Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Doilies, catwalks and memories

I've been collecting litle vintage lace doilies and embroidered tray clothes for a while now - all from charity and second-hand shops and some from antique shops in France.

Here are just a few from my growing collection - too many to show 

This post on doilies and tray cloths reminded me about this little tray cloth - which is the beginning of another story. It was hand-made by me in 1957 at primary school for my Mum - so I guess it could well be classed as vintage in its own right! I found it in a drawer the other day and had quite forgotten about it. It has a couple of marks on it but I put it into the washing machine and gave it a light press and hey presto - good as new.

One teacher in my infant school Mrs B who taught needlework was a bit of a tartar - likeable but very strict and us girls were all pretty scared of her as she shouted a lot. She was very particular and spoke her mind. She taught us how to embroider. I was pretty proud of my first attempt. Mum loved it and kept it all those years. She gave it back to me not long before she passed away.

After I had been in Secondary School for about a year, Mrs B joined the staff as a needlework teacher and we were quite daunted at the thought of working with her again. Normally at the end of the summer term the school would put on a show of some kind. This particular year it was a fashion show, where the girls had to model the garments they had made in the needlework class during the term. The school had recently introduced a new fabric for their summer school uniform, so that was my project to make a school skirt.

Well, there was I aged 11 years old walking down the catwalk, feeling pretty smug with myself in front of all the mums and staff,  modelling the skirt, when Mrs B had to describe what we were wearing. Most of the other girls had made various items of clothing and were suitably commended on their work. Then it came to my turn and to my utter dismay she announced to all and sundry "It's a pity that Pat had to machine stitch the hem of her skirt - it would have looked so much nicer if it had been hand stitched". I was mortified and fled the stage in tears.

This is the wretched skirt - taken outside Anne Hathaway's cottage in
Stratford upon Avon on a school trip in 1959

Do you know, I have NEVER EVER machine stitched a hem again in my whole life. Even curtains have hand stitched hems. So I guess I learnt my lesson from a very young age but at the time I couldn't forgive Mrs B for humiliating me in front of so many people. In later years when we were all grown up and running our own homes, some of us attended a school reunion where we again encountered Mrs B who was by now in her 80s.  A lovely lady who'd mellowed over the years and talked fondly of her time teaching us from primary through to secondary school.  Memories eh?

Do you have any embarrassing moments you've never lived down?


  1. Patricia, I dont believe you were old enough to have made that tray cover in 1957!! My goodness what is your secret, did I read that right? I loved this post, I love nostalgia and writing and reading about it.

  2. Hello Patricia:
    Well, we have to say that both the tray cloth and the skirt look pretty impressive to us who cannot thread a needle let alone know one end of a sewing machine from the other!!!

    As adolescents, we seem to remember being mortified by almost everything almost all of the time. Perhaps it was the hormones. Whatever, it takes something much more substantial these days [and we are sure that it is the same for you] to even bat an eyelid!!!

  3. Ouch, that must have been very embarrassing at the time, Patricia, and it's such a shame as both the tray-cloth and the skirt look lovely. At least I bet your skirt never came down because it caught on something and the thread snapped, which quite often happened with my unevenly hand-stitched hems! Sewing has never been my strong point, though I once made a very similar tray-cloth at much the same age for my mother's birthday, under the careful guidance of my grandmother, and I too still have it.

  4. I love your tray cloth and coolly collection. As for Mrs B - horrid for you at the time but it did have a positive effect:)

  5. Love those tray cloths. Many teachers have a lot to answer for!
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  6. Oh.. how I remember a few embarrassing times at school.
    I was a bit of a tom boy really..
    Love your story about Mrs. B. how incredible that you got to see her at a school reunion.
    one of my embarrassing times.. we were not allowed to chew gum or chewing gum in class.. mmm.. one day i decided, that the teacher wouldnt notice .. if she spoke, i would put it into the side of my mouth..
    much to my dismay..she called me up to the front to read a paragraph from a book we were reading... i had no time to put the chewing gum somewhere! the paper was in my desk.. As i started to read, she asked my what do i have in my mouth.
    I soon found out.. that was when one shouldnt tell a lie.. I said nothing.. boy did i get a thrashing in front of the class.. ):

  7. What a lovely tray cloth, I put the iron through a dress I made for the school fashion show, mum made it into a over shirt for me.

  8. Looks like we have a lot in common...... Like you i collect anything lace. I also make bobbin lace......XX

  9. Your tray cloth is far more advanced than the ones I did - I think I missed out on the sewing gene. Our sewing teacher was lovely, we all had a crush on her!

  10. Many lovely things but I really love the tray cloth you made yourself for your mother. What a treasure to have!

    And as far as your teacher is concerned...I am furious with her now today after all these years. How dare she? I bet she was not perfect herself so it was a horrible thing to do to a little girl. As far as sewing machines go...I tell the ladies in my quilt group that a sewing machine does not go on its own. They can hand or machine sew as they see fit.

    Hugs from Holland ~

  11. your tray cloths and dollies are so beautiful! I love the detail in the stitch.
    I had to boby pin my skirt..if the teacher were not my sisters friend i probably would not have passed the class....never learned how to sew... yet my daughter is a pro!
    I am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.

  12. Patricia I have had very similar experiences in my youth which led to me HATING everything to do with needlework, and considering myself to be an utter dolt in that direction. It was YEARS AND YEARS later that I started with a needlepoint kit - big holes, big needle, big thread! EASY! But it gave me the confidence to try counted stitch cross stitch ad `I went on from there....into the quilting world and even teaching workshops. I'd love to be able to face those early teachers who so broke my confidence. You go for it! Lxx

  13. What a lovely story Patricia, and what a great collection you have..We had a needlework teacher too here in Amsterdam, all primary school years long. She taught us every stitching and needlework thing we had to know. For me it was party time, but for those who didn't like it, it was hard time..:)
    Erna x

  14. Hi Patricia, I think that we all have a list of embarrassing moments. When I was 15 we moved to California so my Dad could enjoy the sunny warm weather. He was suffering from cancer and going through treatment at a hospital there. At the time we were living with my older brother and his family. His stepson was one year older than me, and because of the doctor bills, money was tight. My Mom bought me one Christmas present that winter and I opened it on Christmas Eve, with the family all around. There under the pretty ribbon and paper was a 5 year diary and three pairs of blue lace trimmed panties. I was mortified. Opening panties in front of my 16 year old nephew . . .what was she thinking? Truth is she wasn't thinking, she was just giving me the best gift that her could. It did instill in me a strong sense of choosing appropriate gifts and appropriate times and places for giving them. Two months later my Daddy died. My diary was filled with sadness, and a year later I threw it into a pile of leaves and brush that we were burning in the backyard. Daddy was gone and I wanted to remember the good-times, not read that old reminder of sad times. Wow! I guess I'll print this, but it does sound pretty dismal. That was just a valley in my life . . . we all have them. That's what make us grow and become better people, and appreciate all the very many, many, many good times :)
    In regard to the comment you left on my blog. We are family . . . standing by each other, praying in times of need and sorrow, encouraging and support each other in our walks through life. When I started my blogging journey I had no way of knowing what rich friendships would be around every corner. I feel so very blessed . . . and I count you as a true and lovely blessing.
    Have a joy filled day, my sweet sister.
    Your blogging sister, Connie :)

  15. I too have a collection of old English lace and embroidered items. Linen is also very beautifully embroidered in different regions of Italy and cotton lace was something my sisters-in-law did before they were married.
    Your school uniform looks very similar to mine. I went to a girls' grammar school and although it was academic we had to learn to hand-sew and cook. I enjoyed embroidery work although my eyesight has always been poor. My efforts at making garments which included zips and waist-bands etc. were not good! Fortunately I was better at academic subjects and survived those strict women teachers with their fierce methods of voicing disapproval and there were some nicer teachers who inspired confidence in us teenage girls.
    Our grand daughter is taking a sewing course at high school this term. They seem to call the subject 'textiles' these days. I was very touched when she came back from school yesterday and she gave me an embroidered book marker as I know it took a lot of effort to produce something so simple, but pretty.

  16. Oh no! It's too bad she didn't share that piece of information with you in private, instead of a whole room full of people. The embroidered cloth you made for your Mom is really pretty. I've glad you still have this school project.

  17. You poor thing! I think the skirt looks Darling and I am baffled by why she had to put you down in front of the group. I think it is lovely that you hand sew all you project.


  18. I made a tray cloth at school too but it was nowhere near as good as yours, just very simple embroidery like cross stitch.

    I've never known a school have skirts as their summer uniform before, just dresses. As for the machine hemming, I can't believe the teacher embarrassed you like that! She should have told you to hand sew it when you were making it.


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