Thursday, 29 August 2013

Needlework Samples

We have been staying with our friends Sue and Henry in Kent for  a few days, and had a very good time with them, visiting Deal and Walmer, Ightham Mote and Ightham church, and the historic dockyard at Chatham.  (Also several cemeteries and churchyards, and a militaria fair, featuring "the world's largest multi-period re-enactment show" for those members of the party that like that sort of thing.)

Sue's mother was a domestic science teacher and her training, in the 1930s, included needlework.  Sue showed me some of the work that her mother did on her training course - a set of needlework samples. 

Knitting samples

Most of the samples demonstrate various sewing techniques, including two delightful outfits for small children.  There are only three knitting samples - one is a doll's scarf to show basic casting on and off, and plain knitting (i.e. garter stitch).    Then there is a leap in difficulty to knitting socks - one sample shows a sock toe, and the other a sock heel, except that the sock toe is shown in a little drawstring bag, and the sock heel is converted into a doll's bonnet.    These samples also show stocking stitch and rib, so anyone who could make these three little pieces had mastered a useful range of knitting techniques.  I'm sure that Sue's mother was a very competent knitter, and knitting these samples would have been a simple task for her.  Perhaps the point was not to show that she could knit, but to devise a set of knitting exercises to use when teaching children to knit.  I think they would have worked well - little girls could have made things for their dolls without a lot of effort, and practised several knitting techniques at the same time.  

All the samples in the collection are beautifully made, but one in particular is an amazingly neat piece of work. It  demonstrates darning a tear in a woven piece of cloth, and is almost invisible on the right side.   (In fact, I think the line of red running stitches must be to point out where the tear actually is.)

"Hedge tear" darn - right side

"Hedge tear" darn - wrong side
Even though it is visible on the wrong side, the darn is still very neat.  It is worked in much finer thread than the piece of cloth, so it must have taken a long time to do.   I don't know how it's possible to do so much sewing on the wrong side without it being visible on the right side.  But I don't think I really want to find out - I'm happy just to appreciate Sue's mother's handiwork.


  1. These must have meant a lot to be kept all these years. I agree the darning looks very impressive.

    1. Yes, I imagine that Sue's mother kept them because she was proud of her work, quite rightly. The two outfits for small children have apparently never been worn - by the time Sue and her brother were born, after the war, they would have been completely out of fashion. And Sue has kept them to remember her mother - hopefully they will be kept by future generations too.


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