Taffy and I both learned to sew in the Home Economics room at Park Ridge High School. Mrs. Dorothy Dermody patiently instructed us girls in fabric selection, pattern layout and cutting, basting, machine use, buttonholes, zippers—you name it.
(Yes, I meant to say “us girls,” since no guys took Home Ec until my sophomore year when some senior boys signed up for the cooking semester. They chased each other around the multiple mini kitchens, slamming oven doors, attempting to ruin the rising of baking powder biscuits.)
Mrs. Dermody’s procedures and proverbs have stuck with me long after I’ve lost what other teachers tried to instill, like Trigonometry. About cooking, Mrs. D. said, “Hunger is the best sauce.” About sewing, she said, “Pressing covers a multitude of sins.”
I don’t know what possessed us, but one December in high school, Taffy and I decided to make a red flannel nightshirt for our oldest brother David’s Christmas gift. In a seamless collaboration (as I remember it) we took turns hiding in Mommy’s bedroom, the location of the Singer sewing machine. Whether a seam, sleeve, collar, or buttonhole, I picked up where Taffy left off and vice versa. The magnificent garment came together amidst much stealth and hilarity.
Finally our masterpiece was safely wrapped and proudly placed underneath the Christmas tree. Perhaps David will weigh in these many years later on his actual reaction to this gift, but he graciously accepted the labor of love of his sisters. And on Christmas night, he modeled the nightshirt before going to bed to sleep in it.
He remained gracious the next morning when he showed us how the flannel had dyed his skin red as he slept.
Apparently, I wasn’t as good a student as I thought. Had Mrs. Dermody instructed us to wash fabric before laying out the pattern?