Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Stitching For Victory

stitching for victory
Sue, over at Frugal In Suffolk, mentioned this as being one of her recent library books, and it looked interested so I ordered it from our library. I did wonder if it would be a cut-and-paste lightweight affair, with a picture of Mrs Sew-and-Sew and reproductions of all the ‘make do and mend’ leaflets. But I was delighted to find it was not that at all!
This excellent book by Suzanne Griffith is proper history, interesting facts, well presented, beautifully illustrated, and cleverly and thoughtfully set out. Well worth the read – even if you are not a stitcher yourself. Ms Griffiths treats the word ‘stitch’ as an abstract noun, as a virtue like courage, fortitude, faith, or thrift. She argues that ‘stitch’ was an essential part of the ammunition which helped Britain win WW2.
Woman's friend No.997 Friday, June 15,1945 (1)
Yes, the cheery Mrs S&S does appear, along with diagrams showing how to turn hubby’s suit into  outfits for the children – but the book has so much more than that. The book begins with  the Kindertransport- German Jewish children brought to the UK and safety between 1938 and 1940– and how their mothers sewed precious small things for them to carry. Toys, scarves etc…or they gave them mementoes- granny’s sampler, a monogrammed hankie…and afterwards, these children said that all that remained of their family heritage was that tiny piece of stitching – because everything else had been burnt at Auschwitz or Belsen. I have to admit that this first chapter was so moving, I had to stop and recover before I could read any more!
WAAFs_and_Balloons_10But the book says so much about the power of stitch in wartime. The women who sewed the ‘Blimps’ and the parachutes, the men in POW camps secretly stitching clothes for their escape attempts, the wedding dresses made from bed sheets, and the curtains from flour sacks, the thriftiness, and other clever recycling of one fabric item into another. Clemmie Churchill adopting a ‘turban headscarf’ as her signature style, in recognition of the girls working in the factories. The sheer determination of the British people not to let wartime restrictions remove the joy from life – finding bits of ric-rac trim, and skeins of embroidery thread in order to add brightness to plain, dull dresses, or make hand-me-downs that little bit more special for the recipient.
I have genuinely loved reading this book – and learned so much from it. I am thrilled that so many younger women in their 20s and 30s are currently taking up knitting, crochet and needlework – and hope this trend continues. ‘Stitch’ can bring so much pleasure, both in the creation, and in wearing the end result. Developing craft skills, sharing them, using them to redeem rags and remnants – all this is good. This book reminds us of an important time in our history, and the fact that many of the men, women and children in WW2 really were Stitching For Victory. Definitely I would rate this *****
[thanks Sue, for your original blogpost!]


  1. Note to self : Must get back to doing some cross stitching. It's been years.

  2. I really enjoyed it so I'm glad you did too. A good chunky read I thought

    1. I've just discovered that SG used to live in Suffolk too - your neck of the woods!


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!