Sister Mary Josephine of Fright ~ Part 1

While reading a recipe last March at Not Junk Food a minor detail brought the memories flooding back…… Using a Roux* method of thickening a sauce had me back in the Domestic Science classroom of my old school. It was an all girl school run by an order of nuns.

Sister Mary Josephine of Fright (not her real name, but you knew that) was our teacher for that subject. Domestic Science was considered a very important subject for young ladies about to embark on the adult world in the early 60s. Sure we needed to be prepared for when a strapping healthy Garda, a Teacher or perhaps a Doctor masquerading as a rugby player turned our thoughts to tripping up the aisle and a lifetime of wedded bliss in our own kitchens! 🙄

Domestic Science covered three areas, cooking and baking (90 minutes per week), sewing (45 minutes per week) and hygiene and basic biology 45 minutes per week), the latter was all covered in one book and we in fact spent half the class at our sewing. I could draw the elementary canal in my sleep and also was an expert on the heart and lungs. But the other two chapters on the reproductive parts of the body were never opened or talked about in class. Sister Mary Josephine of Fright would blush and move us on to something else. Thanks to growing up in a house full of fellows, I knew all about the dangley bits and was never embarrassed by them. I felt sorry for my peers who came from all female families or where modesty was taken to a prudish level!

Now the sewing part was where I fell down.  Big time!  Sister Mary Josephine of Fright did not know how to cut out a pattern properly, mind you we never discovered that in year one.  The masterpiece that we were to produce for that year was a pair of bloomers.  They were blooming awful with a diamond shaped gusset, and large enough to fit my mother, grandmother and myself all into one leg at the one time!  Everyone in the class was required to use the same pattern. To this day I wonder if it was the pattern used to make nuns knickers!  Elasticated top and bottom, we were allowed the extravagance of a little trimming of lace at the leg ends.

My fabric was slub silk – an ample sized sample that had been in the house for some time and no longer of use to my father.  The fabric was what I called ‘slippy-slidey’, so perhaps not the best for an early sewing class.  The garment was to be made by the method of hand- stitching!  We used a run and fell method for all four seams and the gusset! A deep hemmed top and bottom with a channel for elastic was used to finish them off.  It took a whole year for me to finish my specimen, since I was only working on it in school.  Mammy was not a ‘stitcher’ so there would have been no advantage in taking it home to work on, or for guidance.  It was eventually completed with much criticism and ridicule from Sister Mary Josephine of Fright for my effort.  Once home Mammy, granny and I had many a laugh about it.  It is a pity that it was thrown in the duster pile, because today, it might find pride of place in the Tate Modern!

Alas, I don’t have a picture, but a similar pair featured in an earlier blog post

The pair first left in the photo come closest!

Now I am tired at the thought of all the effort, blood sweat and tears involved in making them, so I need to go lie down in a darkened room for a couple of hours!  The cooking will have to wait until next week…

Stay tuned!

19 thoughts on “Sister Mary Josephine of Fright ~ Part 1

  1. Baino

    Lovely knickers! We had to make something similar to wear under our gymslips. Although I do remember Adam of all people making shorts out of Hawaiian material in about year 8, he still wears them as sleep shorts! Poor old Sister will be turning in her grave looking at your wonderful seamstress abilities these days!

  2. BathroomBound

    Grannymar, i notice there is nothing hanging for 2010. Is that a sign of the continual warming?

  3. Rummuser

    What a story! As most of the men readers of your blog will agree, it was always a great topic of conversation of school going boys as to what exactly went on behind the closed gates and high walls of convent schools. What a pity that this knowledge comes so late in my life! On the other hand, I suppose that the mystery was the kick!

  4. Geri Atric

    Ha-ha! That’s a very impressive pair of knickers! Knickerbockers more like.
    I will count myself lucky I only had to make a baby’s bib, in my first senior year.

  5. steph

    You may be an expert on the heart and lungs but you need to brush up on your alimentary canal.

    “It’s elementary, my dear Grannymar” 😉

    Great story about the nuns and the dangley bits!

  6. nick

    Well, it says something about what was considered essential to a girl’s education in those days – the ability to make knickers! Passion-killers at that. And as Bathroom Bound says, presumably knickers are now virtually obsolete?

  7. Mayo

    I “used the run and fell method” and ended up in the ER. I’m not sure that’s the best idea.

  8. Grannymar Post author

    Baino – Thankfully we did not have to parade about in them!

    BathroomBound – They are invisible!

    Ramana – Having grown up among four brothers I was well aware of the speculation and chat!

    Geri – A baby’s bib would have been more useful as I have plenty of young cousins back then.

    Steph – I can always rely on you to sort out my errors! Back then everything I did was elementary!

    Nick – If not obsolete, it seems necessary to have them on show these days.

  9. Grannymar Post author

    Breege – Hello and welcome! Now don’t remind me of knitting socks. I was a passed master at the dropped stitch!

    Magpie – Mixed classes ❗ That would deffo be on the mortlar list! I started school at four and continued until 18 years of age and never crossed paths with a male teacher in either school. I did have uncles who were teachers I also met those who taught my brothers, but that was well away from my school!

    Mayo – I think you need to back stitch to the arrowhead or basket stitch!

  10. Mayo

    If this is a secret message, I’m still trying to figure out the code. Steph, once I figure it out, I wild let you know. “Back stitch to the arrowhead” , that might been some kind of Indian lingo!

  11. Grannymar Post author

    Steph & Mayo – They are all known as ‘surface’ stitches…. in other words…. Mayo keep your feet well and truly on the ground!

  12. Pingback: Grannymar » Sister Mary Josephine of Fright ~ Part 2

  13. Kate

    Oooh nice pants Grannymar!!! My disaster was a cookery apron which should have been used for all cookery classes over 3 years …. mine took 3 years to make and was stitched and unpicked so many times it was grubby and useless….still can’t stand pink and white candy striped material to this day! And I am no better at sewing!

  14. Grannymar Post author

    Kate – I feel your pain at all the unpicking of stitches, since it seemed to be how all my sewing classed were filled in those far off days! 🙁

  15. Pingback: Grannymar » Sister Mary Josephine of Fright ~ Part 3

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