Launch of Sir Douglas Mawson Balaclava
Date: Monday 5 May 2014
on Sir Douglas Mawson’s Birthday (born 5 May 1882)
and 100 Years of Australian Antartic Expeditions
At 10.00am at Douglas Mawson’s Monument
Prince Henry’s Gardens, North Terrace in front of University Adelaide
Artlab Australia, the South Australian Museum and the Adelaide City Council will launch the Sir Douglas Mawson Balaclava Knitting Pattern by Artlab Australia on Sir Douglas Mawson’s Birthday (born 5 May 1882).
The knitting pattern was created by Kristin Phillips, Principal Conservator Textiles, Artlab Australia and Lianne Gould, Master Knitter with thanks to Mark Pharaoh, Senior Collections Manager (Mawson Centre, Australian Polar Collection, and History of Science Collection), South Australian Museum. The idea to create this pattern came during Kristin’s treatment of Mawson’s original balaclava for the South Australian Museum collections, one of Artlab’s major clients.
Kristin will place the replica knitted balaclava on the Mawson bust and Mawson characters also donning other replicas balaclava will be present to launch the knitting pattern. The pattern will then go on sale in the South Australian Museum shop and Lianne Gould will also have knitted replicas available for purchase as well.
Douglas Mawson’s epic adventures in the Antarctic in the early 20th Century and his ongoing contribution to science in South Australia have ensured his place in the history books. The iconic image of Mawson wearing a knitted balaclava resonates with the Australian psyche. It is instantly recognised by most Australians and not just because it was used on the first $100 note (1984–1996).
The famous balaclava has come via the Mawson family into the collection of the South Australian Museum. Examination of the balaclava has revealed it to be a most interesting and evocative garment. It is clearly a one-off, hand knitted from a variety of different colours of grey and blue flecked wools, the crown even featuring a small amount of pink mixed. The stripes are random and without pattern – such as you might expect if you were using up scraps from your wool bag – and although it follows the general shape of many of the balaclava patterns available before WWII the ribbing is an unusual 7 stitches wide.
It is unknown who made the balaclava but we can speculate. In Paquita Mawson’s biography of Mawson she mentions a number of brightly coloured bags that she made for the 1911 trip which were used for packing food and marking food caches. They were known by the expeditioners as “Paquita bags”. She later tells of Mawson waiting for her to arrive as he has many socks that need darning. She also writes the story of sitting on the side of the road in outback Flinders Ranges knitting whilst waiting for Mawson to return from collecting specimens. These brief glimpses of her life clearly show she was a needle-woman of some skill and it is very likely that she is the maker. Perhaps she used the quirky repetition of 7 for luck and the little bit of pink to remind Douglas of her!