Currently exhibiting at Auckland’s Objectspace Gallery is a display of crocheted and beaded jug covers.

‘Put a cover on it’ is the collection of Maggie Gresson who has written an accompanying blog at

Here are some pieces that I’ve been fortunate enough to find at local op shops over the years.

A couple of personal favourites are the following two intricate pieces which feature a tea cup in the middle.




This piece tells you the purpose of the intended cover with the word ‘milk’ embroidered on it.









Three bright examples all with yellow plastic beads – the largest one on the left is actually quite heavy.  No chance of any flies getting underneath the cover!









Designs using shells offer a more rustic look.










Keeping up with the Royal Family,  this cover commemorates the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and is appropriately surrounded by red and blue beads.










‘Put a cover on it’ runs until Saturday 26 April at Objectspace, 8 Ponsonby Road, Auckland.

With Anzac Day (25 April) fast approaching, there will be many stories about New Zealand’s military past coming to light in the media.

Here are some examples of linen produced during World War II.  These have been found at various second-hand shops.  I would love to add more items to the collection but with the huge interest in our military past, I’m finding  it not so easy to source items in charity shops.

WWII embroidery

The first piece featuring embroidery on black velvet is not in the best condition.  It used to be displayed on a table but unfortunately quickly faded. Have now learnt to take far better care of historic items.  Features a message ‘with love from Arthur’ –  I wonder and hope that Arthur survived the war!

The second example also features scenes of the Middle East with its exotic pyramids and camels on display.

More pyramids on display

Here’s another souvenir of Egypt dated 1941 – makes you wonder how these items were treated on their return. Were these souvenirs proudly displayed or instead carefully placed into cupboards for safekeeping?

1941 embroidery

The following is a green silk handkerchief which featues the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force logo.

WWII handkerchief

The final item is a tablecloth picked up at a fair a few years.  I’m intrigued by the dates showing ‘victory and 1944’.  The Second War World officially ended in 1945 but perhaps the soldier’s campaign had ended earlier in 1944. 

Features the initials of J.S.W. in between peace and victory.

Details from a tablecloth

Last week, Massey University’s MATTER research cluster and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa held the ‘ Material Histories’ symposium that brought together historians, curators and a few keen amateur collectors.  Participants were treated to a range of interesting speakers such as Beverly Lemire, University of Alberta and Founding Director of the Material Culture Institute who highlighted the histories of tobacco products and washing over the last few centuries.  Indeed if anyone is looking for a project, Beverly suggested that there is an international history of laundry begging to be published.

Local speakers Kate Hunter, Victoria University and Kirstie Ross, Te Papa outlined their current research into New Zealand’s World War I effort through examples of material culture. Objects such as soldier dolls and fragments of military uniforms serve as reminders of lost lives. In addition, a number of soldiers recovering from their injuries took up creative activities from basket making to embroidery.  An example by soldier Fred Hansen can be viewed on Te Papa’s website at  Indeed this apron caught the eye of Queen Mary who was keen to acquire it but according to family history, it had been promised to Fred’s mother and was not given to the Royal Family.

Unfortunately I don’t have any examples of World War I objects but the following two pieces are examples of World War II pieces made by soldiers who were injuried in the conflict.  The earrings were purchased by my grandmother shortly after World War II and the decorated wooden object was a recent find.

Earrings and a wooden tray made by World War II soldiers

Freelance historian Bronwyn Dalley examined the popularity of historic material objects.  From retro to cooking shows, granny-hunting to granny-chic, New Zealanders are keenly acquiring items from the past.  During the course of her talk, Bronwyn introduced family pieces from linen table cloths to wooden cake stands that has been passed down the generations. Representing different eras, the family connection unifies them and shows how we engage with the personal and material past in both the real and digital worlds.  The following tea towels were purchased at a vintage fair the very next day confirming that the acquisition of historic material objects is a regular activity for many including myself.

Two tea towels

Another enjoyable session saw a panel of post-graduate students providing a brief overview of their research.  Debbie Noon completed a MA thesis in the rise and rise of op shops. Debbie spoke of the many reasons for the increasing popularity of op shops – the chance to purchase unique items at affordable prices definitely resonated with me.  Megan Watson’s MA thesis examined afternoon tea practices in the Manawatu region during the 1930s and 1950s.  We learnt that there is difference between afternoon tea and Afternoon Tea (and it’s not just capitals).

Dinah Vincent is embarking upon a PhD on  the meanings of girls’ sewing in the 1950s and 1960s and provided a fascinating introduction to the school curriculum which promoted the role of girls as future wives and home makers.  It will be interesting to see what information Dinah uncovers over the course of her research.  Certainly my family benefitted from my mother’s sewing skills which saw an array of dolls clothes made for us as well as christening gowns.Examples of home-made dolls clothes

Christening gown made from wedding dress material








You can also read more about this conference on a Te Ara blog at and thanks to the organisers for a lively and affordable symposium.  As I run around the op shops tomorrow, I now feel that I’m participating in the world of history as well as feeding my less noble consumerism habits.

September 2021

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 14 other followers