Leftover Cuttings – Sourcing Materials for Wartime Charitable Production

by | Jan 8, 2023 | Article, History

In my investigation into the quilt-making by Canadian women during WW2, I am on the look-out for references to the materials used in charitable production of quilts and garments for Britain and Europe. I found one newspaper article that stated that the Red Cross urged women not to buy fabric, but to use the scraps that they had on hand.  I have three accounts from living women providing first hand and second hand accounts that scraps were collected from clothing manufacturers – wool from military and suiting factories, flannel from pajama factories, and dress fabric scraps from Eaton’s department stores. I have seen other accounts that women sold some of the quilts they made to raise funds to buy more materials to make more quilts that were then donated to the war cause.

The following article tells of two young mothers who went door to door, while walking their young children, asking people to donate pieces from their scrap bags, which in turn they used to make into quilts for the Red Cross. When it says that “the old piece-box is a thing of the past”, I sense it means that since this was written almost four years into the war, piece-boxes filled with scraps were long since emptied in every household, but that these young women had done this ‘foraging’ earlier in the war.

The Winnipeg Tribune – 24 July 1943

This week I found the next article, the most descriptive so far in describing the sourcing of materials. This details how every tiny bit of fabric was used in the Red Cross work rooms, starting with sewing the largest items and proceeding down to recycling the tiniest scraps that were too small to make into any type of supply or comfort. Articles such as these provide insight into the resourcefulness and thrift of the makers. 

Constructing useful items out of scraps of material is a time-consuming process. This points to the fact that during war-time, materials were more valuable than time, especially when the labour was the unpaid work of women sewists.

Montreal Gazette – 23 July 1941