Moreland quilt project – Work

The Moreland Quilt was a community arts and storytelling project curated by Tamara Russell, a textile artist specialising in free machine embroidery and hand stitching.

The panels in the quilt record local stories, culture and history though imagery, colour and fabric.

I was a seamstress like my mother, aunt and sister.  We would all work together creating beautiful wedding gowns, evening frocks and day dresses from a small shop on Moreland Road.  All the beading, sequins and embroidery embellishing was done by hand.  In hard times my mother and aunt were all that kept our families fed.  We all worked hard.  I can’t sew anymore as I have bad arthritis in my hands now and my eyesight isn’t very good.

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I always wanted to be a fashion designer.  I left school at 14 and went to work in Collins Street for a fashion house.  It was very long hours of stitching in the back room for some of Melbourne’s very wealthy women.  Once I had my children I started up a small shop with a friend.  We would sew up garments to order, repair and restyle clothes.  It was such a lovely job.  I always sewed all the family’s clothes or would knit our jumpers.  All clothes were handed down and worn till they literally fell apart.  We would then use the fabric as cleaning cloths or would make rag rugs for the back door to keep our house clean.  Nothing was wasted as money was always very tight.

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I worked for the railways opening and closing the gates.  We had little huts to sit in and make tea waiting for the bell to go to let us know that the train was coming.  It was sometimes a very solitary job.  It wasn’t until the 1990’s that they upgraded the line and put in the electric boom gates and signals before that we were the last line in Melbourne to still have kerosene signals.  When they put in the electric boom gates they shut down lots of the smaller crossings.  Some of them still have the old gates there.

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