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Monday, 19 February 2018

52 Ancestors: Week 8 - Heirlooms from My Mother.

Do  you,  like me,    gasp in amazement  at the heirlooms that have survived down generations of ordinary families, as shown on  TV's "Antique Roadshow" and "WDYTYA", or on blog postings.  I marvel in particular at diaries, christening robes,  and artist portraits.   

My heirlooms are less dramatic, but I am lucky to have  two family bibles from great grandfathers,  a presentation conductor’s baton and silver trowel (great grandfather),  World War One postcards (grandfather), letters (parents)  and a written personal memoir from my father, plus  a copper kettle (great grandmother), teacups (grandmother and mother) and craft items (mother and aunts).

For Week 8 of Amy Johnson Crow's year long prompt "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks." I am focusing on what could be called "Tomorrow's Heirlooms"   - a wonderful  legacy from my mother, Kathleen Weston , nee Danson (1908-1989)  whose motto could easily be summed up as "Happiness is Stitching".

 An Alice in Wonderland collage, stitched by my mother  for my daughter, 1973.

Mum  - Kathleen Danson was born in the small town of Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool, daughter of William Danson and Alice English. At the age of 14, she was apprenticed to be a tailoress and was still making her own clothes in her 80's. For her going  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  rug making, millinery, lampshade making and china painting.

She set up her own dress-making business from home.  She continued with this this after her marriage and throughout my childhood working initially  in the spare bedroom which was icy cold in winter and hot and stuffy in summer.  I used to love getting the  old Simplicity pattern books and cutting out figures for make believe schools etc.
An old business card that I only came across after my mother's death.

Mum  was a typical homemaker of the 1950's and 60's -- and beyond.  She was always making something - cushions changed their covers regularly, new patchwork quilts appeared on the beds and new curtains at the windows, worn sheets were turned, old bath towels were cut, and trimmed into hand towels, tray cloths and table cloths were embroidered 

My mother, Kathleen and Aunt Edith were both assiduous needlewomen.  I must admit I would be too afraid to use embroidered tablecloths and tray cloths,  fearing spills - and that would present another challenge for  my laundering skills!  

As a child, I was a "dolly girl" and my dolls were the best dressed in the street.  But I have one huge regret.  Mum went into hospital for a major operation  at the time of the Queen's  Coronation in 1853.   She made me a very special doll, dressed as the Queen with a long fur trimmed purple velvet train and embroidered beaded dress. I so wish now I had kept it as a family heirloom, but of course by the time I became a teenager, dolls went overboard and there is not even a photograph/ 

Around the age of 8, my own daughter had a collection of Cindy dolls - the British version of Barbie, I think - with a lovely wardrobe of clothes again made by  my mother.  Mum was in her mid 70's  and with fading eyesight, yet the small scale stitching on the clothes is so impressive. 

Other creations  she made for various handicraft competitions included rag dolls and  an  upside down Cinderella doll  - one way the patched dress, the other the ball dress. 




 Animals were a favourite choice. 



 This little robin came out at Christmas as part of the decorations.

Mum was very fond of costume dramas on TV and here is a collage she made.

Mum died at the age of 91  and was still making hr own clothes in her 80's as well as a patchwork quilt for the bed.   These heirlooms here, may not be all that old,  but they are precious to me and a potent visible reminders of my talented mother.


 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

In Case You Missed:
Week 6 -  My Favourite Name - Jennet 
 Week 7 - A Valentine from Flanders Field


  1. I enjoyed reading about your mum's special talent and seeing examples of her handiwork.

    1. I always enjoy reading comments, so,thank you for taking the time to write.


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