Sunday, September 17, 2006

My sewing teacher

Today I watched an episode of Dateline NBC. It was called the "Education of Miss Graves." I don't know if they will repeat it but I do know that it touched me deeply and made me reflect on teachers that had influenced me.

Of course, you know it was my sewing teacher. I had the same sewing teacher all through high school ~ Mrs. Kenealy. I could already sew by the time I reached high school. I had been sewing since I was 11. But Mrs. Kenealy made me feel that my sewing talent was special ~ not just something that everyone else could do. And Mrs. Kenealy taught me that I could make anything ~ absolutely anything!

First, let me tell you a few things about Mrs. Kenealy...she was an older lady and had been teaching for over 30 years. She had bright white hair, a kindly smile and a real enthusiasm for sewing. She understood those who really wanted to sew and be in her class and those who were just using it as a way to get an "easy" grade to buff their GPA. But mostly she enjoyed sewing...when we were just working at the sewing machines on our garments and not learning a new technique, she sewed right along with us! I remember her making her grandchildren garments. I remember her making skirts and blouses that she would wear to school the very next day! But what I remember the most was that she thought I was special and had talent!

High school can be difficult for a lanky girl with long, nappy hair and no breasts....well not really developed ones...and a really strict mother who wouldn't let you date or go to parties. Add into that someone who is really intelligent and who doesn't have to work too hard at schoolwork and you get the picture. So to be told that you have a talent by someone who wasn't teaching a "smart" class meant the world to me!

So I just want to take this opportunity to thank my high school sewing teacher ~ Mrs. Kenealy ~ who let me skip gym in her class to sew...who encouraged me to try new things and looked the other way when my insecurities got the better of me...and who every day told me what a wonderful seamstress I was!

I had two wonderful women encourage my sewing - my grandmother who taught me and Mrs. Kenealy who encouraged me to keep it as a lifelong hobby! So do you have a favorite sewing teacher? And who was it? Your grandmother, your mother, your sister, your friend? Tell me, I would love to know and pay tribute to these wonderful people who brought such a wonderful gift into your life!


  1. Yes, yes, yes! My high school Home Ec teacher, Mrs. Phenis. Mrs. Phenis was in her 30s, had dark, short, curly hair and a warm round face with rosy cheeks. She encouraged me and told me I had talent. I did not, however, fare as well in the cooking portion of the class. :-) My son attended the same high school and so many of my old teachers are still there. Sadly, Mrs. Phenis wasn't one of them. I wish she could know what a wonderful gift she gave me.

  2. My mother taught me to sew, then sent me to Home Ec to "learn to sew right". I had several wonderful teachers, but Mrs. Martin (who very sadly passed away a number of years ago) believed in me and encouraged me in ALL my home ec the point of asking me to be her "student assistant" my senior year. Yes, it was an easy A for my GPA, but more importantly, she talked to me about my future. Would that I had taken her advice, but that's another story.

    Mrs. Martin had indefinite patience with all of us, and encouraged us to find and use our strengths. I have missed her greatly through the years.


  3. Great topic!!! I just did a blog entry over at TheStitchery about my "sewing teacher", my Mom. But I don't ever remember her teaching me, she just sewed and answered questions. I had a half semester home ec class but can't remember the teacher's name nor anything about her expect that she was very uninspiring and out of style. I made a fitted, lined skirt that I hated. Now, Gigi (just look above this post, that's her!) has been my first real teacher: she told me things I didn't even know I didn't know: how to use handle knits and fusibles, and what (not) to expect from clear elastic, all while blithely answering questions in a public sewing forum. Brilliant!

  4. I've taught myself to sew over the years. I've only taken one class over the years and that was online with Kenneth King at Patternreview. I'd like to say, though, that my mother was my sewing inspiration. She always sewed - some of my earliest memories was of her sewing. I inherited all of her sewing things, including patterns, fabric and machine at the age of 12. I decided then that if she could sew, so could I, and I haven't quit - that was 23 years ago.

    Wow, you've inspired me and brought back a lot of memories. I might just have to blog about some of them . . .

  5. I wish I could remember my high school sewing teacher. She helped me to understand how good a garment could look when done correctly. By correct I mean sewing a straight seam, and matching plaid, LOL! I had two aunts that were sewers, but had no patience to teach. It was my home ec teacher who had all the patience to pass on the skill.

    What a beautiful tribute to your teacher.

  6. Interesting comment today. I was just a week ago telling my son about my one and only Home Ec class. I was in the 9th grade, had just moved to a rather wealthy community, and I was so excited to be going to a school that had sewing machines! I couldn't wait! I had longed to learn to sew, no one in my family knew how. The teacher, it turns out, was horrible to me. I was not one of her "pets", I did not fit in. I tried my best, even stayed after school to sew. She would hold my work up in front of the class as an example of "what not to do." It was many years before I tried sewing again and stuck with it. A good teacher would have made a world of difference to me. I wanted to sew for a living.
    Cape Cod Mary

  7. Just as "anonymous",I had a terrible sewing teacher also.She spent most of her time with her 3 pets and totally ignored all new students who were new to sewing.
    One day my mom asked me what I'd been working on in sewing class.I told her just what was going on.She got pretty angry and began teaching me herself.Thank god for moms.

  8. I learned from my grandma to sew by hand and then I went to college (FIT)and learned how to use a sewing machine. Still learning. Lots of books and figuring things out myself.
    I'm putting a sportswear line together and I'm looking for ladies who own industrial sewing machines and have experience sewing professionally who can sew up my orders as I get them (selling to the end customer). Payment will be by piece as in a factory environment. It would help if you have experience in the field. I'm in the NY/ NJ/ PA area, so spread the word and let me know. My email is
    Thank you for your time.


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