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Creating an Authentic 1930s Washing Line

Creating an Authentic 1930s Washing Line
10 September 2020

Mary Corcoran talks about how Bolton u3a's Stitch and Craft Group created an authentic 1930s washing line as part of a project with Bolton University.

Our relationship with Bolton University began with a small team from Bolton u3a, led by Tony Pearson, the then Chair, whose proactive and innovative approach to joint working with Bolton University drove the collaboration forward.

One project that inspired our Stitch and Craft group was the Worktown Project. We were delighted to accept the invitation to participate and so began the exciting and rewarding journey which culminated in the life sized authentic Washing Line!

At our subsequent Tuesday group meeting, we displayed several photos from the Humphrey Spender Worktown collection. This triggered memories, anecdotes and much laughter. We captured most of this on post its. The photo that resonated most with the group was the one of washing being hung out in the back street. Thus was born the idea of creating an actual washing line as opposed to a static collage or wall hanging.

Serena Johnson drew a washing line with a collection of items that represented a working class family in Bolton in the late 1930s.

Once this was agreed on, each group member tapped into their own interests and skills to begin researching items that they could create or source. There was much sharing of ideas, skills and mutual support - teamwork and companionship at its very best. Authentic items of the time were loaned to us to accompany our handcrafted items to complete the washing line and create a toy box.

The installation was originally intended to be interactive, allowing the general public to view the project and add their own memories, experiences and anecdotes.

However, times changed and lockdown intervened, we made the transition to an online event with the valuable support of members of the University.

We created a programme with elements that we thought would keep viewers engaged, including the prior filming of the group, a recorded session where Serena and I displayed and described each item, how it had been decided on and its purpose in the household, plus a live question and answer session.

After our initial disappointment of being unable to display our project, we were delighted that the group's work and commitment was able to be showcased. It was a new and successful experience for all of us .

As to the future, the Bolton u3a Stitch and Craft Group is planning, when restrictions are eased, to continue working with Bolton University staff and students by creating collaborative patterned textiles using a range of approaches based on the Joseph Johnson Ltd textile patterns held at Bolton Museum and to engage with the narrative of pattern in the home in the post-war period leading up to the 1970s.

See the talk here.


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