Sunday, 28 March 2010

I can sew

I told you I was being distracted from my ‘proper’ chores didn’t I? I hope you’re as pleased with the resulting cushion (both sides) as I am! It is destined to be a gift for one of Youngest’s friends.

I have both an O and an A level in Needlework. For the O level I had to make a garment (I made a halternecked evening dress) and a piece of craft work (I made an embroidered picture, hand and machine, of Noah’s Ark). The dress is long gone, but the picture lurks in a box in my sewing space. Then there were two exams, one written and one practical. I did OK and I loved to sew so I moved on to the A. For this I made a Viyella dress, a lined needlecord jacket, a macramé lampshade and a machine embroidered picture which still adorns my parent’s spare room. The practical required me to make a lined waistcoat which I found easy, but the written paper was a different matter. The knowledge required included home dressmaking, fabric types, soft furnishing construction and design, and the history of costume. I was rubbish at the history part and have an abiding memory of being asked for the history of the pocket in womenswear… and something about providing instructions for making all the soft furnishings in my new house…
I tell you this to help explain my reservations about Youngest’s plans to take the sewing option as her GCSE Design Technology subject. She won’t need to decide for another year, but I have a specific concern! For the first 3 years of secondary school they alternate the DT subjects and in the sewing terms they do 3 projects: they design and make a bug, a hat and a pair of shorts. That’s what Eldest did, and Youngest has done the bug and expects to make a hat next term.
At my secondary school we had been timetabled to do Needlework classes weekly regardless of stream – you could only cook in the C form! We made bags to hold our sewing, and Science rolls to hold our scalpel(yes, knives in school , as required kit!) and other tools. Lots of straight line machining, name taping, chain stitch embroidery and oversewing. Basic, dull and useful! We were taught to darn, mend a variety of tears and different methods of sewing seams. Then we smocked aprons with shell-edged strings for our mums. At last we chose garments to make for ourselves. As a boarder I spent two hours every Saturday morning in ‘mending’ where we sat around sewing on nametapes, darning socks and tights, sewing on buttons… All those things I now do for my girls and have completely failed to teach them.
There is no sign of anyone teaching them to sew at school either.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


I am ridiculously excited watching little flower heads popping up all over the garden, buds budding on the trees and birds house hunting, but please could it stay warmer and stop raining? I can’t make a plan from one day to the next and, ‘though Youngest needs some room decoration (if only she could keep it tidy), the house always needs more tlc than I can be bothered with and I’m supposed to be making a prom dress, I’d rather be gardening.

Friday, 19 March 2010


I’ve been shouting at the television. Has anyone else been able to stomach Women on BBC4?

I grew up in the 70s aware of the Women’s Liberation Movement and absolutely convinced of my right to be equal to any man. This does not mean I subscribe to some of the dottier things they did. I’ve generally thought my bra quite supportive even if I have wished for a smaller bust that wouldn’t need one – if only I was young enough not to find showing the straps acceptable!
Like the brave women who fought for the vote I applaud the ‘liberation’ of women. In my teens and twenties I had no interest in settling down with a man and a family; I was going to Save British Industry.
The first episode interviewed the chief activists (all mad according to A A Gill in the Sunday Times). The second interviewed a (very middle class professional) tiny set of mothers and their other halves about how they ran their marriages and who did what work. The key question seemed to be ‘In what way is your life different from that of a fifties housewife?’

It was at that point that I started to shout! The difference is that these women (and me too, being a middle class professional!) had chosen to lead the life they were leading. Some had given up work, but others were juggling work and family. There was some pointed stuff about who cleaned the bath, but little was made about the lower standards that we accept today. (Go on then: how many of you scrub your doorsteps, dust and vacuum daily?) And, since she was interviewing people with money, they all had washing machines and dishwashers. The hours my mum spent bent over her twin-tub, or my grandmother using her mangle, have been replaced by a machine that largely does the work while you do something else. The fifties housewife, of course, not only rarely did the sort of managerial work that a woman can do today, she also had to give up work if she married.
There’s a way to go! I’m not saying we’ve got equality. My adult life has been more different from my mother's than hers was of her mother's. I had a successful career and was on level pay with Husband when I gave up work to follow him to Germany. We had discussed our work and our wish to have children and made a conscious decision that he would support the family that I would bring up. As it happens Husband does a great deal more in the way of domestic chores and childcare than Father ever did. Regular readers will know that housework has never been of great interest to me. The things I do do are many and varied, but while Husband is bringing in the money it must be my task to spend it wisely… as well as do most of the chores.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Catch up

At last a chance to post! These are the pent up scribbles of a frustrated blogger in the order they might have found voice:

They’re in shock: their mother has been into their secondary school to ‘meet the leadership team’. How embarrassing is that?! Headmaster was remarkably frank about the school, both good and bad points. An interesting morning. Under specific instruction, I studiously avoided catching sight of my girls and received a stuck out tongue from one and a lopsided grin from the other for my efforts. Other Mums were sought out and given kisses… Eldest says they’ll grow out of it.

Been struggling with AOL. Can’t get on line for long enough to read my e-mail, never mind place my Sainsbury’s order and there definitely hasn’t been time to post my blog and I’ve been missing my fix of a spot of cruising through the blogosphere. Mind, that’s not just AOL, that’s Husband being at home and hogging the study. It is his study, but the deal has been that the computer was my toy when everyone else in the house is out: how dare he be home?! He wants to eat lunch too, something I only do at weekends and during the holidays. There are up sides of course! We’ve been able to go for a walk, exercise is something we both need to do more often – particularly if I’m going to be eating lunch every day.

I am an occasional church goer. As a child I went on high days and holidays when we visited my maternal grandparents at the Vicarage. In our little corner of Wiltshire, church has been another place to meet people. And, as a result, I have been drawn in to other activities. I sit on a church fete committee- meetings have started for this year’s event in June- and this week I hosted one of the four Lent lunches. The deal is that the host provides a bread and soup lunch followed by cheese and biscuits, fruit, and then coffee. The guests make a donation to the church funds. It is a great opportunity to clean and tidy the house which Husband much appreciates- and Kindneighbour helping provide waitress service also commented upon!! I used up pumpkin and beetroot from the allotment to make three sorts of soup. It was all very jolly, so I expect I will agree to do it again if I’m asked… which will presumably depend on the feedback!

Having been so rude about Quorn pie (here) I thought I’d better tell you how delicious Eldest’s offering of Chelsea Buns were this week. Gone in an instant! Sadly more than can be said for Youngest’s Scotch Eggs. She was so underwhelmed that she didn’t bother to collect them at the end of the school day, which at least saved me from having to make the decision to throw them away untasted, or agree to show willing and try them.