This may sound like a continuation of the last post but it is a bit different. I enjoy browsing eBay now and then for old patterns or something that catches my eye. While browsing the other day, I found an old pattern book from 1943 called “Crochet your Victory Barnyard”.
Sure, it has seen better days and wasn’t in “mint” condition but I liked the illustrations inside. Each pattern has a little portrait, reminiscent of a child’s picture book, with a poem about that particular animal’s usefulness in relation to the WWII effort. Here is one for the black sheep:
The poem, if you can’t read it in the photo is this:
The black lamb on this farm is proud
And holds his head above the crowd
He has a right to be elated
For let it here and now be stated
The clothes for all our battling forces
Are made from wool which he endorses
Cute, huh? Long time readers already know I have a soft spot in my head for the homefront war effort of “Knit Your Bit”, but this little booklet got me thinking. What other V for Victory type of projects were afoot during WWII? The Victory Garden idea is well known; growing produce in front yards, vacant lots, even plots in Hyde Park so that the commercial produce could go to the troops. There are plenty of references around for the gardens, as well as scrap metal drives and collecting pennies. But the idea that there were crafting projects aimed at bolstering morale and the Victory effort caught my eye.
I started looking around for more of these types of crafts and so far I haven’t found that many. I did find a cute embroidery series of “Victory Cats” that has a different cat and a different reminder for each day of the week. “Be suspicious”, “Ride a Bike”, “Keep ’em flying”, etc. I found a “Victory Sweater” in the Victoria and Albert Museum archives that is essentially just a red/white/blue concoction but that isn’t exactly the same thing. Fostering patriotism is certainly common in crafting – today there are tons of Old Glory patterns in every craft – but the homefront war effort was unique, with rationing and price ceilings.
Ok, so what does any of this have to do with now? Well, while searching I found another booklet called “Make Do and Mend for Victory”. This booklet’s job was to teach would-be seamstresses how to take their old clothes, and the clothes of their husbands off fighting, and turn them into newer looking items. There are instructions for converting men’s shirts into girls’ dresses, revamping older dresses by changing the collar or the hem, etc.
What’s interesting about this is that I recently purchased a new book called “Complete Embellishing: Techniques and Projects” by Kayte Terry. Ms. Terry’s book has tons of ways to refab an old boring item into something you really like. Adding interest to a neckline, changing the hemline of a skirt (sound familiar?) and reusing materials.
The idea behind making do with what you have and mending it (or revamping it) is certainly relevant today. Sure, we aren’t sending our nation’s wool into the construction of military uniforms anymore, but hard times for many people are here and learning to make lemonade out of a wallet full of lemons is no bad thing.
For those of you who sew (or make other crafts) you probably have done this before to some degree. But for those of us new to the sewing game, this might be a challenge and one worth taking on. I’m not suggesting making dresses out of flour sacks, like something out of the Grapes of Wrath (though little girl dresses out of pillowcases can be really really cute) but maybe not being so quick to donate clothes that have seen better days. Maybe those shirts, those jeans can get a new lease on life as something else. Call it what you want – Making Do, Upcycling – but I call it smart.