Knitting Our Bit!

Group of people knitting beside mitten tree, second image of William Hamilton Merritt figure wearing a knit hat and scarfThe Mitten Tree is a special holiday tradition at the St. Catharines Museum. For many years, Museum staff and volunteers have collected donations for Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold and Out of the Cold in the form of winter accessories – hats, scarves and mittens. The St. Catharines Museum kicked off this year’s Mitten Tree campaign on November 14 and will be accepting donations through January 3.

We’ve made a knitting circle a part of every Mitten Tree campaign launch since 2013. It’s a great way to jump-start the campaign and offers newbie knitting enthusiasts like myself a wonderful opportunity to pick up some tips from some very experienced (and patient!) knitters.

The Mitten Tree knitting circle has taken on extra historical significance for all of us here at the Museum as we mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War with our exhibit, Doing Our Bit: WWI from St. Catharines to the Western Front. While conducting research for the exhibition, I learned what an essential activity knitting was during the war years, with thousands of women across the British Empire demonstrating their support for the troops by knitting socks, scarves, hats and mittens for soldiers at the front.

This knitting campaign was no casual affair – millions of knitted items were produced according to very particular specifications issued by the military. Women on the home front organized these efforts with military precision, crafting, collecting and distributing these knitted comforts to the troops. Organizations like the Red Cross encouraged women’s efforts – the American Red Cross launched a “knit your bit” campaign and the accompanying, iconic “our boys need sox” poster became a symbol of the war effort at home.

In our own small way, our Mitten Tree knitters channel the same energy – knitting to help others in our community stay a little warmer this winter! The Museum happily accepts donations of winter accessories for children and adults through January 3, 2016.

For more information about the 2015 Mitten Tree Campaign, check out our events page: http://www.stcatharines.ca/en/experiencein/MuseumEvents.asp

Meredith Leonard is the Visitor Services Coordinator at the St. Catharines Museum

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