My Workbox

My great-grandmother was Alice Oldknow. She was born in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in 1892, the daughter of an agricultural labourer and sometime soldier. She married Harold Ellison, a carpenter, in 1919 and much of their married life was spent at Brook House in her home town, long since pulled down.

She was an avid photographer and fortunately quite a few photographs survive of her and her family. She had four children, and survived two of them, Marjorie who died young during a diphtheria epidemic and her son Cyril, a navigator on the Star Tiger who died just after the war when his plane went missing in what was to become known as the Bermuda Triangle. Her youngest daughter married and moved to South Africa and her eldest, my grandmother, became a research chemist after completing a chemistry degree – no mean feat in those days.

A few years ago some of Alice’s things came my way, some dainty crochet hooks, some ribbons (which seem to be ecclesiastical), and her embroidery silks. I would never have expected such bright and vivid colours and love that some of them are wrapped around old letters and postcards. Alas I don’t think I would ever have it in me to actually use them.

Still extant is a fire screen Alice made; an aunt has it but I once drew a copy and made some notes and had a go at recreating it. It was my first ever attempt at freehand embroidery and crewel work and I was so thrilled to discover I could actually do it and so eager to bung it into a frame I didn’t realise until it was too late that I had missed a bit off the bottom (you can still see the pencil outline). But it was a great experience making the same stitches and the same decisions that she once made.

As for my own workbox, I’ve just had a bit of a tidy up during one of the few days the sun has actually decided to make an appearance. How all that stuff managed to fit in I’m not too sure. Needless to say. it didn’t stay tidy for too long. And it is a great sadness to me that there are people in this world who don’t understand a gal’s need for a half-dozen pairs of different scissors.

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