Monday, April 17, 2006

Breif history of the Wagga

The story of 'Wagga's' is simply that in the early days a mill called the Murrumbidgee Flour Mill, situated in the town of Wagga Wagga in the state of New South Wales printed 'Wagga Lilly' as a brand on its flour and wheat sacks. As thrift blankets were often made utilising these bags, either covered or sewn together for use as blankets themselves, the term'Wagga' was adapted to describe not only these rugs, but all rugs made of scraps, old jumpers, coats or tailors scraps and samples. A utility rug. Every country has the same history of utility, but here the name 'Wagga' caught on and it is known here and there right across Australia.

When my Grandma died I collected her coats to make my own. I can't remember where I'd heard the term, but that's what I'd known them as too. In my classes, people say either that they've never heard the term, or that their Grandma had Wagga's too, or someone did... seems to be both known and not known everywhere.

I made Rob's after I'd finished the crazy quilt (which is not long after Grandma died) and incorporated the same stitches in flowers all over the blanket, using 8ply wools (double knit) instead of fine silks and cottons etc., so that was my personal addition to the traditional blankets. The old Wagga's were generally unadorned, being utility blankets and not for show, and were notoriously heavy, but extra warm.

As with the American 'Depression' quilts, people were often embarrased by such a show of poverty and put them away or threw something nicer over the top.

Ironically, my intention was never to deliberately perpetuate these traditions, but the classes have, and throughout Melbourne at least the name is well revived, which is great.

I didn't sit and think to make 'A Traditional Wagga', nostalgically as it were, I just wanted to make some Wagga's from my darling Grandma's clothes... she was so special to me. Then, probably because I'd just made a Crazy Quilt, I put Feather Stitch on all of the seams.

As it happened, there was a competition for Wagga's which some friends had organised through our now defunct(?) 'Meat Market', to increase the profile of this uniquely Australian name, as they told me about it... actually they entered me into it and Rob's Wagga won. Much to my surprise. Talk about Zeitgeist!

I'll still contact thoise two ladies to enquire of their research into the genre, and round off this chit chat...


Linda said...

Fascinating stuff - thank you. I have a longer post now on my blog - but to summarise - I am also interested in any connections these may have had with men who used bag needles as a tool of trade in everyday life:

Anonymous said...

I had never heard the term 'wagga' till now.