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Banburyshire Family History

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go back to the last page you were on Bygone ways!

Muriel Wells

What kind of rag rugs were made in your family? I know some people made ones with continuous strips --- but our family cut old clothing into small strips, approximately 4 inches by 1 inch. You gauged these by "eye".

Grandma Lucas always made two rugs every year, one for our household and one for her own. These were laid down with some ceremony, in front of the living room fireplace, when all the cleaning was done, late on Christmas Eve. The "old" one was then relegated to the scullery. For those unfamiliar with a "scullery" it was the back kitchen. Ours housed a fawn coloured stone sink with a cold water tap, the gas stove, and a coal range. It had a copper built into one corner with a firebox underneath. The latter boiled up the clothes on washday and heated water for Saturday night baths.

Back to rag rugs! Designs exercised the ingenuity of the maker and of course the brighter scraps were highly prized! I still have one of the latch hooks, and actually made a small rug in my "Nydia Bay" days. Cutting the strips is a chore, but the making is pleasant, leaving one free to converse and be sociable, or listen to the radio or good music from your collection!

When I was really young my family was struggling to keep us decently clothed and adequately fed. Grandma helped Mum with sewing, on Gran's treadle machine. It wasn't until a very old neighbour offered to sell Mum her Singer hand-machine during the war, that she was able to afford to buy one of her own. Between them they turned out little "frocks" and the ubiquitous liberty bodices.

I liked the dresses with belt inserted into the side-seams to tie at the back in a big bow, simple bodice and full skirt. I hated the liberty bodices with their home-made suspenders! Hurray for their demise!

The "family firm" went into "production", and knitted a constant supply of stockings, jumpers, (sweaters), and cardigans --- and fortunately fewer dresses! I won't enlarge on those as I have mentioned them, before! One year, knitted in purple silky yarn donated by a friend, these same dresses unfortunately "grew" with us and so lasted far too long!

Aunty Florrie was the most prolific knitter, Mum a close second and Grandma, whose sight was deteriorating, used to do the welts for Auntie. "Welts" are the ribbed sections of a garment, which she could do automatically without looking down. Grannie also made peggy squares or blankets. In our family these were plain garter stitch squares, but they made up into warm and colourful coverings for our sojourns in the air-raid shelters --- and cost nothing except "time and effort".

Socks were routinely refooted. It isn't difficult if only the foot part is holed, but a bit more fiddly if the heel needs doing too. I have done that up to a few years back as I found that the NZ Norsewear work socks could have their life extended for my (then) hard-up sons.

I found a Paton and Baldwins pattern in their old-fashioned looking booklet, that I could adapt. Unravelling some socks provided the where-withall for the knitting! It worked well, and was almost undetectable. I discovered that you can derive great satisfaction from rescuing or recycling? Remember the "Make Do and Mend" slogan and leaflets during the war years?

My sister confirmed what I had discovered for myself. In the mail she'd received a tattered rag doll, the beloved companion of her granddaughter, who had insisted that "Grandma could mend it". Faced with this trust and the challenge, she undid the doll and washed the parts, reassembled it and replaced the worst bits. Then she made new clothes, and re-dressed the doll. Tears were replaced by an ecstatic re-union! She said that she had enjoyed it even more than making a doll in the ordinary scheme of things.

Maybe the frugal ways of our earlier kin were dictated by necessity, but I like to hope, (if they weren't too tired to care), that they experienced a small glow of satisfaction now and again!

As others have said, nothing was wasted, and reflecting about it, and my now increasingly careless use and discarding habits, I realise what a throw-away society we have become! I have grown lazy. I think that one of my New Year's resolutions, will have to be to "pull up my socks" and resume some neglected activities --- like knitting, completing several dolls that are at the cut-out stage, do some painting and drawing --- infact haul myself out into the 21st century!

However some old habits die hard --- I horde things that might come in useful someday. I have jars of screws and fittings rescued from defunct items. They occasionally come in useful, and you can be sure that if you get stern with yourself and throw out the junk, you will shortly find that you've got rid of the very thing that you needed!

And ah --- bread and butter pudding --- also what about the nice creamy rice pud that slowly cooked in the range? Memories of these are making me dribble! No I haven't (quite) slipped that far into old age, but am reminded that I haven't yet had my breakfast!

Haere ra!

Written by Muriel Wells