How many of you read the title of this post and said, “Oh Directrice, you had me at To-Sew”?
For those who are baffled, an explanation shall be provided forthwith!

Alternate titles for this post were The Directrice Gets Weirder (Part I) and Heart of Darkness.
Pour quoi?
January — the month when most people turn over a new leaf by re-embracing exercise, a healthy diet or some other personal improvement regimen — appears to be the month when I descend to a new level of sartorial eccentricity.
Do you remember what happened last year? Allow me to remind you.
This, this, and this happened.
And don’t forget 2017: this, this, and this. And this.*
January! The month in which I stretch myself

January: The month in which I especially don’t give a $%#& what people think of me
January: The month in which understandably unsold merchandise is practically given away by retailers

Why is this? I have a few theories.
Theory 1: Year-end reflection leads to the realization that one cannot rely on external validation for feeling of self-worth and must instead internally promote oneself, which temporarily leads one to believe — among other things — that one can fly.
Theory 2: Year-end reflection leads to the realization that we only go around once in our lives, which reminds one that it is important to find beauty, amusement, and delight in even the small gestures.
Theory 3: If the year is a successful one at work, there are little indulgences commensurate with that success.
Theory 4: All the weird, unsalable merchandise from the year appears in post-Christmas sales and when it’s all shown together, it looks relatively normal.
Theory 5: The weird, unsalable merchandise on offer in the post-Christmas sales isn’t obscured by thousands of pieces of normal-looking clothes and thus is easier to find.
Theories abound; pick your favorite

Come closer and look at this turtle-shell — I mean, directional felt top — by Commes des Garcons on The RealReal.
I am rocket; I can fly
Did you notice the fins?

Fins in view again
So many things to love about this top

For those who want to take a closer look at my brooch, be my guest.
Brooch with tiny lightbulbs

So many things to love about this top: the color, the material (felted wool), the blatant construction, the super-structure it imposes on top of own silhouette.
Love everything.
Headless self loves purple top

I think I could have made this top
This top was too big for me (too long and loose through the sleeves) and so I asked Fatima to take it up along the shoulder seams. We decided to modify the design just a bit and remove the excess seam allowance (which showed and looked like a spinosaurus’s ridge) to create a smooth line along the shoulders. Fatima did create a modest ridge around the back of the neckline to honor the spirit of the original design.

The construction is not simply a contemporary delight for me. It generates a warm feeling of nostalgia for my seventh grade home economics class.** Our sewing project was to make a whimsical throw pillow, chosen from one of several design kits manufactured by a company called To-Sew. The sewing was mostly simple appliqué work using felt. The most popular design was . . . a hamburger. I made a hot dog. There were animal designs, too, and I think all of the animals had buckteeth.
To-Sew Hamberder

I found these kits on eBay. The fact that one of the choices is a cell phone tells us that To-Sew was still dominating this field in the early 00s.
Note the dinosaur’s buckteeth

So please, if you remember To-Sew, share your memories. And if you didn’t learn or develop your sewing skills with To-Sew, please share a description of your best Home EC project.
Top: Commes des Garcons from The RealReal; Pants; Nanette Lepore; Bag: Sophie Hulme Bolt bag; Shoes: Coach; Brooch: Karen Gilbert
* The acquisitions happen between December 20 and January 21 but sometimes do not roll out on this blog until later.
** To put my Home EC class in proper context, the year was 1982-83 and my junior high school offered 7th graders three choices: a full year Home EC curriculum, a full year Shop class, and a year divided between the two. I did the hybrid class (thank you, Mom and Dad!) although most girls did not and only a couple of boys (maybe 3?) joined us.

29 thoughts on “To-Sew”

  1. The nice thing about this outfit is that to the easily-spooked civilian, it looks like the nice lady merely has on a purple t-shirt and a prim brooch atop irreproachable dress trousers 🙂

    Congratulations on both the work success and the little indulgences.

  2. I think this top is gorgeous. Also, may I suggest another miniseries? All the above-linked January weirdnesses of recent years, re-worn in 2019… I looked at them all. My favourites, in no particular order, are the pink shark mouth, the yellow shell, and the not-sheath-dress. But all are spectacular.

  3. My favorites: the yellow Marni top with the exaggerated bow and the pink Star Trek uniform top! A question: do all these lovelies get worn throughout the year?

    • Interestingly, the Big Tent gets the most wear. I find that colossal shirt rather versatile. And the Weight Securing System belt is worn often. I hesitate to tell you, but I returned the Marni top; the tags were still attached in that photo. I decided that it was too strange even for me. The pink top has only been worn once so far, so perhaps it needs to return to the office in February!

      • Oh dear, the Marni top was by far my favorite. But maybe my love was for the color and texture. The top does appear to have limited uses.

  4. I must say — as the mom of two dinosaur-obsessed boys — the reference to a spinosaurus in this post brings me great joy. Also, I adore your purple top with fins. And I agree with Jessica: the Directrine’s loyal readers need to see past years’ January weirdness once more.

  5. In 8th grade home-ec I made a patchwork, bias-cut maxi skirt and a baked Alaska. What can I say? It was the early Seventies.

  6. The Home Ec pillows! I made the hamburger in the late 1980s and am now wondering what ever happened to that pillow. I also recall making a pot holder and an apron, both of which my mother still has some 30 years later. The purple color of the top is lovely and is just the thing to brighten up January.

    • I made an apron while in junior high school and it’s still in my mother’s kitchen, too! I’m telling you: Mother Love is the strongest force on Earth. (Or, inertia is.)

  7. In 8th grade Home Ec class, I (accidentally) sewed the apron I was making to the skirt I was wearing that day. And I never mastered threading the bobbin on sewing machine. Cooking class was worse. Sadly, in that era girls were only allowed to take the cooking and sewing classes, not the more interesting ones the guys got to do.

  8. Does this top have fastenings? How do you get it on? Is it stretchy?

    I took Home Ec in the late ’70s and to this day it remains one of the most useful classes I ever took (second only to typing). I remember lots of kitchen tips, knitting and sewing, but the most enduring are the felt Christmas tree ornaments we made, with glue and blanket stitch. I still put a few on the tree some years.

    • The top has no fastenings, Amy. It pulls on over the head. The fabric stretches — not as much as a sweater, but enough to comfortably pull it on and off. Fatima did take care to make sure that her alterations would not reduce the circumference of the neck so much that I could not do so — which another tailor once did do.

  9. Home Economics 1981-1986 brought me to sewing – and I’ve sewn ever since… drapes, cushions, Halloween costumes and articles of clothing I must have and cannot find in stores. The cooking section of Home Ec? Complete and utter failure, however I do enjoy eating and can thoroughly appreciate someone else’s fine cooking.

    Your purple top is adorable.

  10. I love this! Modern-day version of those queens who were forced to walk sideways through doorways due to the dramatic and showy width of their gowns. I hope you dance a minuet with the Photographer.

  11. Early 80s and we had no shop option for girls! My best friend absolutely did not want to be in home ec; she wanted to make storage box for her baseball cards. And the stink she put up!! In the end, we all got to make a choice. I still took home ec but wondered why after I had to do a project about “dressing to camouflage my flaws.”

    • Oh no. I mean, it’s one thing to have a nice mother teach you clever things about dressing to advantage but something else to have a teacher teaching you that you are a flawed creature. I can’t even imagine the teacher’s lessons plans! It was a different era (yours and mine). AND NOW WOMEN ARE TAKING CONTROL.

  12. My home etc adventure stars Miss White, a prissy over-caffeinated home ec teacher in my small country school. I made a plaid smock, which required me to match the bias-cut plaids at the side seams. Since I was an accomplished 4-H sewist who had taken reserve grand champion at the county fair with a double knit polyester minidress (early ‘70’s) she found it necessary to hover over my work, ultimatey giving me a “C” on my smock due to the misalignment of one errant seam. I ended up switching completely away from clothing construction (too fiddly) to quilting (wha?) which I enjoy to this day. Miss White, for some reason, and her tight curled hair, cat eye specs, and clicky block heels remains seared into my memory, along with Mr. Jones the math teacher ( known affectionately as “Bear”because of his size and the way he walked), who seemed to be very good friends with Miss White.

  13. Wow, I really love this top, especially how the flange at armhole level is so elegantly tailored to the body, in contrast to the one at the hip which is so angular and unnatural. The fit in front is beautiful the back makes me want to add one more tuck at waist level to get rid of that wrinkle (but who really cares about backs).

    Around the same time, I had a four-way elective: wood shop (impeccably sanded oven push pull stick), drama (agony, but strong memories of group mates), metal shop (sheet metal cup holder to hang from a car door window gap–fun enough to make but never used, hideous and we were required to spray paint it black), and home-ec (cooking with Jiffy mixes and three weeks of a boring patchwork pillow in lavender and beige, blech, that was never stuffed). But years later, I’m obsessed with sewing, so maybe the dissatisfying projected cinched it? But, then, I’ve never had the urge to acquire a sheet metal roller… Anyway, your hotdog sounds like more fun. Remember when tiny plastic hamburgers and coke bottles were cup cake toppers? And then later they were earings?

  14. This purple top thing is just amazing and so right up my alley between the color, the fins, and the clever clever layers. Is it from that 2012 Flat Pack collection?

    CdG is beyond both budget and size range for me, but between the talk of Home Ec here and the return of Project Runway All Stars, it might be enough inspiration to pull the sewing machine out and see what it can do with felt

  15. I did sewing at school, my memories of it are mostly following the teacher around like a puppy dog because I needed her help to decipher the instructions in the sewing pattern. Although I felt constantly on edge in the classes, a lot of what I made worked out rather well. I especially remember a denim skirt I made that I wore all the time, it turned out so nice. There was also a dress that turned out surprisingly well too. But like another person wrote, I also switched to quilting, for much the same reason she did, and I too still enjoy it too
    Kathy from Australia

  16. I loved the To Sew kits in junior high and I still have my denim shark. When my own kids reached middle school, I searched the internet and discovered that the kits are discontinued.
    I was lucky enough to have a progressive principal, who arranged for all of us early 80’s kids to have cooking, sewing, wood shop, metal shop, and graphic design. I enjoyed them all.
    In sewing I also made a tote bag and I designed it so that the ends were cut from blue jeans so that there saw a ready-made pocket on both sides.

  17. I just had my son’s 7th grade Family Consumer Science conference (new name of Home Ec) and we were talking about sewing. I still have my pillow. It’s a dog but sometimes I second guess that it is a monkey. It’s hard to tell and you’re right about the buck teeth. I remember the hamburger and the skateboard and the hotdog. I got so nostalgic for the To-Sew kits that I started googling them and found your blog entry. I loved home-ec in middle school in the 80s. Everyone had to take it and we also had to take woodshop/metalshop/technology so all the classes were co-ed. Thanks for posting about this. 🙂

  18. I had to do this as a project for my middle school home EC class I made a boxing glove. WHERE CAN I Find these and others I would like to make them again. There was a chart of a bunch of many different designs for pillows .


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