Centenary Stitches Exhibition, London.

Monday 4th January 2016 was spent installing the Centenary Stitches exhibition at The National Archives in London.

Here are some pictures of the team setting it up:

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L to R: Jessamy Carlson, Heather Crowder, Ali Shepley, Alison, Pauline Loven, Kate Loven, Alison Hinkley and Peter Halse. Thank you so much to our team for all their hard work!

Here is a sneak preview of the exhibition – we even recreated part of the set we filmed in for ‘William’s Story, the follow-up drama-documentary!

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The WW1 bunker we filmed William’s Story in.
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The recreated bunks on location (photo Jeff James).
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A sample of the displays of WW1 knitting that was so carefully recreated for the film.

The exhibition is open from now until March 19th.

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Knitting for ‘Tell Them of Us’, WWI Film

‘Tell Them of Us’, WWI Film

Even before the script was written for ‘Tell them of Us’, I spent a year researching and gathering vintage resources to begin creating the costume. The film was to be set in the Lincolnshire village of Thimbleby during WW1. As I worked I became aware of just how much clothing was hand knitted during the period and realised that to only include sewn clothing would have been a distortion. Knitting clothing is more easily within the reach of lower income families than sewing clothing and we were telling the story of a small Lincolnshire village including many classes of people. Fabric had to be purchased by the yard, usually requiring three of four yards at a time. Wool can be bought by the ball, or spun from fleece, and the cost can be spread. Knitting doesn’t require expensive machinery either, just a few pairs of needles. It can also be done almost anywhere, and at any time. An experienced knitter doesn’t need much light either (most of the time).

The Crowder family 1917

During the war, knitting became a vital part of the home-front war effort, with millions of pairs of socks being knitted by women and children and sent to the front line via the Red Cross. Balaclavas, hats, mufflers, mitts, gloves, chest warmers, cholera belts (a knitted band to comfort the abdomen) and even bandages were knitted and sent to the front as well.

Will the officer

Knitted clothing also shows the changing fashions of the time, something I was keen to reflect, with a distinct move from shawls to cardigans, waistcoats and jumpers. Driven by the need to become active members of society, women had begun to abandon the wearing of corsets. This trend was accelerated by a scarcity of corsetry due to shortage of metal for their spiral wires and steel busks. However, corsets kept the body core insulated and warm, needing only a shawl to cover the shoulders to keep the chill off. Once corsets are no longer worn, cardigans, waistcoats and jumpers become vital for warmth. They are also liberating; shawls restrict the movement of the arms as they are needed to keep the shawl in place, sweaters now permit the playing of sports as well as active involvement in the workplace and factory.

Cardigan by MaryLou Egan
Cardigan by MaryLou Egan

So many times people have said of the wonderful clothes created for ‘Tell Them of Us’, ‘I would wear that’. Women’s clothing in this period becomes recognisably modern. It is part of the story I wanted to tell, so a huge thank you to the amazing team of knitters, Centenary Stitches, who helped create such a believable and accurate wardrobe for the film. A book has now been produced based on a modernisation of the vintage knitting and crochet patterns which is now available from Northern Lace Press. The film ‘Tell Them of Us’ is now available on DVD from WAG Screen Shop.

Tams by Su Bonnett
Tams by Su Bonnett and Debra Ann Ashkar

The Centenary Stitches Exhibition November-December 2014

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The exhibition ‘Centenary Stitches’ was held at the The Collection, Lincoln, for four weekends across November and December. The Centenary Stitches exhibition is now closed, but was a great success. If you are interested in hosting the exhibition please get in touch.

Above: Interviews with knitters; Liz Lovick. Judith Brodnicki, Jane Lawrence, MaryLou Egan and Juniper Askew.

A book of modernised WW1 patterns for the knits, used in the film, Centenary Stitches is available from Northern Lace Press

Here is one of the comments: Having heard about this film & the knitting it inspired from several different sources I went to Lincoln & saw it on Sunday. The whole thing was fantastic – so much attention to detail by so many people & so many angles to the whole project, that all came together so effectively… I hope this exhibition & film travel to as many places as possible. Congratulations & all strength to you all!

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Film and Exhibition Poster

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