Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sepia Saturday 194: 14 September 2013




Little Nell says: 

This wonderful image flags up all sorts of possibilities if you like to try and match one of its themes. For me, anyone sitting absorbed in the craft of needlework in a domestic setting conjures up a picture of contentment in executing a piece of work which will be used, admired and talked about. There are, of course, other settings where the person, often a child, wielding the needle, is not so content, but I'm sure you don't need me to spell those out for you. For the present let's enjoy this particular autochrome plate from around 1910 and pore over the rich details: the folds of the flag; the woman's lace blouse; the chintzy chair; the sidetable with sewing basket; the bookcase; the chandelier; the picture of three saints. So many choices for you to consider when selecting your own image to feature in this week's Sepia Saturday.


Joy Jeffery (nee Wingfield) and Belle Wingfield (nee Forfar) c1944

I am really struggling to find any photos that fit with this theme at all which is a real shame. The picture above shows my mother's cousin Joy and I think either Joy's mother or my maternal grandmother.  Joy's mother and my mother's mother were identical twins so it's always hard to tell who is who in photos.  Nothing is written on the back of the photo but it is from Joy's album so I am assuming it is her mother - though the twins were very close and spent a lot of time together.  I wonder what they are knitting.  I suspect clothes for Joy's first baby.  I don't know where the photo was taken but I suspect around Newcastle or Coogee which was where Ray's parents lived - Ray being Joyce's husband.

My mother was a great seamstress and it's a great shame that I don't have any photos of her sewing.  She always made me a toy for Christmas.  Many was the night that I might wake up in the middle of the night to hear the sound of the sewing machine going in the wee hours.  I would get into trouble if I sneaked out to see what she was making.  The toy's head was always popping over the top of the pillow case on Christmas morning.  Great excitement!  


Barbara Conner (nee McLoughlin) with clown doll

 This photo was taken in the early 1960s I think or late 1950s. I think it was taken on the verandah of my paternal grandparents' place at Springwood.  My parents would have been engaged or just married.  My mother sewed at night and in the early hours of the morning to supplement her income from her day job and for friends and family.

This from a letter to her father in September 1959: "
Right now I feel like a Zombie again, and all eyes.  Went to bed at ten to four this morning (don't know what on earth for).  Both Jean and I are sewing again.  She's making a confirmation dress for Sue, who is being confirmed on Wednesday, and I'm making a pair of pyjamas for Val. "

And this from her in 1967:


"soft toy making, particularly these clowns, is not the fastest way to make extra money, I have found.  I enjoy making individual things, which these most certainly are, but unless you get well organized, the house is in an endless turmoil, and as the work (the way I did it) is slow and painstaking, on your own, you would be doing well to make three a week.  There is a constant market for them, Mary, have no fear of that.  I started making again when I came down here and made three for the Grammar fete.  They cost me £1 to 25/- each, using mostly material that I had, and they were sold for 
£3 each, much lower than Sydney prices.  The women on the stall cursed themselves for letting them go early so cheaply as masses of people came back asking for more and offering anything they wanted for them.  They are lovely to make, in so far as you get carried away with the character of each one you are creating; they use a surprising amount of kapok.  ..... I have come to the conclusion that with a more businesslike approach, a satisfactorily effective clown can be made with far less labour than I ever put into it.  I spent six to eight hours on each one and received I think  £2.15.0 for them.  From this I had to take the cost of materials,  £1.0.0 for cotton ones and  £2.5.0 for silk ones.  I think Finnish Arts sold them for about  £4.15.0."

My mother loved sewing (she studied fashion at East Sydney Tech for a while before she got married).  I found some other interesting photos on Picture Queensland too.




Three sisters, each with fashionable bows in their hair, sitting on a verandah doing needlework. Mavis Ruth and Joyce were the daughters of George and Elsie Weatherlake. The family lived at Chatswood, 7 Augustus Street, Toowong. ca 1918



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Not everyone enjoyed sewing though I'm sure as these photos below might demonstrate.  It was probably done under sufferance...




Interior view of female prisoners at work making garments at the Brisbane Prison. Materials are spread out over a table at the back of the room while the women, dressed in their prison uniforms, are sitting on wooden seats observing others using sewing machines. ca 1913



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Brisbane had its fair share of clothing factories too.  I have found photos for the Pelaco shirt factory at Sandgate and the Ponds clothing repair workshop at Fortitude Valley on Picture Queensland.  A book was published recently about the Agnew Clothing Factory at Redcliffe. 


I will leave you with my favourite observation about needlework in general..."She who dies with the most fabric wins!"  

For more reflections on needlecraft head to Sepia Saturday...

27 comments:

Anne Young said...

Yes - not everybody enjoyed sewing - I was hopeless! I had a clown doll though from about 1971. I don't think they have them anymore - your picture of the doll brought back memories for me :) Regards
Anne

Postcardy said...

My mother never did any sewing even after the family bought a sewing machine for me to use when I was taking home ec. I made some soft dolls and other sewing projects for several years when I was older and ran out of ideas for Christmas presents to buy. It turned out to be way too much work.

Sharon said...

Some great photos and memories.

Karen S. said...

Oh goodness what wonderful photos, all of them. What better place to sew than by the water too. As a child having your dearest dolls near you too, ranks very high too! I enjoy the clown as well, one year I made a bunch of clowns and mailed them to nieces that lived far away as a special surprise! My mother got one too, and at the time I only had one son, and once my daughter was born, my clown making days were over. Hmm, something I should bring back right?!

Hazel Ceej said...

I remember in those days when a baby was coming the ladies were knitting pretty, little things. Great photos! My fave is of the three sisters sewing although I have never seen a clown doll before.

Hazel

Bob Scotney said...

My wife seems to have inherited sewing duties while we are on holiday at my daughter's to whom a needle is one of those pointed thingees.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Anne - I wish I was as clever as my Mother was. I have got better but am still not confident and there is much sucking of teeth and frowning whenever I do sew.

Alex Daw said...

I think that's the problem. Unless you really enjoy the making there is not much point. You certainly don't save any money these days.

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Sharon. It's always fun preparing for Sepia Saturday isn't it?

Alex Daw said...

Yes Karen. I do love the satisfaction of creating something. Dust off that sewing machine and get back into it.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Hazel - thanks for dropping by. I love knitting things for new babies. The photo of three sisters is very special and I'm glad I found it. Where they were is not very far from where I worked for many years.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Bob - well you know what they say about insanity - that we inherit it from our children ;)

Boobook said...

"The toy's head was always popping over the top of the pillow case on Christmas morning. Great excitement!'
Such a lovely simple tradition. (And we used pillow cases as well)

Jackie van Bergen said...

For someone who said they had trouble finding photos you sure did a good job. I couldn't find any.
You did remind me of the clown dolls - my mother made heaps of them too. I wonder if the pattern was in a favourite magazine at the time, prompting our mothers to make them?

Alex Daw said...

Pillowcases are so much easier to fit stuff in don't you agree? Those stockings are too tight a fit.

Alex Daw said...

Hmmm...now I've spent half an hour on Trove looking at the Women's Weekly but not having much joy. I did find an article on Patsy McGrath which featured a clown doll in her bedroom. But - where did the pattern come from? I shall look through my mother's old patterns. Stand by for further information if I find it.

Liz Needle said...

Wonderful photos and wonderful memories. I agree entirely with your mother's comment about never really getting paid enough for the work put in. But then, most keen sewers do it because they love it, not for the money.

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Liz. I agree - you've really got to enjoy the process as much if not more than the end result.

Alex Daw said...

Hmm...not much joy. I'm wondering if it might have been an issue of Golden Hands...

Mike Brubaker said...

It may have been a struggle to find a photo but you've produced a perfect post for the theme. Made from the heart doesn't have to be a flag. My grandmother made lots of dolls and soft toys, especially the classic Monkey from brown work socks. It bothers me to see soft dolls and animal toys for sale cheap at thrift stores, even though they were made in China they still took skilled handwork to make. Perhaps some of my grandmother's and your mother's dolls are somewhere still prized by some child.

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Mike - made from the heart....I like it :)

Wendy said...

Even though you think you don't have enough photos, your memories and the letters about sewing fill this post beautifully.

Little Nell said...

What a charming photo of the girls, probably making clothes for their dolls. The detailed letter is very interesting. As a doll and toymaker myself I found it fascinating.

Alex Daw said...

Thank you Wendy. The memories are very strong and I'm grateful to have the letters so I can hear my mother's voice again.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Little Nell - I was delighted to find that photo on Picture Queensland and thought it fitted perfectly. The letter is interesting. I have no idea who the recipient was - someone my Mother met along the way - she was a great one for writing letters, my Mother. I treasure them.

TICKLEBEAR said...

Depends of the size of the stocking. My parents once got me one that was taller than me....
:D~
HUGZ

TICKLEBEAR said...

From reading your post and then the comments, modern women may think this is now just too much trouble, but for all of the efforts, you get something unique. Something I would appreciate. It's like when someone brings you something home cooked. They could have gotten something store bought, but home made is so much better, and shows the care that person has for you.
:)~
HUGZ