Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Calgary Knitting 1939 pt 1


Three hundred and fifty pairs of mitts; 300 pullovers and sweaters; 150 pairs of socks; incredible numbers of towels, binders, slings, pneumonia jackets, hospital gowns, pajamas, dressing gowns, pillow slips, mattress pads, personal property bags and countless other articles designed to make the soldiers' life more comfortable.
These represent only part of the work that has been accomplished under the capable direction of Mrs. T. J. S. Skinner, president of the Calgary branch of the Red Cross, since war was declared. Most of it was done by the 8,000 women who have organized throughout the city into groups whose purpose is to knit, sew or do anything they can to help their country in its time of need. There are 113 of these groups, ranging in size from 30 members to that of the Scarboro United church group, which boasts a record membership of 200.
These groups draw their members from every walk of life and from every creed. Bridge and community clubs, whose sole aim previously was a good time, have turned themselves into war units and their aims is to do their utmost to strengthen the morale of their country. Home and School Associations, Church Guilds, the Russian-Canadian Club, the Council of Jewish Women, overseas nurses, wives of railway engineers, chapters and lodges of all kinds have turned to knitting needles and sewing machines as instruments with which they can do their bit.
However, it is not from among the housewives only that the 8,000 draw its numbers. Several sororities have offered their services and the girls of the James Short Junior high school are busily knitting mitts. The beauty parlor group members knit between appointments and there is also a group for the deaf mute and one for the blind.
Each club has its own conveners for knitting and sewing. Although most of the sewing is done during group meetings, all the knitting is done by the members in their own homes. All the conveners report that the members of their groups are very anxious to knit and sew. Women from homes where the income is too small to allow monetary donations feel that they are showing their desire to help by making the supplied materials into garments. Socks are created in the intervals between baking, sweeping, washing dishes and ironing clothes as the busy homemaker strives to maintain peace and good cheer in her own home. Probably if each knitted garment could tell its own story the soldiers would need no other form of entertainment.
Besides the members of clubs there are hundreds of women who work individually. Most of them call at headquarters for wool and bring back the finished product. They do as much as they can with the time at their disposal and are never urged to do more than they wish or to hurry with their work.
One of these has a system all her own. Mrs. Skinner passes her home each day on her way to and from the office. When the little lady needs more wool she telephones to say so. Mrs. Skinner collects an average of a sweater a week from this home and leaves enough wool for anther each time she calls.
One lady who was particularly anxious to do her bit but whose household duties were too heavy to leave time for knitting had her quota of wool knitted into socks by a machine. She paid for this service at the rate of $1.05 a week. When she brought the socks in she learned that they were supposed to be knit by hand since hand-knit socks are much easier to walk in. She explained her difficulty and the convener suggested that instead of taking wool when she had no time to knit, she could make a donation to the Red Cross each week if she wished. Her donation would be every bit as welcome in whatever form it was made.

Taken from  Elnora Bailey's article in The Calgary Herald, November 25, 1939

- "Probably if each knitted garment could tell its own story the soldiers would need no other form of entertainment."
Stay tuned for Part Two.

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