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Friday, 13 September 2013

A study in concentration .

I really can't find any photographs of ladies sewing in my collection, or of flags either - Antipodeans don't wave flags very much, unless they're supporting their team at a game of AFL footy perhaps - but the aspect of concentration on a task here made me think of this contemplative study of my great great grandmother Jane Young nee Paterson, intent on reading her book. Jane and her husband Charles were devout Presbyterians who emigrated from Glenmuick Aberdeenshire in 1851 to "the Land of the Long White Cloud" aboard the good ship Bangalore. They had a total of ten children, spread out over a 22 year period. Jane was born in 1823 and must have been in her late fifties or early sixties when this photograph was taken in 1880 or later. Hopefully by then she was able to enjoy a little time to herself for leisurely pursuits such as reading, even if the book is only a prop here in this photograph.  I'm sure she worked hard and did plenty of industrious sewing for her large family over the years. I only discovered this photograph a couple of years ago - it had languished hidden in my late aunt's garage for many many years, but was a lovely find when it finally saw the light of day!

Jane Young nee Paterson, 1823 - 1903

Jane and Charles Young celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1894, and it was said in the press report that they "[had] always held a high reputation for their kind and helpful acts, as well as for their industry and probity", and that "Jane [bore] her years with a degree of activity which would excite the envy of many a younger dame". Her obituary 9 years later said that "she was the first woman to take up residence in the Church Bush, and her influence and efforts to create pleasant and friendly amity among the pioneer sawyers in the Church [Bush] and Maori Bush from the time of their arrival till the last of about 2000 acres of native forest between Kaiapoi and Rangiora had been cleared will long be remembered". It sounds like she was a good woman, and an ancestor to be proud of.

Whilst I don't have any photos of family members sewing, I do have a couple of examples of their work that I treasure, and hope will become family heirlooms. My husband's Aunty Dawn was a wonderful knitter and crocheter, and would knit from morning til night, especially when failing health in her early seventies didn't allow her to do very much else. Whenever a new great niece or nephew arrived, and there were many, their doting Great Aunty would always send the lucky family a lovely parcel of beautifully knitted baby clothes and rugs etc. When Dawn passed away, my sister-in-law Ann inherited numerous boxes containing many hundreds of granny squares, that Dawn had kept ready to use whenever she needed to make a gift for a friend or relative. Ann herself was a great sewer and embroiderer, and when she died of cancer at only 52, we could have practically opened a shop with the amount of sewing and embroidery materials left in her sewing room, and of course her home was decorated with many completed and framed works she had done over the years. She hadn't been into crochet however, and  I was given the boxes of squares by her mother. Some fourteen years after Dawn died I finally managed to piece together several rugs and throws like the one pictured here, and have also given plenty away, as Dawn herself would have done.

Granny square rug crocheted by Dawn Featherston

A favourite piece of embroidery done by Ann Featherston

Now click here to check out other Sepians' blogs on this prompt, here at Sepia Saturday


  1. That is a great photo particularly when you click on it and look at it up close. They wore such amazing clothes in those days didn't they. I've never seen a hat quite like it. The granny squares are lovely and bright. Wish I could crochet.

  2. It's so lovely that you respected and rescued the craft work done by Dawn and Ann. Will the next generation do the same with the things we are making?

  3. I can empathise entirely. I collect fabric! Metres of it! Most I will never use because like fashions it dates, but I still treasure it as I am sure your husband's Aunty Dawn did.


  4. I love your granny square spread. One of my grandmothers did a lot of knitting and crocheting. My sisters and I all had multicolor afghans she crocheted from scraps of yarn. She made afghans in a zigzag pattern.

  5. I like to crochet and have made several blankets. I was very impressed with the blanket.

  6. Great post, and one of the reasons why these themes are so interesting. It's wonderful seeing various takes on this and not all the same which would be so boring, right!

  7. The Brits are not noted for flag waving other than on special occasions; it's noticaeble in the USA that flage are flying everywhere and very large ones too - they lose their significance somehow when on many used car lots.
    We have a quilt just like the one in your photos and boy is it heavy.

  8. Plenty of flag waving going on in Melbourne this month (with the football finals)!
    Love the quote in the sampler at the end - I'm well on my way to being a strong contender!

  9. Isn't it wonderful when you can bring to life an old photo which has 'languished' in this way? What a great find. She certainly deserved some leisure tme.

  10. We would learn much if the history of women were told more often.
    A force in their community even if in the shadow of men...
    Nice way to remember her.
    Love those things you've shown here.
    I have none of that, sadly,
    except a tablecloth crocheted by my grandma.
    I suspect someone got there before my mom
    and took most of those away...