Monday, October 17, 2016


I recently purchased a transferware egg.  My first.  They are rather uncommon.  I wrote about transferware eggs in an article for the Transferware Collectors Club in 2012.  It was titled "Transferware Darning Eggs."*   The egg shaped transferware items were used for darning, but they were also bell pull handles,** and, perhaps, love tokens.  They were, arguably, mainly gifts for children, as the patterns found on many of the eggs were also used on nursery plates.

John Wilkinson's (1820-1867) "Our Early Days" is the name of a series of children's patterns.  The specific pattern here is "Now I'm Grandmother."  The  4.35 inch darning egg includes the name of the child for whom it was meant, as well as a pattern on the other side.
Notice that the series name, "Our Early Days," is printed above each pattern. In the center, see the name and initials of the child for whom the egg was intended.

The other pattern on the egg is "The Pet."

Below are "Our Early Days" patterns found on children's plates.  The Transferware Collectors Club Database of Patterns and Sources includes 10 patterns from this series.

John Wilkinson 6 inch child's plate "Our Early Days/Now I'm Grandmother."

John Wilkinson 5 inch plate "Our Early Days/The Pet." Notice that the plate was too small for the print, which runs over the molded border.

Here is a pattern on a transferware egg that is copied from George Cruikshank's popular illustrations for Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 edition of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The patterns appear as a series on children's plates and mugs.

A 2.38 inch darning egg with an illustration from "Uncle Tom's Cabin."  The illustration shows "Eva dressing Uncle Tom."

The other side of the egg shows the title of the book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Child's plate illustrating "Eva Dressing Uncle Tom."

Illustration by George Cruikshank from "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852.

The TCC Database of Patterns and Sources shows 15 patterns from "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

One of my favorite children's patterns is associated with the London Zoo, "Visit to the Zebra."  It is found on both a child's plate and an egg.  The egg below was intended as a gift for a girl.

Darning Egg with the "Visit to the Zebra" pattern.

The egg above is also printed with a floral group (see a bit of it on the right) and the words"A Present For A Good Girl." 

"Visit to the Zebra" 6 inch child's plate. 

Boys were also given darning eggs as gifts.  Perhaps, the egg below was intended to be used by the boy's mother to darn his socks!  I think the girl's egg above was probably used to teach a little girl how to darn.  I am not being sexist.  I am thinking about the egg in the context of its time.

Child's 2.5 inch long by 2 inch diameter darning egg.

"A Present for A Good Boy" printed on the egg above.

Another pattern on the above egg.

I couldn't find the patterns on a child's plate, but obviously, they were made for a child.

Here is one more egg.  It is illustrated with patterns copied from "The Mother's Picture Alphabet," which was published in London in 1862. 

John Wilkinson (1820-1867) Darning egg, 4.25 inches. The pattern illustrates the letter "N."  See the picture sheet below.

Initials between the two pattern on the egg.

Train pattern on the other side of the egg above.

"Mother's Picture Alphabet N begins News-boy, etc."

Here is the egg I purchased.  It has a rather utilitarian design.  It doesn't appear to have been made for a child.  Perhaps I'll use it to darn socks.  Does anyone darn sock anymore?

Transferware 2.25 inch by 1. 75 inch darning egg

*Many thanks to Tony Calvin of Cumbria, England for sparking my nascent interest in transferware eggs.

**See p. 137 in "West Cumberland Potteries, Volume II" by Florence Sibson.