Monday, 17 April 2017

Early cot quilts 1980s

I cannot really remember when I started quilting because all textile work was so much part of our childhood.  But we did patchwork and did not quilt items.  And in those days you made things very traditionally over papers.  I can remember making tray cloths for relatives, for example.  I can also remember doing little bits of quilting from childhood but none of them survive.  I studied embroidery as a timetable filler in my last year at school and the art teacher who taught me made me work through some of the City and Guilds syllabus so I knew quite a bit about different embroidery techniques and used to enjoy visiting the Victoria and Albert museum and looking at the textile collections.   I do remember getting enthusiastic about blackwork and making traycloths in this pattern.  I always like counted thread work and did a lot, some of which still survives.

I suppose I really started  quilting in the nineteen eighties which is when the quilting revival began.  My younger sister made several cot quilts from Laura Ashley pre-cut squares and I caught the bug.  Here is a very early one - possibly the first one I ever did.

It was made for one of my nephews.  My sister and family were living in Cairo at the time so it did not need to be quilted with wadding.  As you will see, it is Laura Ashley squares and I satin-stitched around them on the machine.  This quilt has now gone to the second generation.  When this nephew had his first child three years ago, my sister found it and added wadding.  I made several like this for friends' babies.  This next one had a bit of a history.

It was made for the youngest child of one of my oldest friends in New Zealand which meant it had to be posted and I seem to remember parcels went by sea in those days.  So I made it and posted it before the baby was born.  That was the last time I ever did that as the baby had major medical problems when he was born and then the mother got very ill.  So I vowed never to send a quilt until after the baby was born!

But it was a while before I became more adventurous.  I made this one for another friend in New Zealand and took it with me in a suitcase as that seemed much safer.

By now I was capable of hand quilting patterns along the stripes.  Even the back looked better!

And I made them big enough to fit on a bed rather than crib size although when I did City and Guilds I made a wholecloth pram quilt.  The photo is not good enough to reproduce, however.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Ready-made dresses

I have already said that in New Zealand in the 1950s most clothes were home-made.  I can really only remember having three 'bought' dresses before I was about twelve, although I will say that our thick winter skirts, made of such things as Harris tweed, were made by a dressmaker.  What I remember about her was going to her house for fittings and she had pins in her mouth!  At a very early age we had been taught NEVER to do that, which I think is why I have not forgotten.  With these skirts we wore hand knitted pullovers (called jumpers in NZ) usually in oatmeal colours.  They were generally knitted by my maternal grandmother.  My sister and I generally had the same outfits which meant she, as the younger one, had to work her way not only through the one made for her but, when she was a bit bigger, the one in the larger size which had been made for me!  I think it put her off 'hand-me-downs' for life!

Anway, I can only remember having three dresses that were not made by my mother.  First there was a red and white checked number which was supposed to have been designed by Norman Hartnell.  A likely story but it was given to our family by an English family whose daughter did not want it or had grown out of it.  I do not have a photo of it.  Both the other dresses were bought when I was about eight.  We had just moved to Wellington which meant there were department stores and I am not sure why I was privileged to get these two dresses.  It was certainly considered a treat.

The first one was a party dress.  We did not have 'party dresses' in Hastings although I do remember going to birthday parties where perhaps other people had special dresses.  I am on the right in this photo.  I am not sure what the dress was made of but probably voile as party dresses were supposed to be filmy.  It was yellow and you can just make out that it has puff sleeves.

The second dress was completely different but I was very fond of it.

It was blue denim and came into the category of 'sun dress' although it was quite covered up.  It had a heart-shaped neckline and a gathered skirt, I seem to remember.  I remember that at this stage of our lives our casual summer wear was generally denim shorts and striped T-shirts or gingham shirts/blouses.  In this photo my younger sister who must have been about four, is wearing the standard dress.  Although we wore shorts in summer I distinctly remember that for most of my childhood I never wore trousers in winter.  Of course, jeans did not exist but I do not know whether the fact that my father hated women in trousers had anything to do with it.  I distinctly remember being invited by a cousin when I was about thirteen to stay at their beach house in the the winter school holidays and that my mother set to and made me a pair of trousers for this.  I seem to remember they were tartan wool.  From then on I had a pair of winter trousers but again, I do not have any photos of them.

Of course, we wore school uniform five days a week so we only had one 'posh' winter skirt for going to church and the trousers.  I cannot remember if we had more skirts in the years when I did not wear trousers at all.  What I do remember is that we had very few 'mufti' clothes - more for summer because of the long summer holidays but in winter there were only two breaks of two or three weeks from school: one in May and one in August.  As there was no Christmas or other festival during this period, what to wear was not important.

Old work - hangings

Recently I found a whole box of photos of quilts I made in the twentieth century.  I think this proves that it is a good idea to photograph everything although I am still looking for photos of some of the more important ones!  I may even have to retake some of the photos as I realise the originals may have gone up in smoke in 1999.  It appears I made a lot of traditional - ish quilts before I got into what my husband always calls 'slash and burn' in the mid-nineties so I will do a post or two about those.  A lot of you know I am very much a cat person so to start here are some cat things which I made back then.

This is a foundation pieced cushion which I made my husband for his desk chair. It was from a 'Piecemakers' kit and it was much more difficult to stitch than I had anticipated.  The cushion has now bitten the dust!

And back in those days I used to do Christmas items.  One year I made two cat wall hangings: this one for us

and this one for the friends we used to share Christmas with.

 It must have been about twenty years ago that I made these and I can see that the quilting was pretty basic.  In the end we stopped hanging ours so last year I gave it to the friends' daughter.  We no longer have Christmas together and the daughter, who lives in a tiny cottage, celebrates Christmas at home.  However, I thought it was probably full of memories for her and it seemed better than sending it to the car boot sale.  When you get to the down-sizing stage it is difficult to know what to do with the finished items as opposed to the UFOs.  I have a whole suitcase of earlier efforts under my bed and another couple of hangings rolled up in sheets and stored on top of a high bookcase.  I know I should unroll and reroll them from time to time but life is too short.  I honestly have no idea what to do with them so if you have any ideas, post a comment.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Another fancy dress party

As I said, my father was artistic and imaginative.  He was also a keen leader in the Boy Scouts  so one year (1955) we had themed birthday parties. This was my tenth birthday.  We were a bit unusual because this was an era when the opt out for parents was to hire a film projector and show short films and I can remember sitting in darkened living rooms a lot.  I seem to remember my sister had a Winnie the Pooh party and I had an Alice in Wonderland one.  My father went to the books of games he had for the Scouts and all the games were themed.  What I really remember about my party, though, was the blanket hung across the door into the sitting room so that you had to bend down to get in there.  This was to represent the rabbit hole in the original book.  I know we played games that had been adapted to suit the theme.

The food was also themed.  We had a tin mould in the shape of a rabbit so the centrepiece was a white rabbit made from 'delicious pudding', an old family recipe that I have managed to find in Victorian recipe books although the only other people I knew who ever made it at this time were those in my grandmother's family.  It was sitting in green grass (jelly) and I think it had red eyes, presumably cherries.  My mother was also very good at making 'mushrooms' from meringues with whipped cream decorate with cocoa powder on the underside and stalks of pieces of apple and I am sure there were some of those in the grass too.

Here are the party guests on our front lawn.  I am not sure if you can enlarge the photo so I will briefly summarise the costumes.  In the front row on the left is my sister dressed as Alice and next to her my little sister who was only four so did not wear a costume.  Then there is another Alice, me as the cook (people came as characters from both Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass) and a white rabbit on the end.  The person on the left of the back row was the Carpenter, the person second from right is the Queen of Hearts and the person on the right was some kind of animal although I cannot remember what.

This was the only year we had themed parties as by the next year we had decided we were too old and began to have a three or four friends for a meal and then go to a film at the cinema.  How different from today's parties!

Fancy dress

I am sorry there has been a pause in my textile related posts but here is another one.  We were walking through Sainsbury's earlier this week when I noticed a rack of children's fancy dress outfits.  How different from the 1950s.  As I remember it you had to make your own in those days unless you had a lot of money and could afford to hire the costumes.  I do not think we went to fancy dress parties much and there were no 'festivals' for which you wore fancy dress so I was not surprised that I could only find two relevant photos.

I remember this event clearly.  It was a Christmas party for children held at Government House in Wellington in December 1954.  This was our second Christmas living in Wellington. I remember that the party was held on the lawn, that there seemed to be a lot of children at it and that my sister won the attention of the Governor-General during the lolly scramble.

My father was artistic and imaginative so he always rose to a challenge such as creating costumes.  Needless to say, my mother was the one who had to do the sewing.  So here we have my sister as 'Mary, Mary quite contrary' and me as a Christmas tree.  As I remember the dresses were made from green cotton.  My sister had bells round the neck and waistline, flowers on the skirt and a row of what look like real shells round the hem.  The flowers appear to be made from tinfoil.  This was when milk bottle tops were tinfoil so I think it was quite easy to get hold of.  I do not know how my parents attached the shells as having tried to attach them to quilts I know it is very difficult.  Her watering can hat was made from corrugated cardboard.

My Christmas tree dress was made with several tiers with pointed lower edges.  The packages were empty boxes wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper and there were strings of tinsel draped round the entire dress.  My head-dress was a wreath with a star in the middle.  We wore our school Clarks sandals - remember Christmas is in summer in New Zealand.