Everything happens for a reason, so the saying goes. Sometimes, it just takes a long time to figure out what that reason is.
When I was in junior high school (way back before it was called “middle school”), students were supposed to rotate through two semesters of what we called Home Economics — cooking and sewing — and two semesters of Industrial Arts — wood shop and drafting.
However, through a fluke of scheduling, I ended up with two and a half years of home economics. How did that happen?
First, due to crowding in the town’s elementary schools, my sixth grade class was moved to the junior high. To give us a taste of the available classes, my class got home ec for the year, while the other class got wood shop and drafting.
Then, in seventh grade, I wanted to squeeze an art class into my schedule, so I missed out on the wood shop and drafting rotation. And, as an eighth grader, the rotation was changed so that we got a quarter in each class, rather than a full semester. I’m not sure why it changed, but the end result was that I got some extra sewing ad cooking instruction.
As it turned out, the sewing came in handy almost immediately. My mom did not enjoy sewing, and if I wanted my merit badges attached to my Boy Scout uniform with something other than hot glue or a staple, I had to do it myself. It was a good learning experience.
Over the years, I have dusted off those sewing skills every now and again. Usually, it’s to sew on a button or repair a ripped seam. One year, my son needed to dress as Davy Crockett for a school “wax museum” presentation, and we found some fabric that looked like buckskin.
The big project each year was a Halloween costume, and I came up with some pretty good ones, including a Star Wars Ewok for my daughter when she was in second grade. The only problem with that one was that the faux fur I used made the costume too hot to wear all day in school — but it was perfect for our typical Alaska trick-or-treating weather.
Anyway, I never would have considered sewing to be a hobby for myself. While I don’t mind doing the mending, it has always been in the same category as mowing the lawn or cleaning the gutters — not my favorite thing to do, but necessary.
Then, the pandemic hit, and we all brushed off some skills we hadn’t thought about in a while, or even learned some new ones. For many people, it was baking. At one point, my wife and I went to several stores looking for a small packet of yeast; the only yeast we could find was a large sack. We did find out that we could divvy out the yeast and use it to barter for loaves of fresh bread, so not a bad deal in the end.
For me, once the guidance came out that we should all be wearing masks in public, it was time to break out the sewing machine and get to work. Initially, I made one for each member of my family. I made another batch when those first ones wore out, and started getting requests from extended family members (including my mom; I guess hot glue and staples aren’t ideal for making masks).
When school started up, I made another batch so my wife and kids would each have multiple masks for the week. At the same time, fashion became a consideration. My wife, an elementary teacher, wanted some cute fabrics her students would enjoy. My daughter picked fabric that matches her favorite socks. My son got some basic black and white fabric — a more mature look for the college crowd, I suppose. I picked up some plaids and checks for myself, to go with my business casual dress. And a few of my wife’s coworkers asked for masks to express their own personalities.
I have to say, I’m starting to enjoy sewing. Putting some thought into what I’m making, and who I’m making it for, adds another dimension. I have no plans to tackle anything more sophisticated than a face mask, and I’m never going to tell someone I can’t go mountain biking because I need to stay home and sew, but using the sewing machine is starting to provide the same sort of satisfaction as building something using my other power tools.
It looks like these health mandates are going to be in place for a while. I’m thinking I might need to pick out some fabric for some holiday-themed masks. And to brighten up the winter months, maybe some tropical prints for Aloha Fridays.
And I think I might have to put those other home ec skills to use and do some baking. Because we’ve still got a lot of yeast.
Will Morrow lives in Kenai. Email him at email@example.com.
• By Will Morrow