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,