There are some objects in the Collection that are intriguing in the mystery of their origins. This little sampler book contains a number of crochet pieces, date and maker unknown. It measures just 115mm long x 215mm wide x 35mm high. Was this a sample book for a local haberdashery? Or a proud individual maker's portfolio of work?
"In lace, crochet, and tatting, thread is worked to create intricate patterns. These crafts are commonly used to create doilies (small cloths placed on furniture), tablecloths, handkerchief borders, clothing cuffs and collars. In England, Devonshire and the East Midlands were major centres of lacemaking and migrants from these counties would have continued to make lace in New Zealand. Making lace by hand was a very skilled and time-consuming task, and it was particularly valuable for this reason. Crochet and tatting were simpler crafts and sometimes used as a substitute for lace."
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most girls (and very rarely boys!) were taught to sew by their mothers or female relatives and it was also taught in schools from the late 1870’s. Hand sewing, knitting and other decorative crafts were an essential accomplishment for European women. Treadle sewing machines became available from the 1880’s in New Zealand, but would have been financially out of the reach of many. The bar for crochet items was set high:
“Henry Coutts was one of four colonial soldiers to receive a woolen scarf crocheted by Queen Victoria in recognition of an act of gallantry. At Koorn Spruit on 31 March 1900, Coutts risked his own life to rescue a wounded non-commissioned officer of the Burmese Mounted Infantry. Although the officer died after being brought to the aid station, Coutts was awarded one of the Queen’s Scarves. Coutts presented his scarf to the New Zealand government in 1913. It was displayed in the General Assembly Library for many years before being gifted to the National Army Museum in the 1980s.”
There was a decline in the practice and valuing of domestic crafts from the mid 19th century, as many women moved into a public sphere of work away from domestic environs. However recent decades have seen a resurgence in appreciation of these ‘lost arts’ and a rise in appreciation of all kinds of handwork.
Crochet sample book with button closure. Number of crochet pieces not stitched into book, date unknown
Te Ūaka The Lyttelton Museum ref 3648.1