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anecdote selv edge.org

THE FORTITUDE OF THE FAIRER SEX IN WARTIMEHard times

“In England now times are hard. We have had six years of war and two of uneasy peace. Of silks and threads and linens there are none. Nor yet sheets, or pillow-cases, or towels. We have few clothes and most things that can be bought are shoddy. I am weary of darning and patching and mending. So I shall use what skeins and remnants I have left over from better days and plan my samplers to suit them. Any leisure I can steal I spend on this book which is a happy outlet for my love of finish and gracious living." So begins Eustace Wood's sampler book with the words worked in cross-stitch.

The twelve exquisite samplers she created in 1947 are mounted on boards to form a concertina book, now in the collection of the Embroiderers' Guild. It reveals the monotonous daily routine of rationing and shortages and how individuals grasped every chance to create glimpses of beauty in an otherwise drab world.

The six years of the Second World War, 1939-1945, jolted the British people out of their accustomed attitudes to fabric and thread. Men and women, young and old alike were involved in the 'people's war' effort. Suddenly it was demanded they use their skills and the available materials to cope in a world of extreme anxiety. Those with experience were called into public service and factories were swiftly set up for the production of urgently needed items such as uniforms, kit bags, camouflage nets, barage balloons and parachutes.

Constance Howard and her students produced stitched maps of Germany for night-time raids as they were more robust than paper and the lines could be traced with the fingers in the dark. Sewing was alloted a new role in their lives and even their sanity – many came to depend on it. Silk kites were used to carry aloft a radio aerial to signal the position of pilots shot down at sea, and the wings of fighter planes were constructed of Irish linen hand stitched taut over the wings at eight stitches to the inch. Convalescent nurses making camoflage nets, Evelyn Dunbar, 1941, IWM

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