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...