Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Preparing for Spring... with Yarn Bombing

There is a wonderful sculpture on the Wellington Waterfront, Solace in the Wind, by English artist Max Patte. We have been known to have the odd breeze around here, from time to time, and this sculpture leans into it, right at the water's edge just near Te Papa.

Someone has clearly taken pity on him and got him fully kitted out in anticipation of spring, which is after all just around the corner. Just brilliant!I hope he's left in his garments for some time...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Picking up my needle again

I've been in a bit of a stitcher's slump of late - busy with work and research projects, too cold to venture up to the sewing room - there are always lots of excuses. However last week I discovered that I could still remember how to thread my needle (what a relief!) and got started on a bonnet.... not quite my usual thing. There is of course a back story....

For some years now there has been a major project underway in Tasmania, Australia to remember the women who were departed there as convicts from the late 18th to mid 19th century. During that time over 75,000 convicts were deported, mainly from England, with 25,266 of them women. A recent article in Quilt Mania reminded me of the project and got me digging around in some of our family history.

Christina Henri has been researching the lives of women convicts since 2003 and in 2007 launched an ambitious project, the Roses from the Heart Memorial. She is aiming to have 25,000 bonnets made for the project and is within 5,000 of reaching her target.

The pattern supplied for the project is an 1860 cloth bonnet which was worn by convict women while they were working as assigned servants. It was chosen as a symbol to connect descendants with their convict ancestors and to commemorate the life and contribution of each of those women to the new land they found themselves in. Each bonnet is embroidered with the name of a convict, the ship they were transported on and the year they arrived in Tasmania. Descendants can make one for their ancestor or a name can be chosen from the remaining list of convict women.

My husband, and of course our children, are descended from two people who were transported to Tasmania so the bonnet I am making is to remember one of these people. Elizabeth Allen, from Warwickshire, was only 19 years old when she was tried and sentenced to deportation and a term of 10 years for stealing a scarf. By today's standards it seems an unimaginably harsh sentence for a relatively minor offence.

She arrived in Hobart on the Margaret in July 1843, after spending 164 days at sea. Elizabeth was described on the ship's list of convicts as a "Class One Needlewoman" with a fair complexion, light brown hair and hazel eyes. She was initially sentenced to the notorious Cascades Female Factory, which is now a historic site.

Elizabeth met and married George White in 1845 and they received their ticket of leave in 1848. George, 18, was from Woolwich and was sentenced to deportation and a term of seven years for stealing a trunk from a coach in 1834. Women tended to received harsher sentenced for comparable offence to men - somehow their crime was judged to be worse, requiring greater moral comdemnation!

George White was transported on the George the Third ship which was wrecked in the mouth of the Derwent River as it arrived in Tasmania. Of the 220 convicts who sailed from England, only 81 made it to landfall alive, with many drowning within sight of land.
George and Elizabeth migrated with their five children from Tasmania to Dunedin, New Zealand, in the mid 1860s. They came to make a fresh start as free settlers, without the stigma of their convict origins which they found they were unable to shed in Australia. They are buried together in the North Dunedin cemetery - will will be visiting them when we travel south later in the year.

The embroidery I've done on the bonnet for Elizabeth isn't perfect. The rose is noticeably off centre (I have no idea how I managed this) but after much fussing and trying to make it look more balanced I decided to leave it as it is. Elizabeth wasn't perfect - none of us are - so I don't think she would have minded too much. Today there's no stigma in being descended from convicts, in fact it's quite the reverse in Australia. And that, it seems to me, is perhaps the greatest honour that can be done these women - to remember them, in all their imperfections, and still be proud of the lives they led.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

But wait.... there's more

This was the view across from our house this morning - we've never seen snow on these hills in 15 years. My brother in law, a genuine weather forecaster, tells us that what is remarkable about this is that we are now in day three of snow, and it looks like there is another two days still to come.... rest easy - I will spare you any more. However, I thought you might like to see more of the treasures I found in the South Island. These came from a tiny town called Murchison - it has a population of about 800 which is mainly focused on 'white water' tourism. Clearly there were plenty of stitchers there in the past.

I particularly like the cloth with lilac on it. There are two of these, so they were clearly by the same stitcher. And of course this is one of my handbags from Nelson - made in Huntly, NZ from deer. I thought it was irresistible and will have to guard it from my daughter who has already has eyes on it.

This was the other that begged to come back to Wellington. It was made in New York and the owner told me she had only recently bought it back from a buying trip in the US. She said she was approached several times while still in the US with people wanting to buy it straight off her arm. I've used it a few times already and adore it. I feel a new collection coming on...

My last treasure from Nelson was this lovely laundry bag. If only the family washing was so glamorous! I will have to improve my act to keep up with this.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Only Story in Town

There really is only one story in the whole of NZ at the moment - the worst polar storm in a decade. Here in wellington that's meant snow. It has caused big excitement in my house, which will no doubt sound odd to some.

However to put it in context - we haven't had snow in the Wellington hill suburbs since 1995 when my now 16 year old daughter was only 3 months old. At the time my husband was so excited that he wanted to get her up out of her cot to show her the snow. Ever the spoil-sport I woudn't let him! This time the children were all up and couldn't be held back - hard to tell but this is them sliding down the hills at the park next door on their boogie boards. It was almost the best thing ever to happen at home to them.And if that wasn't enough, today it snowed to sea level - right through the main streets of Wellington. It was quite surreal to sit on the 14th floor looking out the window at the snow coming down on Lambton Quay. Those who have lived in colder climes were finding the Wellingtonians very amusing. Tomorrow the schools may well be closed and I have already decided that I won't be going anywhere, except perhaps to my sewing room once I have got some work out of the way. My sewing room has not seen me for two months, except for me to deposit things in it. It's long overdue for a bit of activity - as is this blog....

We had a week away in the South Island over recent school holidays and stayed in a lovely cottage in Nelson that was built in 1860 - it had the perfect curtains for a holidaying quilter in the dinning room.I also found the most wonderful shop in Nelson, Eclectic Antiques, which had lots of textiles, vintage clothes and highly desirable jewellery. I threw caution to the wind and came home with a few treasures. Apparently I now have a "problem" with handbags to add to my well know "problem" with embroideries and textiles. I think diversification is a good thing - after all it would be dreadful to be too predictable.