Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Fashion and Textile programs closing in schools relates to the closing of fabric, textile and quilt shops.

I am a retired Family and Consumer Sciences teacher.  I taught classes in several of the FACS components.  My favorite courses were textile and sewing, and housing and interior design. 
There were occasions I had to do a great deal of wheeling and dealing to keep my sewing classes alive in the school that I worked at, especially the Advanced Sewing course that I taught. 

This winter, two things happened that made me realize that the decline in the quilting / fabric textile industry truly is related to the decline of sewing / textile programs junior high schools and high schools across the United States.
1          1)      Two teachers talked about their Sewing and Textiles programs being shut down to make 
                   room for different programs and subject areas in their school. 

2          2)      One of my favorite fabric companies, Free Spirit, notified consumers that they were closing                 production of their fabric lines.  It was stated that the company was going to focus on      
                   products other than fabric.  Very soon after, a private company purchased Free Spirit fabrics.               I was thrilled but it made me think about the correlation of the two. 

A bit of History background, according to my memory :-) :  Up until the late 80’s people really did sew because it was cost effective.   I sure did.  I remember digging through a pile of fabric in Menomonie, WI to make my interview outfit for my first teaching job. The cost, approximately, $9.00.  We can’t and don’t do that anymore. 

Around the same era a change came to the name Home Economics in the United States; to Family and Consumer Sciences.  (The name was officially changed during the mid-90’s)  With that, it was said that society changed too.  It was declared that students didn’t need to learn and practice sewing and cooking which led to curriculum in schools focusing on college preparation courses.  The movement of “college for everyone” began.  One of the original land grant schools, The University of Minnesota, stopped teaching food preparation and sewing to their FACS education majors.
Therefore, as less and less people used fabric, the prices rose due to increased production costs and the lower fabric demand. 

I am on a Facebook page for only Family and Consumer Sciences (known as FACS or FCS) professionals.  I also follow Scott Fortunoff on Facebook, A family member of the Jaftex group that purchased Free Spirit.  (Thank You!)  

In the very same week, those two FACS professionals were saddened because the programs that they built in sewing and textiles were being shut down to add the different courses to the schools curriculums.   And, Scott Fortunoff mentioned that sewers should continue to support local quilt shops and help keep them in business.  (Which I do, very well. Ha-ha) But the thing is, I have seen three amazing quilt shops close in the last 2 years, just in the Midwest.  On the Facebook page for the Kaffe Fassett Collective (Fabric designers) I would guess 70 percent of the members are over 45.  This leads to the question, “What happens when the baby boomers are no longer able to sew?”

I have always maintained that you cannot be a fashion designer if someone does not know how to put it together.  This was a pretty good argument to keep programs alive during a time when fashion was a focus in the media via reality shows.  When I was teaching, we always strayed away from a quilting course because it was labeled as crafty and didn’t relate to fashion.  Now, when I think about how much math I do every day while I quilt, I just laugh at the former criticism. 

So, what exactly is my point?  My point is that industry needs to support the Family and Consumer Sciences professionals.  Support them and their programs through word of mouth and financially if you can.  Be political, encourage states, counties and school districts to continue to teach children to sew and create; it is art, design and career oriented.  If FACS professionals and the textile industry help each other, we will help each other.  (How is that for profound?) 

And in the meantime, think about this.  Do we have a societal problem with children feeling depressed, insecure, lacking in manual dexterity, and trouble with personal socialization?  I believe the answer is yes.  So, if by chance, sewing turned to a hobby instead of a career, would that be a problem?  Life does not always have to be serious, it can be fun too.  If a student gets joy out of sewing, cool!  They are also getting; manual dexterity through cutting, math through measuring and figuring, and socializing through chatting with their neighbor while they sew and help each other.

Keeping FACS alive will help keep the textile industry alive, I promise. 

With love from your retired FACS teacher,

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Me too movement, not just for the famous and wealthy.

Sometimes I hear folks wondering why women would bring up an old, past assault on them?  It is easy for me to answer.  It is because it never leaves your mind, no matter how old you are or, how long ago the assault took place.

I am an old lady with many life experiences.  

But, when I was 22 I took a teaching job in a small town.  I didn't know a soul.  It was the early 80's, most districts were facing cut backs and hiring freezes.  I had several interviews offered when I graduated from college.  I took them, no matter where they were.  And trust me, some of them were places I did not want to be.  

I had an interview in a small town in Illinois.  It was about 5 hours from the Menomonie, WI campus that I lived on.  I called two of my former roommates and asked them if they wanted to road trip with me.  I didn't have enough money but between the 3 of us, with my promise to pay back after pay day, we made it.  We had one night in a very cheap hotel and enough gas money left to get back.  

My interview went well.  They offered me the job on the spot and unlike school districts anywhere else, they cut me a $200 check for travel.  I ran out of the school to my car and friends singing, "we're in the money."  

We were excited and I was looking forward to a good career as a "Home Ec" teacher.  

I was also aware that small town living could not be as great as often reported.  My mom always said, "Be careful, you're always an outsider."  She spoke from experience.  But being the young optimistic gal that I was, I was going to conquer this place and be loved.  

My role as teacher there lasted a year.  I was never observed, I was judged and talked about and I never had a chance of survival in that tiny town.  

Later, I was told; the principal that never observed me, listened to me through the classroom speaker.  He also believed the criticism of the elder math teacher that shared the half wall to one of my classrooms.   

Besides that, I had gone out with a young teacher a couple of times, as a friend.  He was engaged but we were more friendly than one should be as a engaged man.  He was never judged for that behavior.  But I was judged by most of my coworkers.  His gossip lead to much chatter about me in the small town staff lounge; with the women on one side of the room and the men on the other.  

I noticed subtle changes but was too dumb to realize how they started and why they started.  After a night of too much beer and me passing out at his house, roomers spread.  My almost boyfriend in the community cut off all ties, and I was never treated the same by the adult male co-workers at the school.

One day a couple of the coaches asked me if I was going to go to the conference coaches meeting.  I said, "No, I am a cheer leading coach."  They talked me into it and said it was a free meal.  When I reflect on this, I know it was a game for these men.  The biology teacher said he would give me a ride.  I didn't think anything of it, as he was a married man with three daughters.  

It was a horrible experience, on the way home he pulled over on a country road that was declared a short cut and attempted to assault me.  I got away from him and started walking home.  I didn't really know where I was but I didn't care.  He pulled up and told me to get in the car.  With reluctance and fright I did, and he drove me home.  

I never told anyone but the Spanish teacher at the school.  I really didn't think that anyone would believe me because of the reputation I had, due to my so called male friend.  

Needless to say, with the speaker observations and the bad reputation I was let go from that job and left that community never to return.  

I only kept in touch with the Spanish teacher of the community.  She later reported that the horrible Biology teacher was caught having an affair with a student.  The mother found her journal filled with stories of her love for this nasty guy.  

I often wonder if I could have prevented the experience for that child if I would have reported what happened to me.  But, I don't know, I don't think that anyone in that very male administration would have ever believed me.  After all, a male basketball coach was the person that started roomers about me in the community.  

It is awful that men were/are rarely discussed or shunned when they did/do these things.  But of course woman were and are talked about and slut shamed.  I hope that things are better and different than they were in the early 80's, but I sometimes wonder if that is the case.  

We still hear about women being awful because they are temptations.  It's rarely, "He uses women and objectifies them for their looks."  

I am happy to see that women are taking their voices back and letting people know about their abuse in the work place.  I hope that we can eliminate this behavior and be happy for the change instead of angry and judgmental.  For now, it still sometimes feels like a man's world filled with "good old boys".  

I hope that my story can convince those that are skeptical about this movement, that it is real.  It is in everyday life.  I hope that people realize that saying, "Oh they were just goofing around, they were just having locker room talk", can change the direction of another persons life.  

I know it did for me.  Luckily, moving from the small town was a blessing in disguise.  But, it did prevent me from teaching again for a very long time.  It took a great deal of reflection and personal awareness to brave the system and find myself back to my love of education and working with children.  

With love from your retired FACS teacher, 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

3 cheers to FACS

MAFCS Conference, Rochester, MN, February 7-9, 2018

I have not been personally involved with MAFCS in the past few years.  Which is a story for another day….but life does change in retirement.  

One thing that has not changed is how I feel about Family and Consumer Sciences and the good, as a community of teachers, we do for business and students.

My friend, Karen Smith, retired this past year.  She was wondering if I would like to team up with her on a committee with MAFCS.  I said, “Yes.” So, AWARDS team it is……

As I help organize the awards portion of our conference in Minnesota, I am reminded that we really are all heroes and all deserve rewards in our own way.

So let us give cheers to all of the retired Family and Consumer Professionals that work tirelessly to keep the organization a float.  Those that do the leg work to keep members involved and abreast to activities and actions inside and outside of the organization. 

AND cheers to the professionals and teachers that work full time and contribute to the organization through planning, mentoring, and holding offices in the organization.

And lastly, the teachers and professionals that work so hard to inspire others in their work place, often giving more time than they have, to keep family and consumer sciences relevant and inspiring.

If you have not received information about Minnesota’s annual Family and Consumer Sciences conference, here is a link:  It looks good and I know that the members planning this event are working hard to make it beneficial for our FACS cohorts.

I hope to see you there!

With love from your retired FACS teacher, 

Monday, September 25, 2017

A young designers dress. Family pulls me in to a beautiful loving project! And oh how I loved being pulled into this.....

Late in the summer I received a text message from my brother.  It was a picture of a drawing by a young student and it simply said, "Can you make this?"

I responded, "Sure" but I was wondering.....what is this?  He then explained that he and his wife had a young student in their classroom, during the school year and summer, that carried around a notebook full of fashion drawings.  He asked her which one was her favorite.  She showed him this dress.  He asked if could take a picture of it.  She let him take the photograph.

He told me that he was trying to think of someone to make this.  He then thought of a childhood neighbor who worked for Vera Wang for a long time and now lives in Italy.  Then he thought, "I am thinking too hard" how about my sister Jane.

He didn't mention this to anyone because he wanted to make sure it would happen.  When he finally told his wife she got a little tearful, she was so happy that he thought of this project.  They didn't tell anyone what they were doing but did ask a teacher assistant to make up a story to get her measurements for me.

I told him I didn't know how quickly I could make this happen but I was so excited I got it done before school.

We brought the dress with us to Northern Minnesota over labor day and they were able to give it to her during the fall school opening.

He has it on video but the quality is not good.  There were other teachers and her mom in the room with them.  He started with, "Do you remember when I asked you about your favorite dress design and if I could take a picture of it?" She said, "Yes."  He then said, "Well, my sister made that dress for you."  She said with excitement, "What?"  She ran to the door he went to with excitement and was over joyed when he took it out of the room where it was hidden.

It was so neat and really everyone that was involved was pretty emotional.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful, emotional experience for a young lady that lives outside of tiny town in Northern Minnesota.

My brother and sister in law are also a great example of kind, caring teachers that often go the extra mile for their students even though they have a great deal going on in their personal lives.

There are so many teachers out there that do little things like this that don't get noticed or recognized. Please give the teachers of your children a compliment and a thank you here and there because they work hard and they love your kids more than you know.

A picture of my sister in law (Dori Hall), my brother (Mark Hall), the young lady and her mom.  As you can see by the hug she is giving the dress she was pretty happy.  And boy....does this make me happy.  I wasn't sure about permission so I am not showing the young ladies face but she is smiling.

Once again I thank my FACS profession for giving me the skills to be involved in this story.

With love from your retired FACS teacher.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sewing/fashion class for new teachers with their schools sewing machine was fun and successful

At the beginning of August I conducted a two day seminar on operating your schools sewing machine and simple sewing projects.

I offered this quick course because I had former co-workers that new very little about sewing and how to operate a machine.  This is a rather difficult situation when one has to teach even the very simple basics.

Knowing how it often is for a first year teacher, to plan and develop courses as they go; I was hoping that this would be a good time for new teachers to just focus on one thing with no outside interruptions.  Each person brought one or two of their schools sewing machines and gathered information on how to operate it with somewhat ease.

We talked about scope and sequence of courses too.

I started with understanding fabric, project ideas, supplies needed, understanding sewing machines and how to use them and test sewing for students.  The students were given time to make a parts slide show with their school sewing machine.  I gave them links to information that I used in class.  They can use this, edit it and make it their own.  But, it is something to start with.

We actually did sewing on paper. Seam samples and then finally a pouch with a zipper.

I demonstrated each of the items so that they would have an understanding of how it would look in a classroom (which was a little difficult with colleagues) and then they practiced.  They were given time to make demonstration videos for there classroom but most wanted to do these at home with good light and in place that they were comfortable.  Making videos with new found friends isn't always easy.

I emphasized how important it is to have videos for students to see more than once and for students that are absent.

I charged a small amount for this workshop because I wanted a commitment from people to attend.  It is so much easier to cancel when there is no investment.

I had three wonderful students.  I am so excited for each of them, all in different situations.  I wish each of them the best in the coming year!

If you are interested in my course or in teaching something similar please send me a note.

As an early retired teacher, it was so fun to be able to give something back to the wonderful people that are following in my footsteps.

With love from your retired FACS teacher,

Thursday, June 22, 2017

That sewing machine cabinet that your mother or grandmother had can be an entertainment unit.

I recently saw a sewing machine cabinet made into an entertainment unit for outside on pinterest.  I really liked it and had it in my mind to make one.  I didn't have a cabinet but my mom always did and it reminds me of her.

I found one at a thrift store for $5 and of course as I drove home, that day, my neighbor had one in her driveway at her garage sale labeled "free".  So I had two projects.  One is complete.  I want to share it with you as it is the time of year, to work outside, and let the dust fly.

To start the project you need to remove the inside of the cabinet that is there to hold the former sewing machine.  I suggest you wipe it down unless you want old dust flying in your face and eyes.  I saved the little decorative handles and hinges from the inside.  You might need that someday for another project.  Haha....

Then you need something over your face.  I used a bandanna.  You can use a mask.  You need to sand the surface of the sewing machine so that the paint adheres to the wood.  That old varnish really stinks and is probably toxic.

Once you have everything sanded you need to paint.  You can use furniture paint and a brush or spray paint.  For this project I used spray paint.  I flipped the machine over and did the legs and sides first.  You want to do a good job covering them with paint as the feet of the legs are the most vulnerable to water and rot, if you will have this outside.  (This is a nice indoor serving table too.  It is great for a small space as you can flip the table arm up when not in use.)

Once the under side has dried and is coated well (you may need to lightly sand and give it another coat of paint) flip it over and paint the top of the arm (or bottom depending on how you look at it) , and let it dry.

Then open the table arm and paint the top parts.

Measure your opening to purchase your pan (which I will use to hold drinks on ice).  The arm can hold your appetizers or food items.

I used the flat or back side of the table for my accessories; the bottle opener and spoon towel holder.  Attach these items with screws.  Make sure that they are not longer than your block and the cabinet or you will have a gap between the items and the wood.  If you do have a gap you can counter that with washers when attaching the items.

As we have a machine shop I had a scrap piece of aluminum and drilled holes through that and the spoon.  I think wood would work too but this will not rot or split.  I put a block behind it so the spoon there would be room for a full roll of paper towels.  (You can use a paper towel holder too.)

Note:  make sure you measure the opening of the sewing machine before you paint.  You might have to make the opening a larger size to use a standard size pan.  I got lucky and it works pretty well although the pan has to be removed to close the arm of the table.
The machine before I did any work.

The pinterest idea had a plastic towel holder.  I found an old spoon  in  a thrift shop for a $1.  Put a block of aluminum behind it and screwed it to the sewing machine.  

The pan was purchased from a restaurant supply store on line.  Opener was the most expensive part of the project purchased from a vintage shop.

Happy building!
The project cost was:  Spoon:  $1.00
                                    Pan:       $6.00
                                    Sewing Table:  $5.00
                                2 cans paint:  $5.50
                                 Bottle opener  $6.00

Total: $23.50

Happy recycling!

With love from your retired FACS teacher,


Monday, June 12, 2017

Facebook sure brings out the kindness in strangers sometimes.

My last post was about my Sister in law Nannette and how she faced her cancer with strength.  This past weekend we celebrated her life as she passed away June 4, 2017.

I am pretty sure she was watching over my son as he traveled to her funeral.  He traveled 5.5 hours on his motorcycle.  On the way his saddle bag broke off of his bike.  He backtracked a little to get it and then strapped in on his bike and made it in time for her life celebration.

On the way home he was quite far into his trip back and he realized it had fallen off of his bike again. He back tracked 3 hours and did not find his saddle bag.

On Monday my sister in law's daughter, our son's older cousin noticed a post on Facebook from someone that she knew with a picture of a saddle bag.  Someone had found it on the road and they were looking for the owner.  She tagged the picture with my son's name on it and I saw it.  I contacted him and sure enough it was his bag.

When I asked my niece if she would get the bag, I then asked her if she knew the person.  She said, "No, she saw it on a post of someone that she used to work with."

So, we started arranging for my niece to get it as he is several hours away I thanked the person with the original post.  She said it was shared 440 times.  Then she messaged me and said she was taking it down because it was being shared more.  (Since I posted the original blog this morning the post was shared 613 times before the kind person took it down.)

So to quote my son, "Damn, thanks central Illinoisans".  You did good and we sure got a chuckle at the end of a difficult weekend and I am pretty sure an angel was helping us along.

With love from your retired FACS teacher,  Jane