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Colourmakers worked on ships' colours (flags) and pennants. The admiralty only permitted female colourmakers, making this a unique trade in the Dockyard. In the early part of the century this was even more exclusive because the only women allowed to take up these jobs were widows of naval service men. Later on in the century the admiralty permitted the widows of dockyard workers to work as colourmakers in the colourloft.

Ladies at work in the Colourloft
Ladies at work in the Colourloft (PRDHT)

The chargehand in the colourloft was a woman, just like her male counterparts, one of her jobs was to distribute the work among the women. The colourmakers worked on more than just colours. They made overalls for the dockyard workers, coverings for furniture and also all the curtains needed in ships and shore establishments.

Three ladies working at the cutting table in the Colourloft
Three ladies working at the cutting Table in the Colourloft (PRDHT)

The Dockyard treated the women differently to the men by permitting them to work different hours. They started work at seven and finished at four. However most of the Dockyard finished at half past four. This allowed the women to leave the Dockyard before the great rush of men.

Over the century the sewing machines used by colour makers changed with technology. In the early days they used pedal machines, slowly electric sewing machines came into the colourloft. Colourmakers used electric sewing machines' different settings to alter stitches and work thicker fabrics.

Sewing machine used in the Colourloft
Sewing machine used in the Colourloft (PRDHT)

There were also more specialised machines for specific tasks. These included sewing machines that could stitch buttons or had double needles.