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Matching the Machine

Photograph by Tammy Gordon

Photograph by Tammy Gordon

Before Coats Patons closed in 1997, the mill gave this Shade Card Machine to the Museum.

This little machine has suddenly become interesting again now that we are researching our textile collections. We know it was shipped out to Launceston from England in 1947 – from a letter on file with some old black and white photographs. It was second-hand back then, because this was just after World War 2 when Britain was still short of steel for making new machinery.

This machine made up Shade Cards. These were small books with wool samples glued into them. They were distributed to shops and wholesalers to showcase the latest fashion colours. For example, new colours for the late 1960s would have featured shocking pink, lime green, burnt orange and purples.

At the same time that the Museum was matching up this machine with the old photographs and working out what it was used for, Mark Gordon, the Museum’s IT Coordinator, happened to mention that his mother used to work at Coats Patons. This was when the History section made its second match – Kath Gordon was Forewoman of the Shade Card Department. She used this exact same machine during the 1970s and has filled us in on what it was like to operate.

Incidentally, Kath thought this was an awful machine. She was only too pleased when Coats Patons replaced it with something more modern. She says that the new machine was faster and not so fiddly to use, and you did not have to keep stopping it to refill the bobbins with wool.

Jai Paterson, QVMAG Honorary Research Associate and Volunteer

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