Showing posts with label Grey Sock Project. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grey Sock Project. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Notes from the Grey Sock Project - Knitting Our Heritage!

About the Women’s Patriotic Association

The Women’s Patriotic Association (WPA) was made up of over 15,000 women across Newfoundland and Labrador who donated their time to raise money and support those at home and overseas. One of the WPA’s goals was to provide Newfoundland and Labrador troops with the comforts of home. Volunteers knitted scarves, socks, mittens, and hats which were shipped overseas along with medical supplies and other goods.

To commemorate what the WPA did for those at home and overseas, the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, the City of St. John’s, and other partners are embracing their spirit to help those in need today. We have been gathering volunteer knitters to knit socks, scarves, hats and other knitwear to donate to groups and individuals in need.  The Grey Sock Project aims to link traditional craft and contemporary community by creating knit goods, sharing knowledge, and helping each other.

Read more about the Women's Patriotic Association and the grey sock here.

Sock Knitting Patterns

Historic Patterns
  • Check out our past ICH Newsletter for a WWI Knitting Pattern on page 5.
  • The American Red Cross also gathered volunteers to knit socks. Click here and try your hand at this modern pattern adapted from 1917.
  • The Canadian Red Cross Spring 1918 War Work book contains a pattern on page 15. No modern adaptation created. Take a look and give it a try here.
  • See Needlework and Knitting Instructions produced by the British Red Cross Society in 1914 on page 17.

Modern Patterns

Donate your knitting to a good cause 

There are lots of people out there who could use a warm hat, scarf, or pair of socks. You have a couple options for donating your knitting to a good cause.

1. Donate to Some Warm Welcome! It is an initiative created to welcome Syrian refugees that are arriving in Canada. Hats, mittens, socks, scarves, vamps or anything that will keep someone warm this winter are welcome. Attach a tag that says “Welcome to Canada” in English, French and Arabic. These tags are available to download.

Source: Some Warm 
Welcome Facebook page
To donate to this cause, drop off your knitted goods at:
  • any "Some Good Market" event (see for dates and locations)
  • Cast On Cast Off, 685 Water St, St. John's 
  • The Bay Roberts Visitor's Information Pavilion, call for hours 683.1798
  • MALA, 74 Broadway, Corner Brook
  • All 95 public libraries of Newfoundland and Labrador. Check for the closest one near you! 
2. You can mail or drop off your knitted goods to:

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
1 Springdale Street, 1st Floor 
PO Box 5171
St. John's, Newfoundland
Canada A1C 5V5

3. You can also donate to your local shelter and/or food bank

Friday, March 11, 2016

Knit Some Socks Knit-Along

On Saturday March 5th, despite the weather, we had around 45 lovely knitters join Christine LeGrow and Shirley Scott for an afternoon of knitting. Participants knitted traditional Newfoundland socks found in Operation Homespun which is produced by the Anna Templeton Centre and is available for purchase!

While participants were ribbing k2, p2, Christine read poems and excerpts from A Pair of Grey Socks: facts and fancies by Tryphena Soper Duley; Verses by Margaret Duley. The book was written in 1916 and was a perfect way to connect the knit-along with the 100th anniversary of the First World War. "A woman is knitting most all the day, a sock that shapes from a ball of grey, her fingers fly, and the needles click, fast grows the sock so soft an thick..." In the poem, white stripes on the grey sock "marks the socks for the slender youth who does his part for the cause of truth. The red is a sign for the hardy man, at the height of his strength in life's short span... blue in the sock is the medium size, the colour dear to sailors' wives. So in the grey socks red, white and blue form our colours so bright and true..."

Shirley Scott told us about the research she did for Canada Knits: Comfort in a Northern Land. The favourite story of the afternoon was Queen Elizabeth I encouraging the knitting industry. Shirley said after Queen Elizabeth I received her first pair of silk knitted socks she stated, "... indeed I like silk stockings so well, because they are so pleasant, fine and delicate, that henceforth I will wear no more cloth stockings."

After the ribbing of the sock, it was time for the leg of the sock which is composed by a simple stockinette stitch. Shirley and Christine showed examples of mistakes that can be made when knitting a sock. For example, the ribbing being too tight to fit your foot in or the foot of the sock being too big causing it to fold in your shoe!
Laughs were had and knowledge was shared! I had an e-mail from a participant saying she felt lost at the beginning but a wonderful lady next to her was extremely helpful and she has been working on her sock since. We also had someone text a photo to Christine who was knitting the pattern in Quebec at the same we were here in St. John's. We hoped the knit-along would do exactly this.

This Saturday is the last session! Christine and Shirley will be showing participants how to turn the heel and graft the toe. If you missed last week and are interested in coming this Saturday, send me an e-mail so I can send you the pattern for you to catch up --

Friday, February 26, 2016

Registration for the Traditional Newfoundland Sock Knit-Along is OPEN!

As part of the Grey Sock Project, the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and the City of St. John's are presenting Knit Some Socks Knit-along.

Come knit a traditional pair of Newfoundland socks found in Operation Homespun among fellow knitters! Knit-along with a group as you rib, turn heels and graft toes. If you are unsure of how to do something, there are two wonderful instructors to help or ask your neighbour. Once finished, you can donate your socks to those in need or take them home! Snacks and refreshments provided.

When: March 5th and March 12th
Where: A.C. Hunter Children's Library
Time: 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Participants will be required to bring:
  • 2 sets of double pointed needles - 3.75 mm and 4 mm
  • 2 skeins of Briggs and Little Heritage worsted weight 100% wool (or equivalent worsted weight wool)
  • Optional: Small portion of yarn for stripes
Proposed Audience: Some experience to intermediate

Biography of presenters:
Christine LeGrow lives and works in Outer Cove, Newfoundland. She enjoys designing patterns as well as knitting traditional patterns. Many of her designs are inspired by Newfoundland early knits. LeGrow shares her designs with twenty-five knitters who contribute to her company Spindrift.

Shirley Scott, or Shirl the Purl, lives and works in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She spends much of her time knitting and preserving traditional patterns. Scott wrote Canada Knits: Craft and Comfort in a Northern Land and has since been known as Canada’s knitting historian.
Eventbrite - Knit Some Socks Knit-a-Long

Monday, February 22, 2016

As Good as New!

Last week, the darning workshop took place at the A.C. Hunter Children's Library at the Arts and Culture Centre! We had twenty-two eager and excited participants who learned to mend holes in knitted garments with Christine LeGrow. Shirley Scott was there and she gave some great tips to participants on how to knit and care for knitted socks so they are everlasting!

I was lucky enough to see some darning egg/mushrooms - and even a radiator knob - that have been used to darn socks:

             Left - Elizabeth's darning egg -
       a nice modern example
               Right - Rebecca Jeffery's darning egg which
          belongs to her father, Gary. c.1930 from
       Southern Ontario!
Glenna Jamieson-English's darning mushroom!
See the orange? We used them to darn!

After some show and tell, Christine got down to business and taught everyone how to darn. My favourite example was how she compared darning to weaving like some of us were taught in school. By the end of the workshop, everyone got the hang of it and holes began to be mended!

It was a fun filled, exciting, and educational evening. Everyone who attended will certainly be using their new skill to mend socks, hats, trigger mitts, and sweaters for years to come, keeping everything looking as good as new! **Stay tuned - I will be posting darning instructions from Christine for those who missed the workshop soon**

Thank you to everyone who attended, Christine LeGrow, Shirley Scott, the City of St. John's, Susan Prior, the NL Public Libraries, and all those who promoted this event making this workshop a great success!

Missed this workshop? We have a knit-along happening in March!
Eventbrite - Knit Some Socks Knit-a-Long

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday's Folklore Photo: Eggs and mushrooms

In the spirit of darning, here are two darning tools sent to us from Karlie King and Eileen Murphy!

Karlie King's darning mushroom

Eileen Murphy's darning egg
Eileen writes, "This was passed on to me from my mother' s cousin. Many feet continued to be warm and snug because this was used to mend the wear and tear."

Thank you Karlie and Eileen for these great photos!
We are still looking for photos and stories about darning tools! Do not hesitate to e-mail me

By the way, did I mention the traditional darning workshop is tonight? You still have time to register!

Eventbrite - Darn Those Socks!

Join instructor Christine LeGrow tonight, Tuesday, February 16 between 6:15 pm-8:15 pm, at the A.C. Hunter Children's Library at the Arts & Culture Centre, 125 Allandale Road to learn traditional darning techniques.

Participants will be required to bring:
  • Socks that need darning
  • Scraps of equivalent yarn
  • Darning needle
  • Scissors
  • Optional: Darning egg
Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tuesday's Folklore Photo: Buttons!

Today's photo is of the lovely buttons we ordered for the Grey Sock Project! Next week, February 16th, is the traditional darning workshop we are offering for FREE at the A.C. Hunter Children's Library with instructor Christine LeGrow. We will be giving these buttons to everyone who comes!

Didn't know about the workshop?
Eventbrite - Darn Those Socks!

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Learn to Knit at the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation

Family and Friends Learn to Knit participants!
I went to the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation last week to check out the Family and Friends Learn to Knit program run by the City of St. John's. It ran for four weeks on Sundays in January. The program is offered to anyone who wants to learn to knit.

Participants learned how to cast on, knit, purl, decrease and increase stitches as well as how to knit their own dishcloth. For the last class, participants chose their own projects and started on them. Some of the participant chosen projects were wrist warmers, scarves, and a baby blanket.

The first project knitted by participants
One participant stated she joined the program because knitting was something nice to do in the winter months and was a good way for her to hang out with her friends. She said she really wanted to learn to make socks and this workshop was a great way to learn the basics.

I asked someone else what their favourite part of the workshop was. She said she enjoyed learning new stitches and actually creating something herself.

If you ever wanted to learn to knit this is the perfect opportunity. The instructors are excited to teach and if you're willing to learn you'll be knitting and purling in no time! Luckily, there is another four week program you can register for just like this.

Date: Sundays, Feb. 7 to 28, 2016 (4 weeks)
Time: 2 to 4 p.m.
Location: Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, 10 Maple View Road
Ages: 10+ years
Cost: $28 per person
Click here to register for this course.

Plus, who can deny this view?
View from the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation
Thank you to the lovely group of knitters who allowed me to chat with them and take photos.

Happy knitting everyone,

Learn another traditional skill! We are offering a free traditional darning workshop February 16th. 
Eventbrite - Darn Those Socks!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tuesday's Folklore Photo: A darning what?

Today's Folklore Photo comes to us from Lloyd Kane! These darning tools are family heirlooms from his wife, Linda's, grandmother’s sewing box.

Both seem to be commercially manufactured. The darning tool on the right has a removable handle which may be used to store darning needle(s). There are markings that say “Made in Germany”. The other one has embossed ‘FOOT FOR’ ‘PATENDED’.

These darning tools were called the "darner" or "darning mushroom" writes Lloyd. I have heard people call them darning eggs as well. There are also stories of people using door handles or just their fist to mend socks. 

Do you have any stories about darning eggs/mushrooms/darners or any photos? Please share them with us. Contact!

Thank you Lloyd for sending this photo in!

Want to learn to darn? We are offering a free traditional darning workshop February 16th. 
Eventbrite - Darn Those Socks!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Registration Open for Traditional Darning Workshop

Do you have holes in your socks that you'd like to fix but don't know where to start? Come to our free traditional darning workshop with instructor Christine LeGrow! It is on Tuesday, February 16th at the A.C. Hunter Children's Library at the Arts & Culture Centre, 125 Allandale Road.

Click below for materials list and registration! Hope to see you there!

Eventbrite - Darn Those Socks!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Call Out: Your memories and photos of Darning Eggs

Source: Artefacts Canada
Nice knit socks were and still are required for a warm, dry foot! There is nothing worse than a big hole that your toe sticks out of or one on your heel. In the past, people would not throw away their socks and waste materials, instead they would fix them.

A darning egg is a hard, round object that is inserted into a sock while repairing a hole. The darning egg makes it easier to stitch so it's not too tight or too loose. It prevents the sock from losing its shape while you repair and prevents you from accidentally stitching two sides of the sock together.

We are very interested in collecting photos or reminiscence of darning eggs. If you have any memories or even a photo or two of your darning egg please e-mail me at or call 709-739-1892 ext. 3  or toll free at 1-888-739-1892 ext. 3. I would love to hear from you!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Learn More About the Women's Patriotic Association

As promised, here is a bibliography with original documents such as Evening Telegram articles, the WPA's published magazine called The Distaff  and photos. Also included are books and articles. I hope this compilation quenches your interest!

Archive and library collections:
At The Rooms:
Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland (W.P.A.) fonds.MG 635, 1914-1921, 1939-1948, predominant 1939-1945.

Walter Edward Davidson fonds.

At Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador:

Archives and Special Collections - Mary Southcott Collection, Queen Elizabeth II Library.

Digital Archive Initiative (DAI):
Newfoundland Quarterly -
Volume 16: Number 1, July 1916, “Outlook Beyond the War,” p. 3, 10.

Volume 17: Number 1, July 1917, “Newfoundland and the War - Patriotic Work,” p. 4.
Number 4: April 1918, “Empire Honours - Newfoundland List,” p. 5.

Volume 18: Number 1, July 1918, “Empire Honours - Newfoundland,” p. 5-6.

Evening Telegram -
“Ladies’ Patriotic Movement: Women’s Association Formed - Address of Lady Davidson,” September 1, 1914, p. 8.

“Women’s Patriotic Association,” September 15, 1914, p. 5.

“For Our Soldiers,” September 24,1914, p. 7.

“W.P.A. Second Shipment,” December 14, 1914, p. 7.

“Women’s Patriotic Association Meeting,” October 1, 1917, p. 3.

** These are of particular interest but there are other volumes mentioning the WPA.

Centre for Newfoundland Studies
The Distaff 1916. St. John’s: The Royal Gazette, 1916.

The Distaff 1917. St. John’s: The Royal Gazette, 1917.

Books and articles:
Bishop Stirling, Terry. “Women's Mobilization for War (Newfoundland).” In 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, issued by Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin, Berlin 2015-09-30. DOI:

Duley Margot I. “The Unquiet Knitters of Newfoundland: from Mothers of the Regiment to Mothers of the Nation.” In A Sisterhood of Suffering and Service: Women and Girls of Canada and Newfoundland during the First World War, edited by Sarah Glassford and Amy Shaw, 51-75.Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012.
Part online at:

Duley, Margot I. Where Once Our Mothers Stood We Stand: Women's Suffrage in Newfoundland, 1890-1925. Charlottetown: Gynergy, 1993.

Duley, Tryphena. A pair of grey socks: facts and fancies. St. John’s, 1916.

Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador. “Women’s Patriotic Association.” Last modified April 2015.

Thanks to Terry Bishop Stirling for providing sources to this bibliography.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tuesday's Folklore Photo - Ladies in the Drawing Room

"Thursday's Working Bee in the Drawing Room"
Happy Tuesday to all! As you may be aware, I have been researching the Women's Patriotic Association as part of the Grey Sock Project. I came across this photo last week and wanted to share it with you.

This photo comes from the Walter Edward Davidson fonds at The Rooms. The women of the WPA would meet at the Government House for meetings, to work on knitting, sewing, sterilizing dressings and other tasks. The ladies in this picture are part of the Working Committee. Their purpose was to prepare workrooms, materials and to arrange work parties. Some of the women are knitting (far left - could those be grey socks!?) while others are using sewing machines.

I loved this photo the moment I saw it because you can see the ladies hard at work. I then discovered that the woman on the far left is Blanche Eleanor Bartlett, sister of Captain Robert "Bob" Bartlett which made me love it even more. Hope you enjoy this photo!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Knitting Comforts and Beyond

On August 31, 1914, Lady Margaret Davidson, the governor's wife, called a public meeting in St. John's. The 700 women who attended the meeting formed the Women's Patriotic Association (WPA). Today, the WPA is known for the knitted comforts they produced for Newfoundland and Labrador volunteers overseas. The grey sock was the most desired item as described by Private Francis Lind of the Newfoundland Regiment,
"A Newfoundland sock is the best in the world and is prized by every soldier. How many times at the Peninsula and before we ever saw Egypt have we been asked by soldiers of different regiments if we had a pair of Newfoundland socks to give them or sell them. They would even offer cigarettes in return."

In the Evening Telegram the socks are described as being "of natural wool homespun and are made in the three principal sizes which are distinguished by rows of colo[u]red wool." It is recorded that 62,685 pairs of socks were knitted by the women of the WPA. The socks were considered more than comfort, it was actually military necessity. The War Office's Field Service Regulations included instruction for the care of feet.

For this reason, the women were required to follow the sock pattern provided strictly, in order to create the most comfortable sock. In A pair of grey socks: facts and fancies, it is described that the socks must be loosely knitted to make the sock soft for marching feet, must not reach the bend of the leg and have no chance of folding. This would cause great discomfort for the wearer. The knitting the WPA did helped greatly but the women went beyond knitting comforts to support the war effort.

The women of the WPA organized concerts, plays, teas, bazaars and raffles. They also sold patriotic calendars, souvenir regimental badges, flowers and other goods. The WPA supported people at home in the province by creating a Visiting Committee. They kept in touch  and visited with family and relatives of volunteers serving overseas. The committee also visited soldiers in local hospitals. In St. John's alone, the committee made 11,270 visits.

By the end of the war there was around 250 branches across the province and over 15,000 members.The WPA collected more than $500,000 which is worth about $6.5 million today. When looking at other initiatives the WPA undertook, it is clear that the women of the WPA exceeded expectations of patriotic support!

This is only some of the amazing work, written in summary, done by the Women's Patriotic Association. There are many sources available to learn more! Stay tuned for a bibliography so you can view articles, books, photos and original documents.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Little Introduction

Pairs of knitted socks, ca. 1915
Source: Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador

Hello everyone!

My name is Stephanie Micikyan (pronounced mi-chee-key-an – it’s a tough one I know!) and I am the new Intangible Cultural Heritage Intern. Today is my first day and I thought I’d fill you in on what I’ll be working on over the next few months.

First and foremost I will be working on the Grey Sock Project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. The project revolves around the Women’s Patriotic Association (WPA) whose volunteers produced 62,685 socks (For more information on the WPA see: Collaborating with the City of St. John’s, we will be looking for knitters to knit socks and scarves to donate to those in need in the spirit of the WPA.

I will also be assisting with programs to teach and share knitting knowledge and skills. Information can be found in the St. John’s City Guide ( We are hoping to also have workshops for different skill levels.

If you knit or know someone who would be interested in knitting socks or scarves for donation, do not hesitate to e-mail me at! Please feel free to e-mail me with any other inquiries.

I hope this gets you excited for what’s to come! Stay tuned as there will be updates on these programs and projects!

- Stephanie