With Bold Needle & Thread

1920 - 1960 Vintage Needlework from the Rosemary McLeod Collection

Perhaps best known as a columnist and commentator, Wellington-based Rosemary McLeod is also an avid collector. Or as she calls herself a ‘rescuer’ - she rescues vintage needlecraft from tea towels to toys, doilies to dollies, from op shops, Trade Me and the hands of friends who know of her passion. Because not only does she rescue the items but also covets these wonderful pieces of by-gone era domestic craft.

Ranging from 1920 to 1960, when so many objects were lovingly made at home, this exhibition showcases a wide range of objects from Rosemary’s personal collection.  It’s also a story about collecting and as well as that, as to how objects were made and decorated.  Materials used tell of our own social history and culture.  Many of the works are supported with the original patterns and stories behind how Rosemary sourced them.

There is also a section of Rosemary’s own work – based on vintage designs –and made lovingly in a more contemporary context.  Exhibition items range from tea cosies and aprons, to doilies, dollies and gollies.

Rosemary McLeod says her collection is not just about objects, it is about women’s hopes, dreams, beliefs and financial realities during decades when life in New Zealand was undeniably tough.

Rosemary began collecting homemade textile projects 30 years ago, when they were easily found in second-hand shops and charity stores. To her it seemed that they told an eloquent story of women’s ingenuity and creativity in hard times, a story she knew about from her own family.

The thrifty practices of 1920-60 had a grim background. The First World War ended in 1918, with 16,697 men killed in active service, and that year an influenza epidemic also killed 8,600 New Zealanders at home. An economic depression followed in the 20s; then the world entered The Great Depression after the 1929 Wall Street crash. World War II followed, with the loss of 11,900 men, the highest death rate per capita in the war. Many women were widowed; many more had wounded and disabled fathers, husbands and sons to care for, and during the war they had learned to cope alone. Ideas for their handwork came from popular magazines and craft publications that were probably shared with friends and family.

Funny, serious, clever, or just pretty, this collection records the courage and the value these women placed on domestic life.

With Bold Needle & Thread: 1920 – 1960 Vintage Needlework from the Rosemary McLeod Collection is on exhibition at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

8 January 2015

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