One of my favourite lessons in Miss Trill’s class at Fareham Park Junior School was sewing! I do not recall if Miss Trill taught the lessons or another teacher came in to help with the activity. I remember cutting out the green material for the rabbit and doing the embroidery for its face. I remember sewing it up by hand. I don’t remember what I stuffed it with, but I do remember the great feeling of satisfaction I felt when it was finished. I also got to make a lion. Looking back I’m surprised that I could sew. It was as if I always could.
My mum keeps these two hand made toys on her bed. She has had them for over forty-five years! I don’t remember what the other children in my class made. I think this may be due to being so engrossed in this project.
From this experience at school, I have developed a great love for making things with yarn and thread. My friend’s mother taught her how to crochet. I remember her teaching me to do a crochet stitch. One day my friend and I sat in the Wendy house that my Dad made at the bottom of my garden and we crocheted. I was so fascinated by it that I saved up my pocket money and bought a crochet book and some wool. I must have been about ten years old. From this crochet book, I taught myself how to crochet. I made a little cardigan out of crochet motifs for our neighbour who had a baby girl. I made blankets – saving up my pocket money for wool. At the bottom of Fareham Park Road, there was a little wool shop. I remember the shop being very small and cramped, but I loved to go into it and look at the colours of the wool and imagined what I was going to do with it. I have missed this shop so much. It was taken over by a grocer for many years. Now I can’t really tell which shop it was. Last time I went home, things had changed so much at the bottom of Fareham Park Road. The Post Office that stood on the corner is now someone’s house and the pub opposite has been demolished. The other shops are all different businesses and the launderette is now a dry cleaners. I spent many hours on Thursdays at the launderette doing the family’s washing. Everything up Fareham Park Road to Coppice Way seems so built up now with new housing taking the place of bungalows and land. It seems very cramped and claustrophobic.
My grandmother was a seamstress. To help the family budget, she would make people clothes and do alterations. She would also knit. She would give me her left-over wool which would go into my blankets or I would make dolls clothes with them. My grandchildren now play with those dolls clothes. My grandmother lived into her 90’s. When she felt too tired to do any more knitting or crochet, she gave me her needles which I still have. When she moved out of her house in Highfield, Southampton, she gave me her old Singer sewing machine. It is a treadmill sewing machine in a cabinet. This sewing machine has sat in my homes in Telford in Shropshire, England; California, Arizona, Minnesota and now in Utah. One day it will be passed on to my daughter and her daughters.
In senior school, a friend’s mother came in after school and ran an embroidery club. I remember that I had quite a conflict when this opportunity came as I had also been approached by Mr. Mullins to learn how to sail after school. Both after school activities were on the same night. The pull to go and sew was greater than the pull to go yachting. This was probably because I was worried that I would get seasick. One time we went on board the Ark Royal when my Dad was returning home from a trip at sea. We went out on a smaller boat, boarded the Ark Royal, and then sailed back into port. Unfortunately I spent most of my time on deck. We had been in the mess below, but I had become quite queasy and had to go up on deck to get some fresh air. It has always been a standard joke in my family that I can get seasick even when the engines are not running. When traveling across the English Channel in future years, I usually fell asleep for the whole trip after taking some Dramamine!
When I travelled to University on the train from Fareham to York, I taught myself to knit. I got quite a lot done on that journey. As a young mum, I took up cross stitch. I had done this a little bit in embroidery class. Now I go to any of these activities in my spare time especially when I need to relax or ponder. They are my therapy! I think it is amazing how an activity in junior school had such an huge impact on my life.
(First published in Spanish Views on 25th March, 2018)