Pillow tops are woven with wool on wooden frames and were traditionally crafted by Newfoundland lumber camp workers to be gifted to their wives, girlfriends or mothers. They are sewn onto pillows, used as throws, pot holders or place mats.
Today this handcrafted tradition is being carried on by Elizabeth Murphy of the Burin Peninsula. She grew up in a house where crafting pillow tops was a winter pastime and learned to make them from her parents in the early 1960s. This is a skill which she has gone on to teach for several years and we were fortunate to have her lead this workshop. The event was a great success and everyone who participated walked away with a lovely pillow top and the skills they require to continue this traditional Newfoundland craft.
|Susan Lee, June Russell, Arlene Penney, Nicole Penney, Elizabeth Murphy and Raymond Russell (left to right) examine the differences between the Russell's pillow top and the three Murphy brought. All these pillow tops are between 30-50 years old.|
|The beginning step of making a pillow top is layering the wool on the wooden frame.|
|Jillian Gould teaches Folklore 6740 and|
partnered with the ICH office on this project
|Elizabeth Murphy instructing Jenny Taroff, |
a student in the Folklore 6740 class
|Caitlin Bethune of the Folklore 6740 class (blue hat/shirt) works alongside a workshop participant|
|After layering the wool the next step is to tie off the back. We were shown by Murphy how to use fish net twine and a twine needle for this step.|
|Raymond Russell, who made a pillow top while working in the lumber camps in 1958, helps his daughter, Arlene Penney, with her pillow top.|
|Murphy (back) looks over some of the workshop participants as they weave their pillow tops.|
|Dale Jarvis and Nicole Penney, of the ICH office, cut their pillow tops to form the pom poms|
|Shamus MacDonald, of the Folklore 6740 class, tries his hand at cutting wool.|
|The very last step is to steam the wool in order to fluff up the pom poms|
|A close up on the pom poms|
|Two of our participants showing off their finished pillow tops.|
If you have any pillow top memories please contact Nicole Penney with the ICH office. We are actively collecting information about this interesting Newfoundland craft. Nicole can be reached at (709) 739-1892 ex. 6 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photographs courtesy of: Christina Robarts