Monday Memories – Are you crafty?

postcard-1242616_1280One of the challenges of researching family history is bringing our women ancestors out of the shadows. They are often missing from official records, especially in early years, though Australia is fortunate with its early female suffrage.

One way to reveal more about our ancestral women is to look at the skills and hobbies which they employed to beautify their homes and clothe their families.

Embroider Chris Goopy 2A recent discussion on Facebook about school samplers brought my thoughts round to the “womanly” skills, even among working class women. I remember the samplers vividly, and the fact that I didn’t much like doing them, which I suspect explains why I no longer have any of mine. However my good friend Crissouli from That Moment in Time blog has very kindly provided me with an image of an embroidery she did, and for which she won a prize, aged 10, at a CWA show.

I don’t think my mother liked knitting and I don’t believe she ever sat with needles and wool turning out a cardigan or socks or whatever. However, I’m pretty sure it was mum who taught me to knit and in my younger married days I did manage to make a few items. I’ve photographed a lilac dress I made for my eldest daughter, which is now so worn and marked that it is headed for disposal. I’ve also knitted various cardigans for himself and me over the years but it’s never been a great activity of mine – perhaps related to spending so much time in the tropics?


Mum seemed to enjoy crochet more, and again she must have taught me, though my memory lapses on this as well. The circular doyley is one of hers which I used to use in our home – I’ve since given up on them as I hate housework and can’t be bothered with the starching, ironing and dusting.

I did have a crack at some crochet when living in the Highlands of PNG where it got quite cold at night. I made a yellow crocheted poncho for myself and a blue one for DD1 (little did I anticipate they’d ever be back in fashion!). I thought this little set I also made was quite cute…knitted, and the daisies were made with a special metal wheel which I suspect is languishing among my craft things…somewhere.  I also made a shawl to go with it. Like the curly scarves that were all the go a few years back I quite enjoyed making these bits and pieces.DSC_0541

My aunty Melda was a guru at crochet but especially at tatting. This image shows a tatted collar piece she made. She sold her wares at various craft shops.

Similarly, my aunt Mary loved all sorts of handcrafts but most especially decorating dolls’ faces and making dolls’ clothes – so beyond my own level of patience. I have this tiny doll she made which sits in an egg-shaped “thing”. My granddaughter has some of Aunty Mary’s dolls and others were shared around when mum moved. This doll is tiny, maybe three inches long.

I have no recollection of my paternal grandmother doing crafty things – perhaps her professional life as a dressmaker cured her of that (not to mention she was elderly when I was growing up).

DSC_0540My maternal grandmother died when I was very young so I’m not sure about her craft skills -memo to self, ask mum.

Jubilee swap craft
I based this Jubilee swap craft on the Xmas ones we used to do.

Mum has shared her love of crafts with me and we both like making bits and bobs at Christmas time, even though our tastes are very different. One year when we were touring Europe around Christmas time with DD3, we spent our evenings making cross-stitch items which we gifted to especially kind B&B owners. A couple of years ago I made a modified version for an exchange swap via blogging…it was fun. The large cross-stitch of a Pierrot for DD3 was less successful and was finally bequeathed to an op shop when we left Darwin (complete with the wool etc) – it had been 90% finished for far too long, and there was no one who’d have wanted it.

One Christmas my boss made me an appliqued T shirt which sent me off into a frenzy of appliqued T shirts. While I’ve enjoyed dabbling in various crafty things, I most loved working with glass and learning a little about it in the last few years in Darwin, thanks to my teacher and friend Andrea who inspired and taught the class, and did the firing. I’m hopeless at making glass beads but have fun with free-form “applique” of glass to platters.

glass bowl Pauleen

One of Mum’s embroidered doyleys I’ve yet to finish. I imagine she did the crochet around the edge.DSC_0544

Are you or the women in your family crafty?

If so, what kinds of hobbies did they/you pursue?



14 thoughts on “Monday Memories – Are you crafty?

  1. My mom and I did all kinds of crafts. She would learn to do something during her winters south and show me when she got home for the summer. I especially like to knit and crochet. I did sweaters but now I like doing toys, they are so much fun. There are a couple of crafts I’d like to do again but it is impossible to find the materials now. Although I see Macrame is making a come-back, a craft I did a lot of in the 70’s haha.
    I love that little doll – is there a body under that dress or are the head and arms attached to the dress??


    1. Ah macrame…I had forgotten about that. I quite enjoying knitting but with most of in the tropics over the years there’s been no need. Not sure I have the patience for toys, but the key thing is getting pleasure from what you do.

      Yes, the tiny doll (about 2-3 inches) has a body as well. Imagine crocheting such a tiny outfit.

      Just thought…remember when people made their own artificial flowers too.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for visiting Jeanne. As we all acquire more “stuff” I think the risks increase that the stories behind them will be forgotten…great idea to blog about them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Some really gorgeous photos/crafts and fabulous stories to go with them! My maternal grandmother was the crafty one. She knew how to knit and crochet, painted and in her later years took up photography — the only woman in her class! I learned to crochet from her and inherited her set of hooks, knitting needles and a collection of pattern books, which I treasure. You are so lucky to have these lovely artifacts…gives me the idea I should blog about mine as well.


    1. Absolutely Molly…sounds like you have the makings of a great blog post. Even the patterns would tell a tale I think…as we’ve moved I’ve disposed of lots of mine but they show fashion changes over time.


  3. My talented mother introduced me to lots of different crafts. I have an early memory of sitting on the draining board and Mum teaching me to knit, of all things, a dish cloth. In the 1950’s basket work was all the rage. My attempts at embroidery were rather ham fisted – I could not master French knots and my satin stitch and stem stitch were not for public view! Likewise china painting which Mum turned her hand to – not my métier! However I had much more success with cross-stitch, making cards for family occasions and pictures for our home. My favourite activities which I still do today are patchwork (hand stitched hexagons in the grandmother’s flower garden pattern). I began by making pin cushions and went onto make a bedspread for my young daughter and later a throw for my granddaughter. Mum also showed me how to crochet in wool granny squares and that again kept me in in good stead, particularly when money was short and I was keeping us warm with blankets and throws. So thank you, Mum, for this lasting colourful legacy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a lovely tribute to your mum, Sue! It sounds like you’ve made very good use of the crafts she taught you. Thank you for reminding me about basket work….Mum used to do that too when I was quite young. While I’ve done appliqué work, I’ve never ventured into patchwork like so many of my friends…family history seems to slurp up my craft time these days.


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