Historic Houses Trust Soft Furnishing Volunteer Group

Elizabeth Bay House, Vaucluse House and Elizabeth Farm are properties whose interpretation is based on recreated 19th century interiors. Soft furnishings such as curtains, blinds, carpets, upholstery, loose covers, cushions, hassocks, bed hangings, bell pulls give these interiors a lot of their quality as recreated 19th century environments as opposed to collections of antiques. Elements such as curtains, blinds, floor coverings and loose covers serve an interpretative and a conservation role. It is anticipated that the group will be involved in the maintenance and repair of existing soft furnishings, minor conservation work and refining and extending the collection of soft furnishings in line with ongoing research into the history of the domestic interior.

The Soft Furnishings Volunteers Group will report to Scott Carlin, Elizabeth Bay House and Vaucluse House curator through team leader, volunteer Dianne Finnegan. Dianne as team leader, will co-ordinate the different members of the group in relation to the different skills required. The volunteers will work on a program of soft furnishings projects, which will be prioritized according to HHT budgets and fabric availability.
A sample of the rolling list of soft furnishings projects:
Elizabeth Bay House:

  • Replace drawing room muslin curtains, retaining and re-attaching knitted Vandyke border (this project related to the replacement of the gilt timber pelmets)
  • Remake linen check hangings for the dressing room’s campaign bed
  • Make chintz or holland case covers for drawing room sofa and chaise
  • Replacement bedrooms holland blinds
  • Replace drawing room piano pleated silk front

Vaucluse House:

  • Make pantry and scullery holland blinds
  • Make breakfast room holland blind, striped with trellis fringe, copying Camelot example
  • Make Miss Wentworth’s ‘tent’ bed hangings (Rouse Hill Winfield bed pattern)
  • Make case covers for second room sofa, chaise and side chairs in Brunschwig & Fils Haddon Hall glazed chintz
  • Repair bindings on runners

Skills and knowledge required:
Volunteers will be selected for their interest, enthusiasm and sewing skills. The HHT will build on these skills, acquainting volunteers with 19th century patterns and methods to carry out worthwhile projects in a fun, stimulating, team environment.
Volunteers existing skills may include:

  • Machine sewing, hand sewing, pattern making and cutting, embroidery, knitting and crochet, weaving, cord and tassel making, garment making, dyeing

Please note: You will be required to attend an interview and sewing skills assessment before recruitment as a volunteer.
Hours and days:
The workshops will take place on Thursdays or Fridays one day per fortnight progressing to one day per week, from 10am til 4pm. Participants must provide their own travel to Elizabeth Bay House, Vaucluse House or Elizabeth Farm.

  • Initial 1 day general HHT volunteer induction
  • Sewing skills training by Dianne Finnegan
  • Training in the role of soft furnishings in 19th century interiors by Scott Carlin
  • Scott Carlin will have 19th century and reproduction soft furnishings to guide the making of new soft furnishings
  • Visit HHT properties with rich collections of furnishings – Caroline Simpson Library, Elizabeth Farm, Rouse Hill

Info: Coordinator, Volunteers Program, The Mint, 10 Macquarie Street, Sydney 2000, 02 8239 2441

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