The Economy Quilt

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One of the books we have consulted for use in practical textile sessions during the Worn Stories project is ‘Needlework Economies: A Book of Making and Mending with Oddments and Scraps.‘ by Flora Klickmann. Many books and pamphlets on this theme were published during and after World War Two so this, from 1919, is an interesting addition to our bookshelf. Our ‘Talking Textiles’ group meets weekly and was particularly taken with Klickmann’s description of an ‘Economy Quilt’, a method that makes use of ‘…every scrap of material that would otherwise be wasted.’ She describes saving any bits from dressmaking, mending and darning and cutting them into snippets, ‘everything comes in useful, even the fragments of darning wool, ravellings and basting threads!’.  Using these snippets to create a substitute for an expensive eiderdown, she suggests that, ‘Any woman who has an elastic family and a non-elastic purse, is glad of one for a gift.’ The quilt is formed of small cloth bags that are stitched together like patchwork with each bag containing a certain amount of saved scraps of fabric.

At the end of each workshop session at Hive and at our community projects we have been gathering our own snippets and clippings. Our groups contain a minimum of 12 participants each session so we are generating quite a collection. Our Talking Textiles participants are beginning to build their own economy quilt, evidencing our zero-waste approach to practical projects. This will be on display at our exhibition in November at Bradford Industrial Museum.

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Cotton scrap from a patchwork session, New Start group, Community Works, Undercliffe.

 

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Archive gold

Our blog today has been written by Caroline Perry, a member of our research group. Her research focus has been on a business operating as rag merchants, wool extractors and mungo manufacturers. Many thanks Caroline for this insight.

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Raglan Mills, Leeds Road where William Baxter & Co. was based.

‘Today I found a nugget of gold. Admittedly a small nugget but pure gold. As a member of the Worn Stories research group I have been looking into a company called William Baxter & Co.  and the families involved in running this business from the 1850s to 1918. I have been searching through trade directories, census and electoral roll records, property and land transfer and registration documents, newspapers and have spent hours searching on google. Trying to piece together a story about this business is like doing a jigsaw without the picture on the top of the box and with half the pieces missing. I have a timeline, I know when the business started, I know the families involved and have facts relating to these families; when they were born, who married who, where they lived, when they became involved in the business etc. so I can join together pieces of my jigsaw to give me a timeline. But who were these people, what did they believe in, what drove them? That’s where we come to my nugget of gold.

In 1918 The Bradford Daily Telegraph was celebrating its 50 year jubilee. The paper offered a £50 prize for the best suggestions to improve the City during the next 50 years. They received hundreds of submissions and through a rigorous selection process, chose the best 100 contributions. Contributions were judged on originality, literary merit and, most importantly, the improvements suggested had to be for “the joy of all”.  These 100 winning submissions were then published in a little booklet. This booklet is now held by the Bradford Local Studies Library and thanks to the help of a wonderful member of staff I was given access to this and was able to read through it. It makes fascinating reading and gives a real flavour of the thoughts of people living in Bradford at this time and their aspirations for its future.  But the nugget of gold is entry XLIX – J. B. WARING, 983 Leeds Road, Bradford. John Brooksbank Waring was the eldest son of Denton Waring and ran William Baxter & Co, with his brother Frankland Waring, from 1902 to when they sold the business in 1918. This little article gives me a first taste of John Waring as a real person. He called first for a more extended use of electricity in both industry and the home which would abolition the emission of black smoke and result in pure air and extra hours of sunshine for every man woman and child in the city, and as a result “Consumption, the dread scourge of mankind, will not find it so easy to claim its victims ..”. He talks of improved methods of production brought about by more scientific ideas in the application of power to output which would give men time to enjoy the good things in store. He wanted art to be encouraged and for the city “to be dotted by patches of green sward where men enjoy a brief rest from the whirl of machinery”. He ends by calling for the erection of many hundreds of pretty cottages “… each with some artistic feature and the day is coming when neighbours will enter into friendly rivalry in the beautifying of their home and surroundings”

There were so many practical, imaginative and ideological ideas for improving Bradford. However, my first prize goes to Mary Handby, 28 Northdale Road, Bradford, obviously a lady with a strong sense of humour. Mary starts her submission “One of the best ways of improving Bradford in the years to come would perhaps be to rebuild it on the top of Ilkley Moors.” ‘

The Creed Register

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Worn Stories volunteer researcher Tracey Williams has written our latest blog post. She has been using Bradford Local Studies Library and West Yorkshire Archives in both Bradford and Wakefield to continue research begun during project sessions. Thank you Tracey for this fascinating contribution.

‘I was first introduced to The Creed Register during a visit to Bradford Archives. Established in 1869 to record the religious creed of workhouse inmates, it also lists their occupations. I set myself the task of finding any rag sorters, pickers and gatherers living in Bradford during the years 1898-1915. The register is available on microfiche but I prefer the real thing.

A huge tome arrives wrapped in brown paper, tied with ribbon. Once released its dirty and crumbling binding rests upon grey foam, seeming at once out of place. I open the register carefully, stopping to admire the coloured end papers. Haddon Best & Co Printers and Publishers have done a magnificent job.

Turning the pages, I scan the list of occupations and begin to wonder what was involved – clay chopper, yeast hawker and harness cleaner among others. In incredibly small writing, “widow of Jason Egg & Batter Agent”, another “wife of William Lee Ogden (13 years apart) Mason” What was their story?

The writing is truly beautiful but I know how people must feel when they read my own hand, as one in particular is practically illegible. It is often very faint with blots, mistakes and crossings out, together with occasional use of red ink. I think back to handwriting lessons, seeing if, by working out the joins, I can decipher particularly difficult words.

The names of inmates crop up several times a year, others over many years. I start to care for them and wonder what their lives were like. Dates of birth vary and last known residences change with regularity. Patterns begin to emerge. Captain St, George St, Adolphus St – do they still exist? I make a note to look out for them on my travels. Religious denomination varies – Church of England, Wesleyan, Baptist, Salvationist, Congregationalist and huge numbers of Catholics.

In the column “name and address of nearest known relative” I am always sad when I read “no relations or friends”. Sometimes, there is another glimpse into their lives – orphan, mother unfit, mother deserted, parents unfit.

The last column is always very final. Inmates are either discharged, sometimes with a note “To Holbeck”, “To Settle”, “To Menston”, other workhouses and asylums but often it just says “Dead”.’

 

 

Heading into Year 2

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Recycled cotton and acrylic fibre removals blanket (image by Paul Reece)

Our project has now been running for a year and as it heads into year two I thought I’d post an update about our progress so far. The Worn Stories project is based at Hive and in community settings in Bradford and District. We are offering participants opportunities to learn research skills and textile making skills while exploring the heritage of textile reuse and second-hand textiles in the city from 1880 onward.  A dedicated team of volunteer researchers has been investigating the histories of the workers, companies and locations involved in the second-hand textiles trades across the city from the 1880s using the facilities at Bradford Local Studies library and West Yorkshire Archives. The image below shows a mapping exercise undertaken in one of our sessions with historian Jennie Kiff. We are beginning to find patterns emerging through this research and in year two will be consolidating these stories for publication and display at our exhibition in November at Bradford Industrial Museum.

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Mapping session, Hive 

We have also been out in the community delivering sessions that offer an opportunity for participants to tell their own stories of textile reuse and repair during practical textile workshops. The image below is from a ‘Mending Stories’ workshop at Bradford Industrial Museum. Participants were encouraged to bring a textile that needed mending and were able to examine examples of repaired and heavily used garments for inspiration.

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Mending Stories workshop, Bradford Industrial Museum

Also in the community we have worked on longer-term projects including one with Creative Threads, a group based at SHINE West Bowling, and we delivered family learning activities at the same venue for Bradford Refugee Action. Both projects have used fabrics sourced from a Clothes Bank at the centre, for making activities and also as talking points about clothing poverty in the community.

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West Bowling Clothes Bank (image by Paul Reece)

At Hive our ‘Talking Textiles’ group meets weekly and have been learning creative textile recycling skills. Towards the end of 2017 we had an ‘Open Wardrobe’ session that gave group members an opportunity to share a textile story with an item from their wardrobe as a prompt. The photograph below shows the sleeve of a handmade Clothkits duffle coat made in the 1970s and being modelled by the maker (centre in the image). We also heard stories about a nineteen sixties playsuit, a snakeskin handbag, a smart tweed suit and some very colourful patchwork shorts.

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‘Open Wardrobe’ session at Hive (image by Paul Reece)

Responses to the project have been very positive both from our researchers and community participants:

‘[It has been] fascinating to find out about individuals in local companies and places and processes.  There have been unexpected learning points looking at 19th -21st century people innovating with textile recycling methods.’ Volunteer researcher

‘It changes the way I look at my surroundings. You build up a relationship with the people you’re researching. We’re crossing the centuries.’ Volunteer researcher

‘Talking about textiles – it makes us think about our elders coming to Bradford in the 1950s to work in the mills. It makes us appreciate their skill and contribution to the city today.’ Community participant, Roshni Ghar project.

During 2018 we will continue to work with community groups around the city, we will be working on a live brief with undergraduate textile students at Bradford School of Art who will be investigating global textile networks, we begin our oral history recording project connected to the 1980s work of Bradford Heritage Recording Unit, we begin a new project working on creative interpretation pieces for display and we will end the year with an exhibition and symposium at Bradford Industrial Museum.

If you are interested in getting involved in any aspect of the Worn Stories Project please contact me: claire@hivebradford.org.uk

 

West Yorkshire Archives visit

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Our Worn Stories researchers visited West Yorkshire Archives this week in Wakefield. Our research programme is now working on three distinct themes: the workers in the rag businesses of Bradford in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the businesses (including wool extractors, rag merchants, shoddy and paper manufacturers) and their owners and the geography and location in the city of these businesses and workforces.

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We were able to explore deed registers related to some of the businesses we are researching and also examined probate documents for some of the business owners. We also looked at valuation maps from 1910.

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‘We enjoyed deciphering all the different styles of handwriting in the quarter sessions (court) documents and the eureka moments when we found someone we were researching in the records.’ Ann, project volunteer.

The Polyester Project

Our Hive based Talking Textiles group meets weekly and have recently been busy investigating polyester. The Worn Stories project is investigating the period 1880-2015 and this particular project is addressing some of the issues connected to contemporary fibres and how we use and dispose of them. Polyester, a synthetic fibre, is popular but problematic as it could take 200 years to decompose in landfill. It is cheap to buy and is often disposed of quickly despite being hard-wearing and easy to wash. Inspired by the Top 100 project, and the work instigated by Rebecca Earley at the Textile Environment Design centre at Chelsea College of Art, the group has been challenged to upcycle a collection of polyester garments sourced from local charity shops. Many of the garments, mostly shirts and blouses, had been deemed too poor quality to sell. Disperse dyes, printed and painted onto recycled paper and then ironed onto the garments, embroidery and other embellishments have been used to transform these items. As a group we have been thinking and talking about how we can give ordinary garments more longevity.

Project participant Lynda commented about her project, a school shirt for a small child:

‘I used transfer paint on paper with discs from the honesty plant pressed under an iron, to create the design on this little shirt. I added gold couching [stitches] to give some definition – and a bit of majesty – to this humble, everyday garment.’ 

Recycled yarn

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Our weekly Talking Textile group based at Hive has been working with recycled and donated materials. They have been converting old T-shirts into yarn for reuse in weaving, knitting and crochet projects having learned a technique much like this one for turning a garment into a continuous length of yarn. Using this most common garment to make something new has offered opportunities for conversation about what happens to our discarded clothes and how they might be given a second life. One of our volunteers who also works in a local charity shop was able to tell us about the huge volume of T-shirts that arrive in charity bags each week and the limited number that are suitable for resale. Many of these garments are later shredded for use in industry as wiper cloths.

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Our group has been challenged to make useful and beautiful things with their new collection of materials, we will post an update about what they made here soon. These items will be part of an exhibition of our research and items made by our community-based projects at Bradford Industrial Museum in November 2018.

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Out Talking Textiles group meets at Hive on Monday afternoons 1-3pm. If you are interested in learning textile recycling crafts in a relaxed and friendly environment please get in touch with us at info@hivebradford.org.uk