Friday, 1 May 2020

By Her Own Hands

It is time to reveal our projects for The Endeavourers Quilt group for this quarter. The theme was "A scene from a book". No shortage of inspiration there then :)

When I was clearing out my parents flat last year I came across my Mum's old recipe books.

Tucked inside that battered notebook of handwritten recipes and magazine cuttings was this little recipe book from Be-Ro, a leading flour miller in the UK. The book was published in the 1950's, and as my parents were married in 1954, I am assuming that my Mum was a new bride when she got it. The front and back cover are missing but the rest of the pages are still intact if a little worse for the wear!

These inner pages were my inspiration for "By Her Own Hand"

I intended to make a small quilt, but it never felt right so then I thought about making a quilted tea cozy as cups of tea and cake are indelibly linked in our family (!) but that didn't appeal either.

Looking through my patterns I came across the instructions from Made for Mermaids for an Oven Mitt that I had intended to make at Christmas, and everything fell into place :)

The front of the mitt is inspired by the line drawings in the recipe book.

So, as well as the appliqued 50's style oven,scales, rolling pin and sugar jar there are recipe instructions and an egg box embroidered across the surface. The mitt itself is made from a tea-dyed old teatowel lined with heat-resistant wadding and a cotton backing. The binding is a strip of afternoon tea fabric left over from a previous project.

The sentiments expressed in the foreword to the recipes are typical of their era, so somewhat jarring to a 21st Century reader.

My oven mitt, therefore, presents an idealised domesticity on the front of the mitt, with a more subversive message on the back. The quilting on the back of the mitt uses machine embroidered words and phrases from the recipe book. They start with baking terms at the bottom of the mitt,

move in the middle to the roles the publishers expected of their readers,

and finished at the top with the expectations and sentiments that 50's society placed upon those readers.

I have no idea what my Mum thought of these sentiments but I do know that she was an excellent home baker, who went back to office work when I was small so that she and my Dad could save up to buy their own home. Later, when I was almost a teenager my Mum went to college to get the qualifications that she needed to apply for (and get) a job with the local council. I suspect that she knew that sentiments such as

 "There's no more pleasing sight than that of a happy family around a well-stocked tea-table, all enjoying their food; and the mother who is responsible for the good cooking, and who has prepared it with her own hands, has every right to survey the results of her culinary skill with pride and satisfaction"

were not grounded in a reality that she, or many of her peers, were experiencing.

So, this is my Endeavourers project for this quarter. As always, I have had enormous fun deciding on the project for the theme and then working out how to get what is in my head into a practical form. Thanks, as always too, to Catherine and Janine for organising our group so well and providing gentle reminders of looming deadlines to keep us on track :)

Head on over to The Endeavourers blog to see what my fellow Endeavourers have created for their "scenes from a book" you will be impressed for sure!

Linking up to TGIFF too


  1. I think this is an artwork fit for a gallery! It sums up so much about attitudes towards women and domesticity. I love the tea stains - to represent the usefulness of the object but also the passage of time during which the attitudes have changed a bit. I also like the new binding on the 'vintage' article, because it's almost like a reminder that as such practical items can be handed down, so can some of the outmoded ideas!

  2. I love that you made this oven mitt for the challenge. It encapsulates the feel and appearance of your book so much better than a more conventional quilt ever could have done. It really is a work of art and an object of cultural and historic interest as well as a fully functioning cooking accessory and, of course, a reminder of your Mum. I should be surprised if ever in the history of the world an oven mitt has been crafted with such significance :)

  3. Using quilting in its modern form to make a statement on feminism and cooking is quite layered and wonderful! Great interpretation of the prompt :)

  4. So, so creative, Fiona. The tea dying immediately speaks of the past. Time will tell whether your oven mitt is used as much as your mother's cooking book.


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