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.

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