To commemorate the centenary of the First World War Wonderwool Wales 2017 will be showcasing a Centenary Textile Exhibition in Hall 3. The exhibition will explore the role and development of handmade textiles including knitted, crocheted and felted items, during WW1. It will include the Centenary Stitches Exhibition co-ordinated by costumier Pauline Loven, a range of Circular Sock Knitting Machines demonstrated by Hilary Kendall, various displays telling the story of textiles 100 years ago, and an interactive area where visitors can take part in our Centenary Textiles Community Project: A Curtain of Poppies.
The Centenary Textiles Exhibition features the Centenary Stitches Exhibition, which appeared at the National Archives during 2016. The WAG Screen knitting project, Centenary Stitches, gathered over 300 volunteers, including expert knitters, designers and historians exploring women's contribution to the war effort in the shape of their knitting.
During the making of the First World War film, Tell Them of Us, it became apparent just how much women supplemented the basic military uniform by knitting for the men on the front line. Gloves, scarves, Balaclavas, sleeping helmets, wrist warmers and a great variety of other shapes and purposes were produced, parcelled and posted. These knitted items were either sent direct to soldiers by their by families or supplied through major organisations such as the Red Cross, Queen Mary's Needlework Guild or the Regimental Comforts Fund. These knitted items gradually became known as 'comforts'. Perhaps it was as much the love with which they were knitted as the warmth they offered which comforted the men, even when they never knew who knitted them. It was like touching home.
From the village of Thimbleby to the Western Front, two brothers and their story are brought to life in community film Tell Them of Us - a tribute to their duty and the impact on those they left behind.
This display of clothing from the film tells the story of how an international army of knitters was created almost by accident, not only to help costume the film, but also to reveal the extraordinary range of knitted items produced back home for men in the trenches.
Hilary Kendall will be exhibiting some of her collection of fully restored and operational circular sock knitting machines. The development of these mechanical knitters at the end of the 19th Century meant that by WW1 the speed at which socks could be produced increased hugely. A popular British-made model, the Cymbal, was clamped to a table and hand-cranked. It was often used by homeworkers and was adopted during the war effort not only for sock knitting but also for the production of bandages. Another significant development in knitting technique during the war, was the development of the Kitchener Stitch (known today as grafting), allowing seamless socks to be produced which, unlike traditional sock patterns, did not cause any problems with rubbing or sore feet for the troops.
Wonderwool Wales would like to bring together our community of textile makers to recreate the united determination of the WW1 volunteers. The aim of the Centenary Textiles project is to produce a Community Textile Installation at Wonderwool Wales 2018 to mark the end of WW1. The 'Curtain of Poppies' will include 887,858 textile poppies, to commemorate each person from the UK who died serving their country.
Volunteers are invited to use our range of patterns to make one or more textile poppies to feature in the Curtain of Poppies in 2018. If you or your textile group would like to make a larger contribution, please make lengths of green i-cord (4 stitches) approximately 2 metres long, and stitch pairs of poppies back to back, at a spacing of about 15 cm. Pick up a leaflet at the Show, visit our interactive area in Hall 3 to join in, or find the patterns and further information here.
Visitors should also look out for costumed re-enactors wearing authentic reproduction clothing from 100 years ago. You may be surprised by the styles, techniques and materials that were used.