Silk Stocking Mats: Hooked Mats Of The Grenfell Mission by Paula Laverty is a superb softback book of nearly 200 pages in excellent condition which documents the history and designs of many of the mat produced under the aegis of the Grenfell Mission. The cover shows detail from an anemone and starfish rug.
Wilfred Grenfell graduated in medicine in London in 1888 and in 1892 was sent to Newfoundland by the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen. His mission was to improve the conditions of inhabitants and fishermen there. He recruited nurses and doctors and opened hospitals along the coast of Labrador - then he moved out of the box - he worked to provide schools, orphanages, co-operatives and industrial work projects. He was knighted, as he deserved, by King George V. My father, an old sailor, who loved Newfoundland where he had spent many leaves in the war, would have been as pleased as Punch to know this man.
These rugs made from discarded silk stockings, dyed with soft hues, were made by Newfoundland and Labrador women during the 1930s to supplement fishing income for their families. What is so very special about these rugs is not only the beauty and technical skill that they display, but also the fact that they reflect life in Newfoundland.
When Grenfell arrived in Newfoundland he met hardworking people who were fighting terrible odds against chronic disease, hunger, poverty and exploitation. From his determination to alleviate their distress, Grenfell's medical mission began. His conviction that outright gifts of money, food and clothing would offer no long term help led to the development of a cottage industry known as 'The Industrial' which produced distinctive handicrafts including hooked mats. The mat industry rose to peak production in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Hooking was first introduced by the English and Scottish settlers and all girls learnt to hook. The quiet months of February and March were the "matting season".
Here you can see some of the lovely examples of this work and read the history of the people who made them. It is a moving read.....
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