Shani Cassady b 1958 Needlecraft One thing I had to do in needlework was horrible.
I don’t where it came from, but someone had started making a petticoat with buttonholes round the sleeves, armholes and the neck and I had to carry on with that.
And that was it.
I never really got anywhere.
We didn’t make dresses.
One thing we did, when we went to cookery, we made our cookery aprons and a little cap I had to go down to the farm, after school, to be taught how to turn the heel of a sock – no pattern.
Well at that age! – I’d be seven.
Eventually I did all the knitting for myself, knitted a dress for myself, and then when my brother came along, knitted his little suits.
And I’m surprised now that the majority of children don’t seem to know how to cast on stitches apart from anything else. I loved leatherwork.
And I’ve still got a purse that I made and it was Miss Down who took us for that.
I was never very happy with sewing.
I don’t think I was very good at sewing because we had to do buttonhole stitches and tiny hems, that sort of thing.
Yet afterwards, probably when I was in my teens, I went to night school for dress-making etc.
And thoroughly enjoyed it.
But it was just the horrible things we had to make at school. Winifred Scarrott b 1913 When you were in the top class, when Miss Hand, the headmistress, got a hole in her stocking, she used to bring it for one of the girls to mend for her and you were taught darning.
That’s how you learnt to darn.
Well I don’t think they do it nowadays do they, because it’s just go to the shop and buy a new pair! My husband says to me, ‘Would you mend socks?’ and I said, ‘No, put them in the bin and go and get another pair!’ Darning was like weaving the small part of the stocking with a hole.
You had to weave it in and out the thread, and leave a little loop at the end so that it didn’t pull the material at the side of it.
And you had a mushroom shaped piece of wood that they used to sell in the shops, didn’t they, and you’d push that in the stocking and pull it tight to make it easier.
My husband can darn.
He darned in the marines! Hilda Milburn b 1920 and Lillian Slack b 1924 First of all, you started off with a handkerchief and you had to hem it all the way round.
Oh dear, the stitches, they were very big and clumsy.
But with practice, and of course everything was examined and passed by the teacher, so you did try hard.
You used to prick your fingers and you must always wear a thimble! As we progressed I made a petticoat.
It was white material with little sprigs of roses on, very tiny, and you had to do a run and fell seam down the side.
So a run and fell seam for it to lie flat.
I even put lace on the top and we had to chain stitch this lace on.
I was quite proud of it in the end.
I think I would have been twelve to thirteen then.
I was in the top class when I was doing this because I’ve always been interested, all my life, with handicrafts.
We didn’t do much knitting, because our mothers taught us to knit. Eileen Selby b 1924 Sewing started when we were very much in the junior school and we had to make a peg basket or a peg bag.
It was this heavy hessian stuff and we were given thick wool to sew down the side and put a design on the front.
It used to take me half the lesson to thread my needle.
And at the end of the lesson you always had to unthread your needle and put it neatly in the top.
So the next lesson, I was faced with having to thread the needle again.
Once I’d got it threaded, I wanted to leave it threaded.
So it took me a long time to do that. Before we did Domestic Science at the age of 11, the year before that, you had to make a cap and apron for Domestic Science.
And then if you were lucky, you went on to making blouses and things like that.
But it was all hand sewing – no machine sewing.
We were taught how to use paper patterns, how to cut them out.
Not the bought ones, these were how to make your own.
How to measure, and a graph on paper.
Each girl was told how to make a different shaped pattern for herself, according to her measurements. And then Domestic Science.
The first year was housecraft and we had to learn all about laundry and how to make polish, how to clean a house.
And home nursing came in that.
Then after the first year, we went on to cooking but we were rather handicapped because things were heavily rationed by 1940.
But they were allowed just so much margarine and so much sugar and so much flour, so we were able to make sultana scones by the dozen.
And vegetable soup. Betty Kennedy b 1927 We were taught to knit, although I learnt at home to knit, and a lot of sewing.
I can remember making a tea cosy or was it a pan holder? Just in plain knitting and I’d chosen pink and blue, but a girl called Sylvia was very bold.
She used orange and green! Obviously it must have made some impression because I can still remember it.
But we did a lot of sewing.
I remember you’d do running stitches and then do like a feather stitch in between with another colour around the edge.
Making mats of various sorts, like children always do.
I knitted the knickers when I got to the Grammar School! And invariably children would join them initially the wrong way round so the knickers didn’t turn out to be knickers at all! Helena Giblenn b 1929
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