This is Marjorie Hunter’s dressing gown. Marjorie developed tuberculosis (TB) in the 1940s at a time when the disease was prevalent throughout New Zealand. TB is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs and can be deadly without the medical treatment available today. Even with modern treatment there are still about 300 cases of TB diagnosed in New Zealand each year.
After being diagnosed, Marjorie was sent to a TB ward in Ōtaki for treatment. It must have been difficult being sent away from her family and home town while she recovered. It was there that she started making this dressing gown. It is a crazy patchwork design, a very time-consuming but striking garment. Made from scraps of material, crazy patchwork could also be a cost-effective design. This one took so long to put together that Marjorie completed it after she returned home to New Plymouth.
There are other examples of crazy patchwork in the Puke Ariki heritage collection, most notably this quilt designed and sewn by Fred Butler.