Sunday, January 11, 2009

Instant Replay ~ "My Sewing Teacher"

Earlier this week, LindseyT wrote a post called, "What's Your Sewing Backstory?" and she asked people who were interested to do a follow-up on their blogs.

I wrote this post on September 17, 2006 - so here is an "Instant Replay." Enjoy!

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! I wish I had a picture of Mrs. Kenealy, I looked her up in my High School Yearbook but of course, the only year I have available, her picture isn't in it...*sigh* Suffice it to say she made a lasting impact on me...wouldn't you agree!

...and yes, I still have "The Baby It's Cold Outside" post coming up later today...complete with pictures!!!


  1. Love that picture, and kudos to Mrs. Kenealy for inspiring your lifelong passion for sewing!

    PS - totally OT, but GO GIANTS!

  2. loved your story about Mrs.Kenealy.How lucky you were to have her during those years where comments good or bad make such a lasting impression, and for giving you a love for sewing. :O)

  3. I am a self-taught beginner andthe sometimes I doubt myself when I read about the history of others who sew. I didn't have a grandmother or home ec teacher(I was in band), or some history of sewing for years. But I do have a strong passion for fabric and thread, and the desire to learn.

    I did purchase the reference book you recommended by Talbot.

  4. I wish I could remember the name of my eighth grade home ec teacher. Like your Mrs. Kenealy I think of her often and can remember many of her pearls of wisdom, like "don't wear big earrings if you have glasses because then there will be too much going on around your face." Love this post, Carolyn!

  5. What a lovely story! As a retired High School teacher, I really appreciate that a student should have such fond memories of that special teacher.Not long ago, I met a former student of mine and when I asked her what she was doing with her life, she answered that she was preparing to go to China as an English teacher. When I asked why she had decide to do this, she said"Why, it's because of you,of course" I was surprised but she went on to say that I had made her love China in my Grade 9 Social Studies class and this had been her ambition ever since. Needless to say, I was touched to my very core.
    By the way, my mother taught me to sew at 14 and there has never been any stopping me.Happy Sewing!

  6. My sewing teacher was a Scots woman named Dottie O'Rear. The other students in class referred to her as "the dragon lady" but I loved her. She always said, "Don't show me any garment you couldn't wear inside out if you had to," thus it was drilled into me from the get-go that everything should be nicely finished. Although I rarely sew garments anymore, having succumbed to quilting and home decorating (naturally because my fitting skills are now rusty and/or non-existent), all my friends make fun of me for the extra care I put into "finishing."

    i love this blog and am a regular reader from Seattle WA. Thanks for sharing all your good wisdom.

  7. Thanks for re-posting this tribute to Mrs. Kenealy. I'm a school-based speech-language therapist (aka "speech teacher")in a large urban school district. On bad days, I feel like I'm not making a difference to any of my students. Your post reminded me that teachers do make a difference and it often takes years for the students to appreciate what we teachers do.

  8. It doesn't matter what sort of home environment a child comes from - teachers are just HUGE in their lives. And if that child comes from an environment where they don't get what they need, then having a teacher who finds that child 'special' is just fantastic. Unfortunately, the opposite can happen, too. All children need and deserve someone in their lives that find something special and worth paying attention to in them - and if a teacher can do it - that is a very wonderful thing indeed.

  9. Lovely story. I wish I had taken sewing classes more seriously, but instead spent more time in cooking class and to think I hate cooking My sewing didn't start until High School, which mainly involved embellishing my clothes.

  10. Great Post - wonderful story- thank you!
    I taught myself to sew at age 12. At 14 I started working in a fabric store where my passion took off. In high school I took the same course they teach at the art institute. Mrs Tepper was my teacher and taught me pattern making. She also took us on a fashion field trip to NYC for 4days. I was overcome and didn't think I could make it in the fashion industry. I became a hair stylists. Always sewed though.
    After being a stay at home mom for 6 years I decided to go back to work. My friend saw me sewing one day and asked me to teach her. I'm the only one in South Florida who teaches sewing. I can't tell you how rewarding it has been for me to watch my students grow with the knowledge I give them. I encourage everyone no matter what level their on. I'm very successful in my business because they don't teach sewing in school anymore. And the 20somethings love project runway and want to learn.
    If you come to SoFlo come sew with me!


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