Milk jug cover, swan motif, filet crocheted cotton, maker unknown, Australia, 1920-1940
Examples of embroidered and crocheted pieces could be found in most Australian homes in the late 1800s to mid 1900s. Beaded covers such as this one were used to protect milk, sugar and other foods from flies and insects, which proved particularly troublesome in Australia particularly in the days before household refrigerators. The beads served not only as a decorative item, but for weighting the cover so that it would not fall off the jug. The fly problem diiminished when cars replaced horsedrawn vehicles and when dung beetles were introduced towards the end of the twentieth century.
Along with their practical function, doilies and milk jug covers served a decorative purpose. From as early as the 1830s designs have incorporated native flora and fauna motifs, which became increasingly popular towards the turn of the century as an increased sense of nationalism emerged, marking a shift away from the design influences of England and Europe in favour of an Australian design aesthetic. Embroidery and crochet work provided a much needed creative outlet for some, a restful leisure activity for others or as a way to commemorate significant events or supplement the family income. Filet crochet was encouraged as a feminine craft by women's magazines and journals in the early 1900s, and patterns featuring popular designs such as flora, fauna and commemorative motifs were published.
Used in a variety of domestic contexts. From a larger collection accumulated over several years by the donor.