The catalogue of teachers on this list is impressive. I’ve had to trim it right back to save space for others but two remain. Before I affirm one of my most beloved teachers, I’d first like to encourage my friends slaving away as educators in an often broken system. You are tenacious and valiant and the work you’re doing matters greatly. Hang in there. You could be somebody’s Mrs. Narbett.
I was twelve years old when I met Mrs. Narbett. She taught Textiles in a classroom tucked away at the end of a stretching corridor in the one and only high school in town.
Everything about her was petite: her slender frame, her delicate features, her capable hands. In my eyes, she was the patron saint of sewing. Very little was beyond redemption if Mrs. Narbett saw to the matter.
She taught me to appreciate fine fabrics and craft garments with care. She taught me to pace myself as I created. Long hours were spent hunched over a sewing machine, unraveling errors, dressmaking pins littered everywhere. That classroom was my sanctuary for five years.
Sadly, after labouring over an incredibly stressful mother-of-the-bride ensemble I put my sewing machine in storage vowing to never tackle a big project again. The chiffon overlay and covered buttons on the corset took years off of my life. And then my mom and I decided I could sew skirts for my bridesmaids. Why did I think that was a good idea?!
“Sure, mom. Yes, definitely a simple pattern. Velvet for a November wedding? Sounds lovely. I’ve never worked with velvet but what could go wrong?”
I didn’t get very far before I realized how out of practice I was and how high the stakes were. Seeing my stress level soar, my mom suggested I look up Mrs. Narbett’s phone number and seek counsel.
When she answered the phone, her familiar voice was as kind as ever. She congratulated me on my engagement and once our greetings concluded, she asked why I was calling.
“I think I’ve made a big mistake and I need your expertise. Can I ask a few questions? I’m working with velvet – I know, big mistake – and I just don’t want to mess this up.”
“Bring them over. Let me do it.”
“Oh, it’s mostly just the zippers! I think I can manage the rest I just -”
“I’ll handle it. Let me sew them for you.”
And just like that, Mrs. Narbett became a textile deity.
She welcomed my friends into her home for fittings and produced five fully lined floor-length velvet skirts. She didn’t ask for any money and hardly let me pay her if I remember correctly. I owe her my sanity. I cannot imagine burning the candle at both ends before my wedding just to finish those damn skirts.
Thank you, Mrs. Narbett. Yours was one of my favourite wedding gifts.