This apron was presented to Mrs Ada Morgan by New Italy school girls. Wife of the second school teacher, Ada was provided with an allowance for sewing lessons from 1889. This beautifully embroidered apron is an example of the high calibre needle work that produced international prize-winning craft during the Morgans’ time at New Italy (see the school cabinet).

The school inspector is remembered to say of the girls’ work: ‘the beauty is in the hand sewing’


From Needlecraft to the Treadle

Sewing, crocheting, knitting and weaving were activities shared by girls and women across ethnic and class differences.

From the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, females in Australia learned the art of needlework at school and often eagerly envisioned their first treadle machine in later years.

This was true for the Italians New Italy as anywhere else in the country. Marriages were anticipated: families were clothed; houses were made homes through their needlecraft skills.

In this display you will find some of our museum’s treasures such as a beautifully embodied apron for a valued sewing teacher, hand spun silk, crocheted doilies, woven cloth and treadle machines which held pride of place in New Italy homes.

The skills of hand and machine sewing were central to the economic and social life of the New Italy community.

Needlecraft examples


Angelo Roder’s Desk

Constructed from various off-cuts of local hardwood timber, this writing desk was created by settler Angelo Roder at New Italy.

As years went by, he and his descendants moved away from New Italy to Fairy Hill and then to Casino. This desk travelled with them and was used to carry out domestic and farm business, do homework and to hide children’s Christmas presents.



Cruet sets, holding bottles for vinegar, oil and other condiments, were a favoured wedding present. James Bazzo and Agathea Roder received this one on their wedding day, 30 September 1908. They married at St Peters Church and festivities were later held at Nards Hall, New Italy.






This nightdress was made by Maria (Mary) Capelin to wear on her honeymoon. She married Guiseppe (Joseph) Spinaze on the 9th October 1907 at St Peters Church, New Italy. The couple rode horses to Grafton for their honeymoon. The newspaper article (reproduced below) behind the nightdress reports on their wedding.

Orange Blossoms

The first marriage ceremony in St. Peter’s Church, New Italy, took place on Wednesday, 9th October, when the Rev. Father Callahan united in the holy bonds of matrimony Miss Mary Capelin, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L. Capelin, and Mr Joseph Spinaze, second son of Mrs. L. Spinaze, Coraki.

The new sacred edifice, which was beautifully decorated for the occasion, was thronged with relatives and friends of the contracting parties, and expressions of good-will to those who had thus plighted their troth were hearty and numerous.


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