Thursday, 31 October 2013

The St Ives Textile Industry – A celebration

Doors just opened and already packed!  They arrive early in St Ives I'm told.

On the 25 October a rather special event was held by the St IvesArchives and supported by the Hypatia Trust called Women in History.

Nearly 250 women (and men) who'd worked at the various textile factories in St Ives, including one 95 year old lady who'd worked at Crysede in the 1930s, came to the event.

Crysede Silks moved to St Ives from Newlyn in 1926

It was truly excellent!  A very extensive exhibition with a collection of old photographs and captured memories of Crysede, Hamptons, Flawns and Berketex employees spanning over 50 years. So much work had gone into putting this together it was fabulous to see it all after it had started as a comment from Maggie in an email to me last year!! 

I was just so excited to be there!

None of the factories and shops exist anymore as they were demolished when the town was reinvented for its new industry of tourism and these women's (and some men too) testimonies are a way of remembering this nearly forgotten time in St Ives history.

I was so pleased as I met four women who'd worked closely with my mum. This was truly wonderful!!  They all said how much they'd enjoyed working at Flawns and that they were quite a team. I'll be meeting up with them for a coffee next time I’d down.

Then and now - Left: Rosemary in 1958 modelling one of the Flawns outfits. Right: The same Rosemary with my Dad and Irene. Both ladies worked with my Mum and they remembered her very clearly. That was a very Special moment. 

Unfortunately my photos didn't come out very well at all – so I'm hoping to get some from some other lovely people there who took some.

I also met Judy, John Lewis’s Heritage Services Manager – who brought with her some meeting minutes from Flawns. I asked her about whether any patterns were in the John Lewis archive, and although they have catalogues from this time, they aren't able to say exactly which items were made in Flawns.  

So I think talking directly with the ladies who’d worked there would be the best bet. Some mentioned they still had items they’d made in their loft. 

A wonderful collection of just some of the memories of working at Flawns. I wonder if John Lewis still have these yachts...and a week's sailing for a day's pay? Sounds good to me!

Maybe after attending this event they will dig them out and donate them to the collection at St Ives museum. My mum's old singer sewing machine is there apparently, although I've never seen it as everytime I go to visit is usually out of season and the museum is closed!

St Ives Museum had a fabulous display of artefacts including a massive pair of scissors made in the 1800s and a swatch book of more beautiful Cryséde block-printed silk from the 1920s and 30s. 

This collection had been given to the father of one of the ladies as he was a postman at the time and used to deliver to Cryséde. He was given a collection of offcuts – which by the look of things – have been cherished. 

The lady, whose name I didn't catch, told me before she appreciated what they were she had been planning on making them into a quilt, but now is actually glad she has kept them as they are. Personally – I think they would have made a most beautiful quilt!

Left - Right: Starting to make the 'Net Of Memories', Fishermen's lamb chop needles and string vests which were made by St Ives women during the war.

Textile Artist Jo McIntosh was also there getting started with creating a ‘net of memories’ and some ladies also demonstrated how to knit a string vest. There was also a surprise performance from The Three Belles.

Left: The Three Belles made a surprise appearance. Right: A slightly out-of-focus picture of me with 
the fabulous Maggie from the St Ives Archive

A film crew were also there busy filming the event and recording interviews. It turned out they were actually from Bristol! They are hoping to submit the film for showing at the Celtic Film Festival in St Ives next watch this space!

The Mayor of St Ives arrived towards the end of the day and they had a little presentation to thank everyone who had contributed to the event. They even mentioned me! Thanking me for asking about Flawns in the first place and sparking the whole thing off.  The Mayor even shook my hand!  I was rather chuffed.

Although the wonderful team at the Archive had been inspired by my questions they had then done all the hard work in making it happen. It did make me think about how I love the ripple effect and especially if you can actually see those ripples developing into other things and then creating ripples of their own.

I'm very proud to have been there.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Made, Nearly Made and Mended

At the beginning of this project I had high hopes and ambitions about the things I would make throughout the year. Well - like a lot of things - it hasn't quite turned out like that and that's actually totally OK. I'm more aware than ever how I underestimate how long things might take and overestimate what's actually possible! That said I've totally loved this project. ;-)

Here's a breakdown of what I've made, nearly made (i.e started but not finished yet...!) and mended. All things I wouldn't have done had I not started this project. So I'm happy! I'm also happy about how the other lovely folks who joined me on this adventure have found the year - Read Viv's round up on her blog HERE

Here's my roundup...


Nightshirt, top from a men's shirt and a scarf from shirt scraps


Two dresses from 1970s patterns a jumper 2 cardi conversion...
There are a few more things in this category that I don't have photos for yet - a Thai silk skirt and another top...! Do you like the 1970s style colour I've given the photos!! ;-)


Golden joinery on a t-shirt and top and buttons sewn back onto a jacket..
I've also mended some green trousers, Cerys puppy leads (she likes to chew through them) and a couple of pairs of my fella's shorts! There are also some items awaiting 'mending' right now...


Badge into brooch and long dress into skirt/short dress - I wore this a lot as a skirt over the summer

oh yes and I did have a go at learning to crochet...I made a lovely Beret for Timmy Cat...

My attempts at crochet...

Looking at these items - along with what I spent over the year - which you can read here - It really makes me realise how little I actually need and how I made the clothes I already have work much harder. 

I still have things to be altered and patterns to be made up and I don't feel I have missed out at all during the past year. In fact I feel richer as a result. 

I've met some truly fantastic people, learnt new skills, seen sheep have their hair cut and changed the way I think about clothes. I'd recommend everyone give this a try - even for a short time and see what benefits it could bring you. ;-)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Penlee House Museum - In search of Crysede

Last week, whilst down in Cornwall for the History 51 event in St Ives, I was lucky enough to be shown some of the Crysede collection at Penlee House in Penzance by the lovely Katy one of the curators there.

I'd made an appointment in advance and was shown behind the scenes where the samples and garments are kept. It was great being able to actually see the designs close up. There were quite a few interesting design details on the garments that aren't really visible from the photographs. I felt very honoured!

Here's some background information on Crysede. I'm still learning about the firm...

Crysede was established in 1920 by Alec Walker who trained as a painter but came from a manufacturing textile background in Yorkshire.  In 1923 Walker met Raoul Dufy (a French Fauvist painter 1857-1953) in Paris who suggested that Walker design textiles. 

Walker used bright bold colours and abstract images of the landscape around Cornwall, including his own garden at Myrtle Cottage in Newlyn. Designs which to me look very modern and wouldn't look out of place being worn today. 

"You can take the most simple things in everyday life, and turn it into one of the most beautiful things, merely through a sense of design" Alec Walker (1889–1964)

Just some of the designs I was able to see

In 1925 Walker was joined by the designer Tom Heron (father of the painter Patrick Heron) The designs were very popular with the avant-garde in the 20s and 30s and there were a number of shops in the UK - Penzance, Southsea to name a few. Crysede designs were also sold in Libertys London as well as to the fashion elite in Paris. It was a famous and desirable brand in its day.

Crysede was initially based in Newlyn, but moved to St Ives in 1926. 

Alec Walker left the company in 1929 due to a nervous breakdown. The firm was continued by Tom Heron until 1939 when it ceased trading. It was then rebranded as Cresta Silks. I don't know much about this time of the business, so will be doing some more research...

Some of my favourite items from their collection
I have discovered that an Emily Woolcock worked at Crysede, I don't know what the family link is yet. The wonderful folks at the St Ives Archive have offered to help me find out as it would be wonderful to have a link to Crysede seeing that I already have a link to Flawns through my mum. 

And last but not least this was my overall favourite dress from the collection! Which turned out to be more coat than dress as it opened at the front. I LOVE the style and the pattern - which I think is very reminiscent of a Kimono design. 

This is definitely a style I will be looking to recreate...can you tell what my next project is going to be....?

oh how I love this dress!

Monday, 21 October 2013

10 days to go!

With less than two weeks to go till the end of this project (wow a year has gone past...!) I've been totting up what I've spent. It was a shock. 


I've checked and re-counted as I thought Really??? It still came to £108.23!

I worked out a rough comparison had I bought each item new and that total is £918. WOW! 

Although this project wasn't really about saving money, I am amazed at how little I have spent and how little I have actually bought. Especially considering I've been to some big celebrations this year - a wedding and a 40th birthday, which would usually have resulted in a shopping spree.

So what have I bought? All these items have been purchased from charity shops...

In no particular order:

  • Pink Monsoon Silk Dress £12
  • Jigsaw Jumper £20
  • Checked fabric £2.95
  • Charity shop haul of wool spools and LOADS of patterns £17
  • Vintage trimmings from Frome £5
  • Marilyn Moore striped skirt and Tu top £2
  • Brown Next cords £3
  • Trousers £2.99
  • Fabric £3.25
  • Black Next Linen Trousers £4.99
  • Sari fabric £2.50
  • Jumper £1.75
  • Hardy Amies Saville Row grey striped Trousers £6 !!
  • Orange long cardi £5.95
  • White skirt £4.95
  • White Scarf £2
  • Red stripe cardi £3.95
  • Blue evening top £3.95
  • Ollie and Nic Bag £4


Some of my LWYW purchases

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

History 51 - Women in Industry in Cornwall & Isle of Scilly

On the 25th October there is a rather special event taking place in St Ives, Cornwall that I'm very excited to be part of. Called 'Women in Industry' it's being held at the Western Hotel from 11.00 - 15.00 and is all about celebrating the wonderful women of St Ives and their contribution to the textile industry during the mid 20th century. 

The reason this is special to me is because it's about Flawns, where my mum worked in the 50s before marrying my dad and having a family. It's also about Crysede Silk - which was a World-renowned silk house in the 1930s. 

Until I started this project and took an interest in where my mum had worked - and started asking questions..I had no idea!! So its been a really interesting journey for me personally.

As a result of initially contacting the St Ives Archives last year, speaking to the wonderful Maggie about Flawns and asking lots of questions....this sparked their interest in the history of the textile industry in St.Ives. From that first contact, and under Maggie's vision and care, it has grown into a wonderful thing which so far has brought together over 45 people who worked at the different factories to share their stories. 

You can read my first post about Flawns here.

I'm also VERY excited to be meeting some of the women who worked with my mum. I never got to know her as 'her own person', if you see what I mean, as she passed away when I was 15 with Cancer. I'll make sure I'll have plenty of tissues as I know it will be a wonderful yet emotional day. 

Here's some more info from the Hypatia Trust website about the event:

"St Ives is well known for its fishing, mining, artists and tourists, but for about forty years it was the home of a vibrant textile industry based in former pilchard cellars near to The Island.

The industrial manufacture of textiles is not usually associated with a seaside town in Cornwall. The majority of the employees were women who went into the factories when they left school at the age of fourteen. Maybe for this reason the work that they did has almost been forgotten. The Town Council, by the 1970s, had removed all traces of industry from the centre of St Ives and transferred it to new industrial estates.
And the buildings themselves were demolished to make way for luxury accommodation to expand the tourist industry.
St Ives Archive is part of the wider History 51 project in Cornwall initiated by the Hypatia Trust with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to celebrate the role of women in a number of key aspects of Cornish life."
Women working at Flawns during the 1940s. Image credit: St.Ives Archive

Let’s make one giant net for St Ives!

One of the key events will be an opportunity for everyone to assist in the making of a ‘camouflage net’ of memories. These nets were originally made at home, during the war, by young women and children, based on the nets that were made by their fishermen relatives. Camouflage nets had strips of material inserted into them (scrimmed) so that they could be draped over objects that needed to be hidden from the air.
On this occasion, strips of calico with individual memories and images will be sewn into the net, and these will be a lasting reminder of this chapter of St Ives history. As the original nets were used to hide objects, the new net will remind us that women’s working lives are also often hidden."
Women making camouflage nets at Hamptons factory on The Island,
St Ives, during World War 2 
(credit: St Ives Archive)
So, If you happen to be in St Ives then - do pop-in and say hello! ;-) 

Date: Friday 25 October (11-3pm).
Venue: The Western Hotel, St Ives
Places: FREE. Drop-in basis.
This also marks the nearing of the end of my year long project of not buying any new clothes - although I do already have an idea how I will continue - with a twist!