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Sailors' Crafts

Introduction

Sailors made a wide variety of crafts utilising the skills which they needed on board to maintain and repair the vessel. They usually used materials which were readily available such as canvas, rope and whalebone. The objects made were small or could be packed away easily, so as not to take up too much of the precious cramped living space. There were times aboard when there were periods of inactivity and the production of crafts helped to pass the time.

 

Woolwork pictures are an example of sailors crafts. A broadside view of a vessel with local features in the background was outlined in ink on  sailcloth, and then embroidered with a limited palette of colours. Sailors were using needlework skills which were needed to repair sails and clothing. As sailors knew the sails, rigging and parts of a ship, the vessels were executed with accuracy. When the pcitures were not being worked on they could easily be rolled up and stowed away.

The embroidery skills were self-taught, and the pieces were created for the mariner's own satisfaction or as gifts for loved ones.

Other examples of sailors' crafts include dolls made by lightshipmen aboard lightvessels. The legs and arms were animated by means of a pull-cord and the dolls were sold to tourists in the summer months who were taken out to the lightships on excursions.

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