Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Volunteer Sewing, or Stitching Meets History

I am in a long, dry spell of unemployment.  Having decided late in life to start a new career path, I went back to school to get a degree in History (yes, I know, not exactly a blazing path to success) and now find myself virtually unemployable.  The diploma looks nice hanging on the wall, but I have found out the hard way that youth pretty much trumps experience in the job market.  All my 20-something classmates have found jobs while I languish in the ranks of the unemployed.

In the meantime, I am doing volunteer work in my field. I sit on a local Historic Preservation Commission and I work part-time at a history museum. (This is exactly what I wanted to do when I went for the degree, only I hoped to be PAID for it!)

One of my jobs at the museum is deciphering 19th century letters like this and transcribing them:
(If this doesn't look like fun, then I can't explain it.  Either you love this kind of thing or you don't.)  ;)

When they found out I could sew, I was quickly given a project.  This, of course, is a costume, not an authentic reproduction dress.  (It has a zipper up the back and everything.)  But this was the pattern they asked me to make.

Here is this is the dress on the girl I made it for - not yet hemmed.  She wasn't available for fittings, so the waist turned out a tad too big, even though the size matched her measurements.  She said not to worry, since she will be wearing an apron with it (which I will undoubtedly make as well!)

I thought the dress looked awfully plain (they didn't want any of the trims included with the pattern) so I picked up my crochet hook and made a collar.  It looks great with the dress, I think, and the museum staff was duly impressed.

Then they asked me to make some vintage-style aprons.  JoAnn actually has a line of print fabrics reminiscent of the 1930s and 1940s.

I loved this print, especially!

Anyway, this sort of thing keeps me busy until I can find paying gigs... 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Knitting Socks for the Red Cross

This is a slight diversion from vintage Singers, but it relates to history, which is what I study.  I am preparing for a demonstration in an upcoming exhibit related to the home front efforts in WWII.  The exhibit will be primarily about Victory Gardens and canning foods, but I volunteered to demonstrate how women knit for the GIs during the war.

Several years ago I bought a really neat commemorative Knit Kit from the Red Cross which had a replica of the man's sock pattern they issued to knitters along with yarn for the project.

I made a sample pair for the demonstration:

The history included in the kit explains the Red Cross "Knit Your Bit" campaign.  

Socks could obviously be knit faster and more efficiently by machines in factories but manufacturing was allocated to the war effort as much as possible. Anything that could be produced by alternate means freed up factories for war production.  (And this, of course, is why sewing machines weren't being manufactured during the war either.)

But there was another benefit to the home knitting initiative.  Every American wanted to be involved in working for Victory.  Kids collected tin for scrap metal drives, women worked in plants producing war materiel, and older people tended Victory Gardens.  Knitting was something anyone could do - young and old alike - so the Red Cross urged Americans to "Knit Your Bit" and supplied the yarn and specifications for the garments that were needed.  I imagine that to women on the home front, worried about their men on the front lines, it could be calming and therapeutic to knit with other women and know they were providing warm, comforting items to the troops.  And for the men who received these items, I imagine that just knowing they were hand-knit by the women back home gave them an extra measure of encouragement.  It was a human connection that reminded them of what they were fighting for.

So in the spirit of the Knit Your Bit campaign from WWII,  I am reflecting on those who fought and sacrificed for our freedom while I knit these socks.  Even though a GI won't wear them, I still think about the young men who fought and died overseas while their mothers, wives, and sweethearts did their part back home.  I have four sons of my own, so I can imagine how knitting socks like this would have been an outlet for the constant stress of knowing my boys were in danger.  I hope that during the demonstration I will be able to convey some of these sentiments while I knit the socks.