Photo by John G. Murry (2008).  This project was supported by the Cherry Raymond Award from Zonta International. (New Zealand Chapter).

Photo by John G. Murry (2008).

This project was supported by the Cherry Raymond Award from Zonta International. (New Zealand Chapter).

Sisters Who Spin:

An Oral History of The weavers and Spinners of Albany, Aotearoa New Zealand

The history of women in Aotearoa New Zealand is captured through their stories and their craft—both are immortalized through the small groups who meet to knit and spin wool together today.

This project traces the lives of five women who met bi-weekly at the Albany Spinners and Weavers Guild in Auckland, New Zealand for over sixty years. Born between 1918 and 1935, five women shared with Fiona their stories of their girlhood and youth by telling tales of their adolescence and the tribulations and celebrations of marriage and motherhood. As they knit, spun, and crocheted using the skills they learned as young women, their time together as women become the fabric of their friendship that enabled Fiona to learn a unique feminine perspective on life as a woman in a Settler Colony.

Fiona met these women by chance while studying at the University of Auckland in the department of Māori Studies as an international graduate student (2006-7). A chance meeting at local wool shop started an oral history project for the past ten years that has afforded the opportunity to learn the skills of kitting and spinning whilst listening to their histories of how young women of the British Empire negotiated their identities and formed bonds and friendships through fibre art.

A chapter on this project was published in: (LINK)

McDonald, F.P. “An Unexpected History Lesson: Meeting European ‘Colonial Girls’ through Knitting, Weaving, Spinning, and Cups of Tea” in Colonial Girlhood in Literature, Culture and History, 1840-1950 (Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture)  (Edited by Michelle Smith and Kristine Moruzi). London: Palgrave-­‐Macmillan. 2014.