SA History Project

South Australia History Project

History Through the Eye of a Needle

History Through the Eye of a Needle

 is an ongoing series of virtual exhibitions and articles relating to the history of South Australian embroidery and embroiderers. The research is funded by History SA Community Museums Programs grants.

The first story hosted here was Pioneers and Palms: Three Generations of South Australian Embroiderers. This family donated to the Guild Museum a collection of needlework and linens which became the starting point of this research project by Dr Margaret Leahy who was assisted by Mandy Paul and Iris Major.

We would also like to acknowledge and thank all involved in the project.

Please contact us if you would like to comment on this project or have further information you would like to share HERE


Research on this story has extended from the collection of needlework and linens made by Georgiana Palm and held in the Guild’s Museum, to items worked and owned by later generations of her family.


Expand the names below to learn more about these pioneering family and their embroideries. More indepth information is available on the Bales, Palm & Newman families in the links below.

William Bales

William Bales: born 1811, in England and came to SA on the ‘Tam O Shanter’ in 1836 at the same time as Colonel Light. He was a carpenter and builder. He told his children that he had fallen out with his family because he was sent to the colony after he fell in love with a family servant. He resisted all his family’s attempts at reconciliation, but near the end of his life seemed to regret this. Eventually, he became the proprietor of the Tea Tree Gully Hotel.

More Information

Georgiana Knapp

Georgiana Knapp: born 1821, came from Kenton near Dawlish , England. She arrived with her parents on the ‘Hartley’ in 1837 and was endorsed as ‘Randall’s servant’. William Randall had come as a farm manager for the South Australia Company. The oldest of his seven children was William, later Captain Randall, one the great paddle-steamer pioneers of the Murray River. Georgiana’s health was poor and she died at 27, having had three children. The oldest, Mary Ann Maria, who married Carl Frederick Neumann, was one of the first children born to new settlers in the Colony.

Carl Neumann

Carl Frederick Neumann: born 1834, left Bremen, Germany, with his parents, two sisters and a brother. They arrived on the ‘George Washington’ in 1846. Carl’s brother did not survive the voyage. The family first settled at Klemzig, now a suburb of Adelaide, but then farmed at Hope Valley which was settled by German immigrants. They moved to Houghton in 1850. Carl anglicized his name to Charles Newman in the late 1850s. He is known to have worked on the family farm and to have gone to the goldfields in Victoria. In 1854, he bought 68 acres of land at Houghton.

More Information



Mary Ann Bales

Mary Ann Maria Newman (nee Bales) died in 1932. She was 93. An obituary in ‘The Advertiser’ described her as ‘the oldest native-born woman in South Australia’. She had 59 grandchildren and 49 great-grandchildren.


Charles Newman

Charles and Mary Ann Newman developed their property into an orchard and plant nursery which was eventually called ‘The Model Nursery’ of CF Newman and Son. They expanded to the point that, by the turn of the century, they listed over 300 orchids, 600 roses and over 300 different fruit trees as well as numerous varieties of edible plants. The Newman family is an integral part of the horticultural history of South Australia as they supplied much of the plant stock for the early orchards, vineyards and, later, for the irrigated lands of the Murray Valley including those of the Chaffey brothers of Mildura (NSW).

Johanna Bussenschutt

Johanna Palm (nee Bussenschutt): born 1822 left Bremen, Germany, in 1846.

Johann Palm

Johann Palm is known to have to have born in Germany and also left in 1846. It is possible that they both came on the ‘Pauline’. They married in 1848 and first settled at Hope Valley. Johann was a blacksmith and wheelwright, but took up farming. After the early death of Johann, Johanna kept the farm and after a few years the oldest son, also Johann, took over.

More Information



Albert Palm








Stuart Humble


​A South Australian History Trust grant enabled the Guild to engage a professional photographer, Michael Mullan, to photograph a wide range of textiles held in the Guild’s Museum. Some of these photographs were used to make up this “sampler” of items from the collection that are of historical significance to South Australia.

Click on an image to go to that story


Medallion Patchwork Quilt Top

A medallion patchwork quilt top with a series of pieced and appliqued borders in different styles surrounding the central medallion. Some hexagons have been made from small scraps pieced together. There is one machine-sewn seam.

Christening Gown and Handkerchief

The front skirt and bodice panels of the christening robe are worked in applique on net in the style of Carrickmacross. The design is of flowers and leaves in a tall vase with sprays of flowers and a large bow and a border of clover leaves. There is a variety of needlerun net fillings. A matching handkerchief has a centre of cotton lawn with a wide border of embroidered net with a design of clover leaves and flowers and a ribbon edge. The handkerchief was used to cover the baby’s face when driving.

Near Brachina Gorge 1981

A framed picture, machine-embroidered by Meg Douglas, of gum trees along a creek bed in the Flinders Ranges. Meg Douglas was a lecturer at the South Australian School of Art and established (and was convener of for many years) the Certificate Course at The Embroiderers’ Guild of South Australia.

Miniature Museum

63 small, clear plastic boxes, each 3cm x 7cm, containing embroidered objects. These objects represent miniature museum exhibits of animal, mineral or vegetable origin and are worked in a wide range of embroidery techniques.

Canvas Work Panel

Canvas work panel in cross stitch and extensive beading, depicting water birds and lotus flowers in a marshy setting.