World War 1 at Fort Snelling

This past weekend, your head Sewluminati was honored to be a part of the World War 1 Centennial weekend at Historic Fort Snelling at Bdote. While not portraying an actual military persona, I was honored to be representing the “Civilian Corps of the Red Cross.”   

When war broke out, everyone banded together to help do their part.  Women all over the country aligned with the Red Cross to knit, sew, and help provide supplies to the hospitals overseas, as well as the stateside recovery hospitals.  Even McCalls and other Pattern makers rallied together to provide patterns that the average sewist could purchase and work on making hospital clothing, comfort kits, socks, bandages, and more.

Examples of the patterns from McCalls- February 1917
May Manton’s Comfort Kit Pattern

I worked on Comfort Kits, specifically. Filled with items of comfort for the soldiers- shaving soap, toothbrushes, combs, playing cards, and of course, tobacco. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, there was a Comfort Care committee, and that committee made over 20,000 of these comfort kits and sent them to men overseas during the war. They are simple kits, but I can totally imagine that the men were so grateful for these simple items, similar to care packages sent to soldiers today.

Working on attaching the tape edge to the comfort kit

In addition to working on the Comfort Kits, I had several hand crank sewing machines laid out for folks to try their hands at sewing practice sheets. Folks really seemed to enjoy the opportunity to try them, and learn that not only the men “over there” participated in the war effort. 

I find it fascinating, not just that many of the surgical clothing and recovery clothing was made by civilian ladies, most in their homes, but the fact that it was exclusively made this way- there was no industrial production of these items to meet the needs of the hospitals. Bandages were rolled by school aged children participating in the Junior Red Cross- 50% of all school age children participated in America alone!  Women formed groups in their homes, in their churches, all to help their sons, husbands, and brothers overseas.  We hear a lot about the homefront efforts during World War 2, but so little about the first world war.  To be able to honor these ladies, and share their efforts with the public in addition to bringing visibility to the “Great War” was a wonderful time.

Here’s more pictures from the weekend: 

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