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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Aunty Grace's Stitching Legacy

I have written some time ago about my grandmother's stitching and also about my mother's stash. For some time I have intended to put on record the legacy I owe to my mother's sister, Emily Grace Molloy (nee Ray), my Aunty Grace.

Aunty Grace was born in England in 1915, ten years before my mother's birth. She had a brother, Albert, two years older than her. Their father went to WWI in 1914 and did not see Grace until she was 2 years old. Although their mother came from a large supportive family, times were hard. After the War, employment was hard to come by. Their father got a job in an engineering factory, but it went under in 1922. The family moved to Bulphin, near Grays in Essex, where their parents acted as caretakers to the church and church school.

Grace and her brother went to school in Bulphin, where this photo was taken in about 1926. Grace is wearing a dress knitted by her mother. All clothes were made at home and Grace learnt early on to sew, knit and crochet.

The family migrated to Sydney in 1929 - on the last migrant ship before Australia suspended migration due to the Great Depression. Life was very tough for several years. Grace went into service and, after several years, worked in a nursery in Mascot, then at Johnson and Johnson before meeting Sid Molloy, her future husband, who was in the Australian Navy. They were married in 1941.

Aunty Grace lived in Mascot until the family moved to Norahville, north of Sydney around 1959. There she was heavily involved in the local community, especially the RSL. She moved to Perth in Western Australia to live with her daughter, after the death of Uncle Sid in 2000. She died in Perth in 2005.

I remember Aunty Grace, like my mother and grandmother, making all her own clothes, and clothes for her daughter. She was fashion-conscious and liked to dress well. I remember her farewelling us at a station in a floral dress she had made - of bubble nylon with a full circle skirt and cross-over bodice. She had a good collection of  Glory Box items, always on display in her house (as were my mother's in ours).

The difference between my mother's and Aunty Grace's was in the quality of the crocheted edges. Aunty Grace was the acknowledged Queen of Crochet. My mother was a very basic crocheter and even their mother, who was estranged from Grace, had nothing but praise for Grace's crochet ("Grace is the one who can crochet!" I hear her saying) and did not attempt to compete with her.

Wedding present table mats
She crocheted table mats for me as a wedding present at my request. And a doiley when I moved into my first flat.

Her work is still lovely.

She gave away far more than she kept - to local groups and charities, to friends and relatives.

The photos here are from the collection of my cousin in Perth.

Crochet wasn't her only output. She dressed dolls, made bow-ties, ties, hats and baby outfits for many, many people and causes.

Other Crafts
Stitching wasn't the only craft women in my family engaged in. My mother took up painting, my grandmother hooked rugs. Aunty Grace learned and practised leatherwork and copperwork. Two examples of her copperwork survive.

I am really grateful to have grown up in a family in which women took it for granted that they could (indeed must) make beautiful and useful things. I love looking at Aunty Grace's work, remembering her many kindnesses to me and drawing on the confidence she, her mother and her sister gave me.


Monica said...

Wow, great post, Jillian! That crochet edging on the round lilac mat is particularly nice - I haven't seen exactly that design before.

It's so nice to have such a rich family history of crafting and needlework -- my family is a lot more hit and miss!

Jillian said...

Thanks Monica. I like the little bits of embroidered lattice shaping on the lilac one, as well as that interesting edging.

margaret said...

how talented your Auntie Grace was, so good that you have the talent too. It was lovely to read about your family, thanks for sharing this with us and also some of the lovely work she did

Jillian said...

Thank you so much, Margaret. I think we should share as much as we can about the work of women we have known, especially those who influence us. I am so lucky to have some of her work and photos of the pieces my cousin has in her care.

Russell Hunt (Australia) said...

Excellent post with many fine examples her skilled craft. The story really gives it context and resonates with that of my recently departed mother. Congratulations to you for bringing it to light.

Jillian said...

Thanks Russell. The more we tell these stories the better.

katherine said...

Just a lovely story about your Aunty Grace. She certainly knows how to hook with some beautiful examples on your blog.