Threading the Needle

Threading the Needle

This portrait of Mary Elliot, (1846-1920) the photographer’s mother, was taken sometime around 1900. It was published as a halftone photograph titled Threading the Needle in the volume Photograms of the Year 1900 (p. 151) and is further commented on by the volume’s editor, where it has been given the alternate title of The Housewife Sewing:

Nichol Elliot’s series of domestic portraits are capital. The Housewife Sewing is full of surprisingly good modelling. The hands and face are treated with fine regard for the play of light, and almost justify the intensely black background.  (p. 99)

The following poem by Alice Elliot appears full-page opposite this photograph by Nichol Elliot, Threading the Needle:

The Mother’s Portrait.


ON floor and wall the firelight soon will wake
When steals along the brae the gloaming hour;
Till then the mother in her household bow’r,
Love’s task unending plies of “mend and make”
With busy hands, that thread and needle take
Or wean or toy with equal kindly pow’r;
So sits she, ⎯one whom life could never sour,
Here pictured lovingly for home’s dear sake.

O glamour might! when mingling love and art
Reveal familiar dearness wonder rife
And leave their vision wrought with filial skill,
Where light and line are handmaids to the heart,
Love rendering back its native gift of life,
The aims of truth in beauty to fulfil!

John “Humie” Elliot, the great nephew of photographer Nichol Elliot, has supplied the following background on the photographer’s parents:

Both William and Mary were born in England either at Tweedmouth or Berwick-on-Tweed.  …They came to Coldstream in the 1870’s when Mary inherited a house in the town from her mother.

Threading the Needle

Image Dimensions17.9 x 12.5 | 18.7 x 13.3 cm glued along right margin

Support Dimensions19.0 x 24.8 cm