend, have a wonderful weekend! 🙂 ❤ :

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pat says:

        Yes, Sherri. Guess those events, though unpleasant, make for good stories down the road. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the School in Australia. Bet you’ll come away with more stories. Love and hugs. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. dgkaye says:

    Lol Sher, you brought back memories of ‘sewing’ class in middle school. I hated it, and those patterns. Lol, I remember I made a navy blue cordouroy pencil skirt. Lol, I actually wore it – the only thing I ever made on a sewing machine. But at least I learned how to hem pants by hand. Oh, and as for your teacher – What a bitch!
    Hugs my friend, lol 🙂 Loved your visit at Norah’s fab blog. ❤ xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deb, you cut to the chase, love it (and pun not intended!) Yep…that teacher had it in for me that’s for sure. Your cordouroy pencil skirt sounds really swish, bet you looked great in it! And I’m with you learning how to hem pants by hand, a skill that comes into use many times over the years, right? Glad I brought back some good memories for you, share a laugh or two 🙂 Loved chatting with you…I will catch up with you next week, this week has been punishing with the awful heat I haven’t been able to use my laptop as it’s been sweltering, up in the high 90’s and 100’s and we have no air con here as you know. Exhausting. We had to go to London for a specialist appointment for my youngest on the day we got Boris Johnson as prime minister and went by train…no air con, it was broken. 105 F in the carriage and hardly any air, nightmare. Anyway, enough of my moaning lol. Have a great weekend my lovely friend…big hugs back to you! 🙂 ❤ 🙂 xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

      • dgkaye says:

        Holy crap Sher! No doubts you can’t sit at a computer while you’re sweltering! This heatwave CLIMATE CHANGE is doing in a lot of countries. We’re the same here, but thankfully we have aircon. Perhaps it’s time to consider getting aircon because it seems UK gets hotter every summer now with CLIMATE CHANGE. And, sorry for your new PM 😦 The world is in a bloody mess, and we’ll get our licks come this fall in our elections 😦 Don’t get me started. ❤ Lol, you know me Sher, I do cut to the chase. I call a spade a spade, and in your teacher's case a bitch, lol. Love you girlfriend. Stay cool!!! ❤ ❤ xoxo

        Liked by 1 person

        • LOL Deb…you crack me up…thank goodness it’s cooled down again, but that was some heatwave, awful. But seriously, yes, climate change is here to stay unless we do something drastic and very very soon. It’s frightening isn’t it? Our summers are getting hotter and hotter but they dont’ build houses here with air con since traditionally we’ve never needed it. But this country is turning tropical, I swear. A bloody mess is right on both sides of the atlantic. Ha…here, it’s a nightmare with Brexit and talk of another possible early election…and we won’t even mention BJ…as you say, don’t get me started too!!! You cut to the chase and I love it…I’m so glad you’re in my corner, Deb LOL! Love you back, lovely friend… I’m keeping cool as I can and you too in your lovely air con! My dad knew what he was talking about when he used to say, ‘Keep smiling and keep cool, Kid!’ LOL! Have a great rest of the week and weekend! 🙂 ❤ ❤ 🙂 xoxoxo

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Loved reading about you and your school experiences over at Norah’s, Sherri. Ack, you brought back my sewing-in-school memories in your blog post here. We didn’t have ‘home economics’ until my Freshman year of high school (in New Jersey, USA). I had hardly learned to thread a needle at that point (my mom tried teaching me some sewing when I was 11 or so to no success). Anyway, all the girls in the class had to sew a dress and then wear it in a ‘fashion show’ for parents and students. Mine was a DISASTER. My mom begged the teacher to not make me walk up and down the stage in it, but the teacher insisted. Now THAT’S bad teaching. ;-0

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your reads and great comments, Pam! It’s great to get to know you and connect over at Norah’s wonderful blog and here too! But oh my…your ‘sewing’ story is the stuff of nightmares. I was traumatised by my ‘elephant trousers’ but at least I wasn’t forced to wear them in a school fashion show… My heart goes out to you! So sorry to bring back this bad memory…talk about bad teaching. I wonder if those teachers realise the harm they do? I bet you never touched a sewing machine again and I wouldn’t blame you. Thank goodness for those great and compassionate teachers and the fantastic legacies they leave their students…like Norah! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • NORAH IS AMAZING! And I’ve learned so much from her blog posts. I feel fortunate to call her a friend. ❤
        And you are absolutely right, I never touched a sewing machine again after that "fashion show." In fact, my guy does any button/hem sewing needed in the house – and that was even when we were raising our two kids! ;-0 But I bake the chocolate chip cookies. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ditto, Pam! Norah is a shining star and a wonderful friend. Your guy sounds wonderful too. As do your cookies…a favourite with my children growing up, though it’s been a long while since I baked any 🙂 Great chatting with you, Pam. Apologies for my late reply…one of those weeks… 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Denise says:

    What a horrible thing to happen to you at school! Nasty teacher!
    Hope you are doing well and having a good summer.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ste J says:

    We had to create an apron at school for home ec, but I was so rubbish the teacher finished it off for me between classes. I tried but I was hapless. It must be tough for teachers to teach as class sizes keep getting bigger, it almost amounts to an exercise in copying these days it seems.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. paintdigi says:

    Good posts and beautiful blog,……… Congratulations
    I invite you to see my creations on:
    welcome 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Charli Mills says:

    Thankfully I was spared such humiliation, at least in sewing. Some teachers could be cruel in their lessons. I never did learn to sew, though. Great memoir introduction to your piece over at Norah’s! I’m working my through to get caught up after my long trip out east.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great post, Sherri. I love it. Needlework and Alice Cooper. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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