HistoryThis traditional wagga blanket was made by Mrs Eileen Pattle between 1942 and 1950. The wagga was used as everyday bedding, as Eileen and her husband had very few possessions. They boarded with a man who they called “Old Harry” in Footscray. Old Harry had recently lost his wife and looked after the young couple well. They could stay with him and use his house as their own, and all that Old Harry asked for in return was for Eileen to cook him one good meal a day.
The blanket was given to Mrs Beverley (Bev) Maguire, the daughter of Eileen, when she and her husband went camping one winter. Her husband was a “mad” fisherman and on one trip on which Bev joined him, her father offered the couple his old tent, that had a wall missing, and the wagga. The wagga was much appreciated as when the couple woke in the countryside, it was freezing, and they could see snow through the missing tent wall. From then on, the tent and the wagga were theirs. The wagga saw many more camping trips until the arrival of Bev’s “lovely new lightweight and down filled sleeping bag”.
The wagga was made with a “make do, waste not, want not” attitude. The wagga started as an army issued blanket. The front layer has clothing and panels of mismatched material which has been added to over time. This includes an overcoat, two knitted garments, a panel from a skirt, and a panel from Old Harry’s Trousers. It also includes a man’s sleeveless knitted vest, and a knitted pram blanket. This is all stitched together with string, and the odd button. Bev said she would love to unpick the quilt to see what else is hiding inside but has resisted the urge to do so. All these layers have made the blanket incredibly warm, and heavy.
The wagga has been within Bev’s family since creation and comes into the National Wool Museum Collection after serving the family well. It was used to keep everyone warm when not camping over many a winter’s night. Beverley is now getting on in years and donated the Wagga to the National Wool Museum in 2021. Her family referred to the wagga as a “collection of rags”, indicating to her that they did not wish to inherit the blanket.