Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Kathleen Danson's Happiness in Stitching MASTER

Kathleen & Edith Danson

"Happiness in Stitching" could be my mother's motto. 
For her to go into a fabric shop was like going into a jeweller's.   If she sat down, she was rarely without a needle in her hand.  She was a creator in patchwork, crochet, collage, knitting, embroidery, smocking, dolls and dresses, with dabbles into  millinery, lampshade making and china painting.

 My mother Kathleen (Kay) Weston, nee Danson was born in 1908 in the small town of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  Her older sister Edith was equally talented and from their photographs they clearly enjoyed fashion.
At the age of 14 Mum was apprenticed to be a tailoress and was still making her own clothes in her 80's - though on a much more sophisticated machine than the old treadle she began on.  

Modelling one her dresses


Mum set up her own dress-making business from home  and continued this throughout her life.  In the 1950's this meant working in the spare bedroom which was icy cold in winter and hot and stuffy in summer.  I remember one time when my little brother - a typical boy into everything - got hold of her oiling can, filled it with water and proceeded to "oil" the sewing machine!.  He was not very popular for some time!   

I benefited from cutting up old Butterick and Simplicity pattern books and creating characters and "schools" from the fashion figures. 

My brother and I in outfits made by my mother c.1948
  See the smocking on the baby dress & cross stitch embroidery on my blouse.

My Sunday coats always had velvet collars, embroidered with flowers and a matching bonnet.  In summer I always had a new sun dress with bolero.  
In my sun dress - 1950'  
Our village held an annual gala day and Mum was in demand for helping with the costumes.
Costumes Mum helped make  for the local Staining Gala Day
I am front left kneeling - early 1950's.

I don't know how my brother ever agreed to take part in a fancy dress parade, and wear dyed red tights as a Yeoman of the Guard.  The costume was adapted from an old red suit of Mum's. 

As a child,  I had the best dressed dolls on the street and especially remember my Coronation Doll of 1953 with its  white dress and long embroidered purple velvet train. I do now regret  not keeping it as a family heirloom.  One of my favourite toys was, a now very politically incorrect, hand-made Golliwog with his  checked trousers, red jacket and bow tie.  Sadly I have now photographs of these toys and dolls.
Thirty years on,  my daughter was the recipient of nursery collages, soft toys, a Cindy wardrobe, costume dolls, crochet waistcoats and fashion jumpers.   Mum was also an active member of the Women's Institute (W.I.)  and regularly took part in craft competitions, displays and demonstrations.   Here are some wonderful examples of her work.


An Upside-down Cinderella Doll


 And of course Mum made my wedding dress - arriving at the church with my father.

I don't have Mum's skill, but I have inherited her love of handicrafts and she left me with tangible memories of a very talented lady.

Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. My mother was also a skilled self-taught dressmaker and ensured we were kept well turned out. She too did smocking and loved craft but never did much knitting -don't know why. She also loved doing flower arranging in her younger days. Thanks for sharing this great post about women's skills and heirlooms which are so easily undervalued.


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