Rug & Mat Designs for Beehive & Turkey Rug Wools. Patons & Baldwins, Ltd. Alloa & Halifax [cover title]
Alloa and Halifax, Patons & Baldwins Limited, [1920s and 1930s].
A substantial loose-leaf album (245 x 320 mm), containing nearly 400 colour sheets of individual designs of rugs and mats, and their complete instructions for the home worker in tapestry ('the embroidery of wool on canvas').
There are approximately 250 sheets (220 x 300 mm) of designs for rugs, with large colour illustrations (generally) on both sides of the sheet (a very large detail on the recto, and on average a full reproduction of the rug design on the verso - sometimes this is not present, but more often than not, there are two alternative designs shown). Approximately 100 of these sheets are accompanied by a smaller sheet (150 x 220 mm) giving instructions for producing the companion mat; these have a colour illustration on the recto, with generic advertising on the verso. There are also approximately 40 of these small mat-design sheets loosely inserted. The first 54 sheets in the album, all for rugs, are identified by letters (from Chart A to Chart YQ). Numbers are then used, and the album contains a broken sequence from Number 1 to Number 293. Possibly the missing letters and numbers indicate discontinued lines; clearly this catalogue, designed for the trade proper, had a long shelf life. The loosely-inserted mat designs are mainly from Number 294 to 315 (there are two copies of each of the last dozen or so). Included in the bound sequence are six large design sheets for 'Reversible Crochet Rugs'. Also loosely inserted is a related booklet, 'The Gnome Book of Rugmaking and Embroidery' (quarto, 12 pages plus wrappers), with five colour-pictorial rug design leaflets. Patons of Alloa and Baldwins of Halifax were both longstanding British manufacturers of knitting yarns when they merged in 1920; this home rug-and-mat embroidery caper seems to have been one diversifying outcome. We don't know how successful it was (we have our suspicions), but if nothing else, this lavish catalogue is an exceptional pictorial record of the design tastes of the time. Patons & Baldwins Limited, Launceston (later Coats Patons Limited) was their first overseas manufacturing venture: 'Inexpensive hydro-power and water influenced the selection of Glen Dhu, Launceston as the site for the new mill in 1922. The availability of a labour force free from industrial unrest was another, unstated, consideration.... A paternalistic management approach would also ensure many years of continued freedom from industrial unrest and encourage long-term and multi-generation employment. The spinning mill commenced production in August 1923, with a nucleus of 50-60 skilled British workers. The start of production coincided with the end of the post-war textile boom, but increased tariff protection aided steady and continuous growth. By 1966 Patons and Baldwins had trebled in size, was the largest mill of its type in the southern hemisphere, and the state's biggest employer of women. Employment peaked at over 2100 before the decade's end. Ongoing structural changes saw it renamed Coats Patons Ltd in 1969. The reduction of tariff protection in the early 1970s marked a turning-point for the company. Between 1972 and 1982, employment fell from 1520 to 585. Conditions again took a downturn in the late 1980s, affected by inexpensive synthetic imports and the declining popularity of hand-knitting. By 1997, the parent company decided to move its Launceston operations to New Zealand. The mill closed on 31 July 1997' (The Companion to Tasmanian History, online). Two designs (numbers 21 and 79) depicting colourful parrots in healthy trees are the only evidence in the album of any parochial connection.