Guest Author: Sally Cronin: The Sewing Gene

It is lovely to have Sally Cronin as my guest today to bring back memories. As I have, like my grandmother, always ‘sewn with burnt thread’ as the saying goes, my dressmaking skills are minimal… although I always loved embroidery which I learned from my great grandmother.

Thanks Sue for your kind invitation to share some family history and also news of my latest collection of stories.

The Sewing Gene

My Grandmother – Georgina

They say that certain talents run in families, and whilst perhaps not genetically passed on through the generations, there is certainly reason to believe that skills passed from parent to child across hundreds of years will be carried forward.

In our family there definitely seems to be a tendency towards sewing crafts, in particular dressmaking, and it was this family trait that I used to embroider the story The Wedding Day in my new collection.

The first needlewoman as far as I know from the records, and the oral history passed on by my mother was Georgina Stephens, my grandmother born in 1890 in Alverstoke in Hampshire. She was the daughter of Samuel Stephens and Mary Anne Tanner who sadly died when Georgina was only thirteen years old.  However, the family was reasonably well off as Samuel was a housebuilder with tilers and slaters working for him, so as all young ladies of the time, Georgina was likely taught to sew by her mother from an early age.

Georgina does appear to have been in service as a lady’s maid in Middlesex by the 1911 census and I am assuming that having watched Downton Abbey, a fair bit of sewing was involved in maintaining her mistress’s clothes.

She had returned to Hampshire by the start of the First World War and began going out with an Irish lad, Herbert Francis Walsh who was a slater, presumably working for her father. Herbert had served in the army as a boy soldier for three years, but of course was called up immediately in 1914. They married on his first leave in 1915 and had my mother in October 1917.

From what my mother told me, Georgina supplemented their income by offering her dressmaking skills locally, and it made a big difference. Herbert was killed the week before the war ended in November 2018 when my mother was just over a year old. With a very small army pension, Georgina returned to Hampshire to live in the square in Wickham a market town close to where her own mother had been born.

She set up a dressmaking business here too, and clearly passed on not only her skills, but a love of clothes to her young daughter.  Money was still tight but Georgina had cousins in the north of England who owned a mill, and every year they would send down a bolt of material, usually plain and hardwearing. My grandmother would make a dress and coat for herself and for my mother and any leftovers into nightdresses.  My mother remembered feeling shameful going to school in some of the outfits being very plain and identical to what her mother was wearing.

When my mother was seven years old, Georgina married the village butcher and he built a house on the hill leading into Wickham and life became much easier for the two of them.

My Mother – Mollie.

My mother loved jackets and shoes and even at 90 was adamant that she bought only the best so that they would last years. She was optimistic that she would be around at 100 and she nearly made it. However, she had made her own clothes including jackets, dresses, skirts, coats and suits from her teens, assisted by her mother, using her treadle sewing machine, before being bought her own Singer machine for her 21st birthday.

Young Mollie loved the fashion magazines and in particular Vogue which had been setting the trends for the better off in society since the British version was launched in 1916. Although Vogue patterns did not become widely available until the 1940s, my mother was a dab hand at copying the designs in the magazine and wearing the resulting finery to dances in the village hall and for special occasions.

Bear in mind that this was a farming community, and the local pub on a Friday night was hardly the catwalk in Milan or Paris. Mollie however was unabashed, and apparently turned up one week in a gold lame turban, satin dress, long gloves and a cigarette holder. She was influenced somewhat by the Hollywood movies of the time, and I am sure caused quite a stir.

She married my father in September 1940 and having hoarded materials for years for this special day, created and made her own wedding dress.

Picture of my parents on their wedding day 1940, grandmother standing next to my father.

As we three girls came along, she made clothes for us all and at the same time passed along her love of sewing to my eldest sister Sonia.

Mollie kept sewing until her 70s when Sonia began making dresses and other clothes for her, but she continued to alter her own jackets and skirts well into her 80s when unfortunately she developed cataracts. When they were removed eventually, she continued with simple alterations although she tended to sew buttons back on to jackets at an angle which gave them a rather funky look.

My generation

When we lived in Sri Lanka, my sister Sonia would have been twelve to fourteen years old but already an accomplished needlewoman.  She made beautifully smocked dresses for me matching underwear to match; something that would cause quite a stir when my mother and father entertained. People would admire the dress and I would whip the skirt over my head and announce to everyone ‘with knickers to match’!

Here is me aged three in one of Sonia’s sundresses

Sonia went on to make wonderful clothes for herself, daughter and the rest of the family from dresses to suits and coats. Today she still whips up lovely summer dresses and I don’t think she has ever bought a ready -made pair of curtains.

I have made my own summer dresses and skirts when much younger and money was tight. Most of the curtains in our house are ones I have made and altered to fit new windows every time we moved. Over the years I realised that I didn’t have the skill of my mother or sister and began to buy my clothes, particularly the more complex projects such as jackets and suits. I did have a side business in my 20s crocheting Aran wool midi skirts which brought in some much needed funds. In my 30s, when I gave up smoking and needed something to do with my hands…I developed a love of tapestry and over the years I have completed twelve large projects, most of which are framed and hung on the walls of our home.

Picture of one of my tapestries

Here is an excerpt from The Wedding Day featuring a very special wedding dress.

Herbert watched from the shadows beneath the oak tree in the orchard as the sun rose, glinting on the windows of the house in front of him. He would have to move soon to a more secure hiding place as the occupants of the house stirred, and began preparing for the upcoming celebration.

His daughter Phyllis was getting married today, and whilst he was banned from attending, he hoped to be able to watch from a distance at the village church, and then here in the orchard for the reception. It promised to be a sunny September day, and he hoped for once the skies would be clear of the dog fights of the last month between the Royal Air Force and Luftwaffe escort fighters, accompanying the bombers pummelling the docks each day.

He had overheard his wife and daughter talking as they sat in the orchard yesterday, sharing a much needed pot of tea and a few minutes respite from their hurried preparations. Unexpectedly the bridegroom was being shipped off tomorrow to France on active duty. They had originally planned to get married in two weeks, but with Jack’s sudden orders, they had been faced with cancelling the wedding until his return. Following his hurried phone call to let Phyllis know the devastating news, she had sat on the stairs, tearfully contemplating not just the change of plans, but the prospect of not seeing Jack for a long time.

Determined that she would do all she could to pull something together for these two young lovers, Georgina rang the vicar, and following their conversation, she contacted several friends in the village. They had known Phyllis since she was a year old when she arrived with her mother who had been born and raised in this house on the hill, and as a community, everyone had come together to make sure this young couple had at least one day of happiness.

Listening to Georgina and Phyllis talking about the new arrangements had brought back memories of his own wedding day in 1915, but at least they had three days before he returned to his unit in France, a brief respite from the relentless fear and danger.

Thank you again Sue for having me over and it brought back many happy memories sharing sewing stories from our family archives.

©sallycronin

Sally has recently released a new book…

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries

Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet

Sally Cronin

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

Available in Kindle and Paperback formats

from Amazon UK, Amazon.com and worldwide.

A pleasurable, enchanting read with a heart of gold… ” Claire Fullerton


About the author

I have been a storyteller most of my life (my mother called them fibs!). Poetry, song lyrics and short stories were left behind when work and life intruded, but that all changed in 1996. My first book Size Matters was a health and weight loss book based on my own experiences of losing 70kilo. I have written another ten books since then on health and also fiction, including three collections of short stories. I am an indie author and proud to be one. My greatest pleasure comes from those readers who enjoy my take on health, characters and twisted endings… and of course come back for more.

REVIEWS are so very important for an author and I am very grateful for the feedback that my books receive. If you have purchased or been gifted one of my books I would love to hear what you think about it.

As a writer I know how important it is to have help in marketing books.. as important as my own promotion is, I believe it is important to support others. I offer a number of FREE promotional opportunities on my blog and linked to my social media. If you are an author who would like to be promoted to a new audience of dedicated readers, please contact me via my blog. All it will cost you is a few minutes of your time. Look forward to hearing from you.

All Sally’s books in Ebook are available: Amazon UK

And Amazon US: Amazon US

You can read more reviews and follow Sally on Goodreads: Goodreads

Please connect to me via my Blog and Twitter


Tell me a story!

If you are a writer, artist or photographer…If you have a poem, story or memoirs to share… If you have a book to promote, a character to introduce, an exhibition or event to publicise… If you have advice for writers, artists or bloggers…

If you would like to be my guest, please read the guidelines and get in touch!

 

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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66 Responses to Guest Author: Sally Cronin: The Sewing Gene

  1. Gwen M. Plano says:

    Thank you, Sue, for showcasing Sally today. I loved reading her retrospective. I felt like we were sitting together going through a family album. Warm, insightful, intimate…absolutely lovely. Big hugs to Sally. You’re both wonderful. 💗

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Darlene says:

    I loved The Wedding Day in the short story collection and enjoyed the family tradition of sewing Sally shared with us. Thanks for featuring our mutual friend Sally. She is a gem. xo

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks so much for the wonderful post Sue, it certainly brought back memories and I really must get out of the habit of sharing my knickers to match!!! ♥♥

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
    Perhaps if you have time to sit down with a cup of coffee or tea for five minutes, you might head over to Sue Vincents where I am a guest today. I am sharing memories and photos of the sewing of dresses and tapestries in the family which go back to my grandmother Georgina in the early 1900s with the love of dressmaking passing down from generation to generation… see you there…Sally

    Liked by 2 people

  5. So much goodness in this post! Sally Cronin is the gift that keeps on giving 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  6. You make sewing sound like such fun. I wish I had read this ages ago… Brava, dear Lady with the wonderful memories/life you so graciously share!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Jan Sikes says:

    What wonderful family stories, Sally. I love it when the female lineage has so much history to offer. Thank you for hosting, Sue!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. dgkaye says:

    Another fun and informative story about Sally. Just when we thought we knew her, we get more nuggets. Sal, I can’t believe what a fashionista your mum was back in the day. And loved the background on what ‘may’ have inspired the story, in your lovely new book, lol. ❤ xx hugs to both!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    I love the tapestry and clothes, so beautiful. I used to love to sew but its been years. Enjoyed all the history:)

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Wow! Sally is sewing too. 😉 Ani, there is one can make wonderful clothings for you. Head over to Ireland for becoming a “Star orf the Aisles”. :-)) By the way, love the Wedding telling too. Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  11. memadtwo says:

    My mother taught me to embroider and I think of her every time I pick up a needle. I enjoyed reading about the branches of needlework traveling through your family tree. (K)

    Liked by 3 people

  12. noelleg44 says:

    Kudos, Sue, for having Sally over for some memories. I got the shivers reading about the seamstresses in her family because of the incredible similarities to my own. Amazing. And lovely stories, too.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Daniel Kemp says:

    Lovely reading material. Thank you, Sue and Sally.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Daniel Kemp says:

    Reblogged this on Daniel Kemp and commented:
    Lovely reading material.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Thank you, Sue, for having Sally over, as this was a delight. To read of Sally’s Granny and Mum and their skills passed on to Sonia. Such rich stories and it was like sitting by a warm fire, listening to all the generational love. ‘Knickers to match’ took me right back! Another dimension of Sally we didn’t know about and a delight to discover. ❤ to you both.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. bamauthor says:

    You are fortunate to have such an array of talent in your ancestry!

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Adele Marie says:

    Reblogged this on firefly465 and commented:
    Hurrah new laptop and back online. I’m pleased to share this wonderful post.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. I greatly enjoyed Sally’s sewing reminiscences. We had a similar tradition with my grandmother, my mother, and me. (The sewing gene didn’t extend to my daughter.) Sally was a little cutie pie in her sundress and hidden matching knickers–and I think she knew it! “The Wedding Day” was one of my favorite stories in “Bowl of Cherries” as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – 10th – 16th January 2021 -1960s music, Breakfasts, Anti-Aging, Book Reviews and Funnies. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  20. olganm says:

    I’d read some bits of Sally’s family history but didn’t know about her own love of tapestry. Amazing! Thanks for sharing and take care, Sue!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. It’s lovely to see Sally featured here, Sue, and learn all this information about her family. I am looking forward to reading her new book.

    Liked by 2 people

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