Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mourning Home ec.

Linfield College, where i spent 2 1/2 years of my educational life, saw fit to close down their Home Economics department in the 90's. That sad fact was brought to my attention in their most recent alumni paper.

i spent some good times there, learning how to make a lined wool skirt, how to put in a great set in sleeve. i had the chance to explore the world of beautiful, big weaving looms and learn the nearly lost art of tatting. i liked music and i liked home ec, so i played with the idea of being a church song leader who also sewed the choir robes...couldn't think of many other ways to put those things together. Wasn't sure what i would do with the information, but i loved it. Teach me a little nutrition and the value of tiny, consistent hand-stitching, and i was a happy girl.

Even earlier in my life, i took Home Ec in both grade school and high school in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. i still have the black and white patterned apron i made in 7th grade, though i'm pretty sure the polka dot and striped dress (VERY fashionable at the time!) is long gone. And even if my classmates only ever let me set the table during the cooking parts, i still loved it.

My mother and grandmother both sewed. i was raised with creativity--i was an adult before i realized people went to the store and bought a sofa, rather than recovering an old one. And my grandma was great for teaching me little tricks--how to make a hand sewn hem that won't come all the way undone if it gets ripped a bit, or how to sew corners into a tote to make a square bottom. For all these things i am grateful.

The other day when i was working on one of the purses i've been making i realized that all these little bits of learning have compiled to bring together those very purses: the creativity, the hand-sewing, the square sewn bottoms, the love of fabrics and textures. There is a pure pleasure in coming up with an idea and my own pattern to execute the idea.

Home economics didn't get me a high paying executive job, neither did those square corners on bags. But they were all enriching things, earthy things, that ended up bringing me joy. i'm pretty sad that future students are going to miss out on that.


Unknown said...

Ohhh Memories of Home Ec. class. The schools that I attended in Jr High and High School required "Girls" to take Home Ec classes and boys to take shop. Sounds a lot like profiling to

julia said...

That's how it was for us too! At least they couldn't have only let me set the table in shop class...

Hinsley Ford said...

Wonderful. wonderful post. Home-ec is even mocked these days, or at least dismissed as irrelevant and old-fashioned. I loved home ec! I think I was on the tail end of the last generation of home ec-ers in high school. It has fallen completely by the wayside, along with music, art, shop, know, anything and everything that inspires, informs, encourages creativity, and teaches the brass tacks of life.


julia said...

Hinsley, yu have that "brass tacks" thing right--when my oldest was in high school they had "consumer math" that was great for the kids not headed to be a rocket scientist, but who needed to understand checkbooks and such...hope you're feeling better!