Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sizzln' Hot - Is it 4-H Dress Review Day?

Heat index of 105 plus 98 percent humidity...Must be 4-H Dress review Day.

I was a member of the Middletown Livewires 4-H club.

I belonged to this club for 10 years.

Sewing was one of my projects for all 10 years.

Waaaay back then it was different then it is now.
You had to actually sew your garment.
Today they can purchase a garment
because evidently the old way discriminated
against those who could not sew.
Hello - we took 4-H sewing to LEARN how to sew.

Your garments were judged on construction and fit.

In order to judge the garment on fit we all had to model our garments.
This modeling always took place right before the county fair.
You could always count on 4-H dress review day as being the hottest day of the summer.
The modeling was held at Lakefield Minnesota's grade school with NO air-conditioning.
I still can remember the smell of pressed cloth as you enter the building.

We had all summer to make our garment but for some reason
I always procrastinated until the very last minute.
It was summer and I always could find better things to do
than sew on a WOOL garment during the hot days of summer
with NO air-conditioning in the house.
We would often sit out on the shaded front steps to do our pinning or handwork.

But that was painful too because we lived on a road
that was a shortcut to Big Spirit Lake - a favorite swimming spot.
My friends would go by and honk as I sweat in a sea of wool.

The night before dress review day we always ended up staying up most of the night finishing our garment.

We then would pile in the old 66 Chevy with NO air-conditioning and travel the 15 miles to Lakefield with wool on our lap as we of course were sewing on the last hook and eye or button or something - getting car sick along the way.

Each category of girls - beginner, junior and advanced had a set time to model their garments.

You then entered the room one at a time and did your modeling in front of a panel of judges.

At the end all of the girls came in and walked round and round in a big circle while the judges made their decision - in NO air-conditioning - in WOOL.

The walking around in a circle was just a formality - the judges had already chosen Susan Shearer. Susan ALWAYS won - not that she did not deserve it but really did we have to walk in circles forever just for show?

I wonder what Susan is doing theses days - does she make her living sewing?
She also had a fabulous flip.

Sadly we do not have any pictures of me in any of my 4-H outfits. I suppose it was because we were always finishing the outfit in the car.
Back then the first year sewing members had to make a gathered skirt. You did not use a pattern. You had to pull threads in the fabric for your cut lines. This was such a nasty experience. I really am amazed I didn't quit after that little lesson.

My second year I made this dress. I used 1/2" blue gingham
for the yoke and sleelves and plain blue fabric for the skirt.

I made this out of a red/hunter green hopsacking plaid
with green ball buttons.
I had hunter green patent leather shoes to match.
Loved those shoes!

This little number was made out of gold knit.
I really never liked this dress.

This was made out brown jersey knit.
Knit was really big back then.
Mine had two pockets, was top stitched
with gold thread and had gold buttons down the front.

This pants suit was made out of red and cream wool plaid
similar to the plaid in the picture of the girl in the ad above.
I received a purple ribbon on this outfit.
I made a cream colored polyester double knit blouse
and a red wool bow tie to wear with it.

Polyester, wool and a bow tie … can you think of anything that could be more hot?

Here's hoping you can find a cool spot to do some sewing on this very hot day.

From my heart,
P.S. The winner of the Twenty-Five Years of Blizzards post is Maria. Maria please email me your address so I can send you your prize.


  1. This was fun to read...reminds me of when I took sewing classes at Singer when I was about 10...I can still remember some of the things the teacher would say...and can still picture some of the clothes I made!

  2. I had no idea that current 4-H'ers do not have to learn to sew their own clothes. Hmm. Those that I saw on display surely looked homesewn! Our County Fair is in its last two days. My husband's band played there last night and we froze our butts off because it was about 55 degrees and WINDY so unless you had a scarf and mittens, you were C-O-L-D. I don't envy you the heat and humidity of the August Fashion Review, but thanks for all the great styles of the 70s revue.

  3. Our "always won every year" was Suzy Snodgrass. I've often wondered if she sews now. She had a perfect flip too--and it was long.

    Thanks--I hadn't thought of that in years!

    Cheery wave from

  4. I was in 4-H for a while too. I did sewing, knitting, and cooking. When I look back, it's a miracle I do any of them today. We made such weird things. Love the prices on the patterns!

  5. Even given how hot you obviously were, it still sounds like a lot of fun. I didn't learn to sew until I was an adult. Did they make you use wool in your outfits or was that a personal choice?

  6. Thanks for the memories! You're right, always hot! Had not thought of this subject for years and years!

  7. Thanks for the great trip down Memory Lane. I did all this same stuff, only in Missouri. Did you have to start your 4-H experience making a babushka? What 10-year old girl even wants a babushka? (For those not in 4-H, a babushka is a triangular headscarf). I'm amazed any of us are still sewing. Probably why we make quilts instead of clothes, though! I can't believe you still have all your patterns!

  8. all practice for the week before quilt market!

  9. OMG! I made some of those same patterns! I have a 10 year 4H sewing member and another soon to be 10 year member in my house. We have made several of your patterns to exhibit in the non-wearable category. We have an quilted wallhanging made out of Frolic hanging at the Ind. State Fair with a Special Merit ribbon on it.

    The project where you buy the clothes to assemble your outfit is called Consumer Clothing. It is to teach you about quality, cost per use, fiber content, etc. (In other words Fashion Revue for those who don't sew)

  10. I too went through 4-H and sewed my own clothes plus some for others. I relate to modeling in the summer wearing a wool outfit. My last contest outfit was a skirted, lined wool suit for the Make It With Wool contest. We had to actually sew our outfits too. It was soooo hot in Florida during the summer. Back then not many had a/c. Was it fun or what?

  11. I had that very same kind of 4-H experience. I can't imagine they can BUY garments today? What's the point of that?

    Once I got past the first 3 years, I moved on to a beach outfit made of terry.....much smarter. But then I moved back to the hot long-sleeved dressed and WOOL! During the last few of the 10 years I belonged, I would be chosen to go to the State Fair, either for my clothing or do to a food demo.

    My club was the Green Garden Snip 'n' Snack. The person who always won in our county was Rosemary Archibald. I ran into her much later in life - she was working for an ad agency.

    Funny how all this rolls back, isn't it? *S*

  12. Hi-I was a 4-H member too--and yes, I always waited until the last minute to finish my dress-my poor Mother.....a proud moment of my life was being in the Court of Honor---I believe I still do have the photo from the local paper....I was a member of the Steen Royal H's---Steen, Mn--in the very Southwest corner of the state of Mn....thanks for the memories you brought back today....

  13. I am a 4-H judge in Minnesota, there are now categories for sewing and purchased garments. In purchased garments, we are looking for a wardrobe inventory, costs, costs per wearing, care of garments, etc. So it is a learning experience. I do have to say I prefer garment construction.

    In sewing, the seams must still be finished, though not as finely as in years past. There are young people who want to learn to sew, but who have no one to teach them.

    The projects are 50% project and 50% interview. My sons liked to enter engines, tractors and livestock. I could never convince them to sew anything.

  14. I never did 4-H, but Wow! what a lot of work. What a great way to learn a skill (which I guess was the point). I love the way you tell stories. Your family must love get-togethers. I imagine a lot of laughing.

  15. So, I guess you're saying it was hot?! I wasn't in 4-H, but I took clothing in high school home ec. I remember pulling a thread to get the straight of grain. That often seemed to take forever! I still have my sample/exam papers for seam finishing, etc. If I need to make a bound buttonhole, I'm all set.
    Leslie S. in MN

  16. I was and still am a city girl so 4H was something I only saw at the fair, I would have given up sewing if wool were required lol

  17. Awesome ...thanks for the trip down memory lane! My daughter is just joining 4H, she interested in animals. We love the program. I remember attending a wool dress review with my grandmother in Red Bluff, California...where it's routinely 110 degrees in the summer. Awww ..the memories.

  18. I'm glad you're not having to judge 4H non-knitters in this heat.

    Sometimes change is NOT a good thing.

    Loved your post.

  19. Some of those patterns look so familiar!!! Was wool a requirement? I'll bet you did an awesome job.

  20. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I wasn't in 4-H, but took sewing in Home Ec. We, too, made gathered skirts -- how I remember pulling those gathering threads. After all that, the skirt wasn't very flattering on a short girl. But we learned so much in those Home Ec classes, and certainly the basis for my quilting skills today!

  21. Sounds like you have been too hot for too long!!!!!
    Maybe go buy another blizzard and enjoy.
    I can remember wearing wool in school and squirming all over the chair and itching.
    By the way, I worked on wool applique all day today in air conditioning with a ceiling fan also.

  22. Reminded me of the days at Lake Okobogi....our renewal time away fromthe hot, humid summers in Des Moines. Air conditioning wasn't a part of our growing up so sewing at the lake was on the screen porch and at home it was in the was always cool there.
    Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

  23. Wow! I can't believe you have all those patterns. You didn't have to make an apron? We had the apron, and then the skirt the second year. It is a miracle I survived those first few years, but so glad I did. I'm with you and the no-sew project. A sign of the times, I guess.

  24. My older sister always sewed for the time I was old enough, we had moved to a place where there was no 4-H club to speak of, unless you wanted to raise livestock. I taught myself to sew, and became a Home Ec teacher in the 70's. Your patterns look VERY familiar. Didnt sew with wool in Fl. though, but even HOTTER polyester. Yikes!

  25. When I was that age, town kids could not be in 4-H. We had to belong to Girl Scouts. I always envied those kids who went to the fair. I did recognize many of your patterns. What about those prices? I learned to sew in Home Ec. and went on to become an FCS (Home Ec) teacher.


  26. What a wonderful post! My in-laws are huge into 4H and since they mostly have boys, no sewers ... rabbits, hogs, beef, and such. I don't know how I'll get my daughters into the sewing phase of 4H with that influence. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences!!

  27. Ahh...that brings back memories. I was in 4-H from the time I was 8 until I was 17. The last dress revue I remember I made a pink A-line dress that had 3 rows of hot pink, wide rick rack sewn all around the bottom of the skirt. I hand sewed it on following the curves of the rick-rack. I think it took me the whole summer to get it on (at least it seemed like it) Thanks for the memories! P.s. My husband hates it when I quote the 4-H pledge.

  28. What is the purpose of a sewing project...that you do not have to sew? I was in 4-H, and I made garment after garment...and in my last year, I won grand champion, and got to model my wool,silk lined suit at the state level. I will always remember that hard work, it was important to me...and that was the only year that Laura T. (my Susan) did not win! Ha!!

  29. LOL! My sister was in 4-H sewing...I remember the fashion show with her wool suit. The next year she made shorts and a blouse out light weight cotton!

    Me? I was in photography and raising pigs. :)

    This was the first year that it wasn't 100F at the Nevada State Fair!

  30. You won't believe this!! Out of all the patterns in my sewing room my younger daughter (23 today) chose Butterick 5733 as the pattern for a dress she wanted to make for her party on Saturday night - we finished it on Monday night. I think I bought the pattern in 1974. I used to borrow Seventeen magazines from the library.

  31. This was a fun read....coming from Australia, I didn't know what 4H's were?? Now I know. Isn't it fun to look back.. and wonder, why??? Loved the history lesson, and unfortunately I remember similar clothes...but hey, we thought we looked fabulous.
    Hugs Gloria

  32. what a trip down memory lane. I did 4H sewing too, it was my life. I'm coming back to read this post again!

  33. I enjoyed your take on the 4-H dress revue. I remember three judges looking at every part of my garment on me at the same time. Each pulling here or there to check the seam, hem, placket - whatever. But being in these revues also taught me how to move and stand, things that never left me. I also looked forward to seeing old friends.