Socks, Pincushions and Stories exhibition

case 3 shawlmain case book with socksSocks, Pincushions and Stories is a project run by Up For Crafts, part of Voluntary Arts England, in partnership with BBC Radio Merseyside and with the LJMU project Merseyside at War.

In 2014 we held a number of workshops to recreate ‘Embroidered Postcards’, similar to those which were sent home from France and Belgium in their thousands during the First World War. Many families contacted us with their original postcards to share their stories with the Merseyside at War project.

For our next project we decided to look at the role of women and at heritage crafts. Throughout autumn 2015 Up For Crafts and Merseyside at War held a series of workshops exploring traditional stitching and knitting techniques. Participants gained skills to create ‘Sweetheart Pincushions’ and hand knitted socks for this exhibition, recognising the unsung craftswomen of the First World War.

During this period many women joined local initiatives such as the Women’s War Service Bureau (based initially at Gambier Terrace); the Civic Service League (who had premises on Bold Street), as well as the Red Cross Society (who for a short period of time met at the Walker Art Gallery). Local newspapers urged women to contribute their craft skills to knit thousands of pairs of socks and sew garments for ‘comfort’ packages for the troops. The Lord Mayor appealed for help and according to the Liverpool Post and Mercury, 19 October 1917, the Town Hall was ‘deluged with showers of socks’.

One of the founding colleges of Liverpool John Moores University was the Liverpool School of Cookery, established in 1875. This later became the F.L. Calder College of Domestic Science, which offered a range of courses to young women, including needlework. Annual Reports and minutes from 1915-18 record students knitting socks for the 6th Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment and mending garments for the Belgian Refugees housed in Liverpool. College staff joined the local ‘Adopt a Prisoner of War’ scheme, sending parcels to men housed in camps across Germany.

A Prospectus of the Liverpool Training School of Cookery and Technical College of Domestic Science, 1918, highlights the classes suspended during the First World War (High Class Cookery and Needlework). Also uncovered in this collection is a number of examples of students work; from a beautifully embroidered shawl to a cotton sampler showing a range of needlework techniques as illustrated in ‘Needlework for Student Teachers’ by Amy K Smith, 1914.

Books and journals from Special Collections and Archives are also on display in this exhibition, including examples of craft projects in Fancy Needlework Illustrated, 1912-14 and a copy of Princess Mary’s Gift Book, 1914 produced to raise money for the Queen’s ‘Work for Women Fund’.

The exhibition runs from 2nd – 28th February 2016 in the Hornby Room, Liverpool Central Library, William Brown Street, Liverpool, L3 8EW

FREE DROP-IN CRAFT WORKSHOP ‘Sweetheart Pin-brooches’

Saturday 13th February – 11am-3pm. Suitable for ages 8 and up

Join us in the Hornby Library for this hands-on workshop creating mini ‘Sweetheart’ brooches inspired by the Pincushions in our display.

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