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Thursday, 15 August 2013

Happiness is Stitching - Sentimental Sunday

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!


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



Mum stitched this patchwork quilt when she was in her 80's. 
She lived to the age of 91.


 And of course Mum made my wedding dress -
here  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.
[Note:  I have posted a number of articles before  on my mother's talents,  but I wanted to pull them all together  - hence this  tribute}

Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. Your Mum was really talented and a true craftswoman, who liked more than one craft. She reminds me of my own Mum a lot. Did you inherit her love of sewing? I don't know if you've seen my crafty blog (accessible from my main one) but there are some vintage stories on there that you might enjoy.

  2. Great, Sue. Thanks for messaging me to read this.
    I have sent the link to Dad so he can show Mum. Similar background and skills to my Mum - you have inspired me to talk to her about it more. So much of our talk has been of her parents and grandparents, not of mum - I must correct that soon.
    I (and my brothers) can sew and do many other crafts, but not to the level of my Mum's skills.

  3. Mum loved reading your blog - even scrolled down the screen herself (she hates computers and thinks the mouse might bite her!). She couldn't believe she was reading something from the other side of the world. I'll convert her yet!

  4. Reminds me of my mum she was always sewing ... Never had a needle out of her hand. She even made or swimwear from towelling !!!!

  5. I love it! I especially love your wedding dress. I come from a family of handicrafters, and though I don't have their skills I try to keep at it. Maybe someday. ;)

  6. Your Mom certainly looked like she was a happy woman who enjoyed creating with needle and thread! You and your brother were lucky recipients of that talent :)

  7. Just beautiful. My mother was a great seamstress too and like you I received the most beautiful handcrafted toys from her at Christmas. I can't bear to throw some of them out. I even have her old sewing machine which weighs a ton and I really should pass it on to someone who might actually use it but I am having difficulty letting go of it. Silly I know.


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