When handicraft is spelt phonetically, it says it all, by hand I craft. The CWA has a long history of handicraft and members, although not this little black duck, have made and continue to make many wonderful things.

In the 1930s during the depression, there was a big trend towards making simple everyday articles allowing women to increase their self-sufficiency, self-respect and dignity. It was during this time that the CWA handicraft movement was born.

The State Handicraft Committee was created in 1936 in an effort to extend the work of teaching and demonstrating of handicrafts in country areas. Members of the committee travelled across the state, their expenses paid by the branches they taught.

With the outbreak of World War II, the focus of Handicrafts became more patriotic with members making camouflage nets for men in New Guinea, Sheep-skin vests for sailors in the Atlantic and knitted socks for soldiers in the Middle East. After the war handicrafts went back to practical home style items, however millenary became popular as women wanted an affordable way to dress up.

Now in 2013 the Handicraft Committee is still responsible for running the State Handicraft Competition for members, as well organising the “The Land” Handicraft Competition, which is open to all residents of NSW, female or male. Both competition schedules can be found here and to enter just contact your nearest branch for details.

Members use their skills to make crafts not only for pleasure but for charity as well. Handicrafts sold across the State are a major fundraiser for branches who put the money back into their communities. There is also a Handicraft shop, open to the public, at the CWA Head Office in Potts Point. Plus members make items to donate to hospitals such as preemie baby clothes and calico dolls & bags that are given to sick children to decorate and keep.

And still over 80 years on, the committee continues to teach. Handicraft classes are held regularly at the CWA Head Office in Potts Point. The most recent, in September, taught Mountmellick embroidery and Needle lace techniques. If you cannot make it to Sydney, we can have the class come to you (member or non-member)! It is possible to request a tutor for the handicraft in which you are interested and have them visit to teach the skills you require, anywhere in the state. We have specialists everywhere! Just email the Committee Secretary.

I wouldn’t dare pass on advice regarding handicrafts, but those more knowledgeable on the subject offer some general tips for any handicraft:

  • Make sure the area on which you  are working  is clean and neat before starting
  • When learning a new craft, always try simple concepts then as you improve and your confidence grows, try something more ambitious
  • Keep your craft items stored together and easily accessed. Most of all have fun and be proud of your efforts, whether it looks like the picture or not!


Pattern and resulting product!

Needlelace Angel made at the Handicraft Class in September

2 thoughts on ““hand•i•craft”

  1. When I was young I use to make all my clothes for working in my job, and I made all my babies’ clothes, bedclothes, and continued to make my children’s clothes. But lost the urge to do useful handicrafts as my children wanted to chose their own clothes as they grew. When I joined the CWA a few years ago, my interest in craft was reignited, and now I have at least a couple of projects on the go all the time, and can’t wait to learn something new. My CWA friends teach me little tricks and specialty techniques for perfect finishing off etc, and I am even able to teach them some things. We share patterns, friendship and a cuppa whilst working on our garments.

    I can remember my mother telling me that my grandmother used to knit socks for the soldiers during the war.


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