This project, a work in progress, has been undertaken by the Embroiderers’ Guild of South Australia Museum with initial funding by the History Trust of South Australia. The project was to catalogue signature objects in South Australia. For this all objects were photographed, the names and as much of the known history of the object recorded. So far, the Embroidered Signatures Project has documented over 150 South Australian cloths and other objects bearing in excess of 37,000 names or signatures. These objects are an important part of South Australia’s social history as they give a snapshot of the people in the area at that time.
Signature Cloths are created for a variety of reasons. They are often memorials in remembrance of family and friends, but may also commemorate celebrations and achievements of individuals, for example a wedding or the retirement of a respected group member. Signature Cloths are often records of group membership. Many CWA branches have a cloth that is signed by members as they join as do branches of the Red Cross.
During the First and Second World Wars signature cloths were often used as fundraising devices. The public was informed of signature projects through newspaper articles that detailed the cost of the signature and the war fund to which the money would be donated. A person would pay a small fee to write their name on the cloth and it would then be embroidered by a skilled needlewoman. This kind of project was used to raise money for cheer up huts and other organisations benefiting soldiers such as military hospitals and convalescent homes.
Not all signature objects are cloths, there are examples of piano covers, aprons, cushions and a textile Christmas Tree.
Unfortunately not all objects have a known date but the earliest catalogued cloths are from the late 1800’s upto recent years.
The objects identified here have a mixed ownership, some being in private collections and others in small community museums. The project is continuing as more cloths are found. If you are aware of a signature cloth that has not been documented please contact the Embroiderer’s Guild Museum.