Thirty-four years ago, I was given a very fine crocheted and beaded jug cover as a wedding present by Mrs Laubscher, a distant relative. It was put away somewhere safe and forgotten.
Three years ago, I was visiting my mother and at the back of a kitchen drawer I found a stained old jug cover, sadly neglected. I asked about it and was told that Mrs Laubscher had made it and given it to my mother many years ago. I rescued it and brought it back to Auckland.
At the same time as I was rescuing the rather plainer version of Mrs Laubscher's handiwork from my mother's kitchen drawer, I noticed that a cousin was using some more contemporary versions – plain white netting with colourful African beads at the edges. She told me she had bought them at a local market from women's groups selling home wares. I wasn't able to get to that market, but I managed to buy some at a souvenir shop before I left Cape Town.
I started noticing jug covers at the collectors' fairs I frequent in Auckland, and then started searching for them on TradeMe. I was fascinated by the variety of materials used and the stories that could be conjured up by those materials, and the styles of the different covers.
I now have about 130 covers in my collection. Some are extremely fancy. On my last visit to Cape Town yet another relative showed me a collection of ten covers that she had inherited from her mother. She told me that she could not remember them ever being in use at home, rather that her mother made them to enter into competitions at the equivalent of our Agricultural & Pastoral shows. She kindly gave me five to add to my collection.
Why show them? I believe people enjoy fine handiwork. I also believe that the covers tell a story about the makers and the times they lived in. Some I can imagine were made for purely practical reasons – to keep the bugs out. These are often made from what looks like recycled materials and scraps of leftovers. Others were made to show off the maker’s talents; 'needlework' was seen as an acceptable outlet for women's creativity.
Do I use them? Yes, I do.
- Maggie Gresson