Poppies Poppies Everywhere – ANZAC Day 2015

The 5000 Poppies Project is Complete!

You may remember I crocheted a red poppy in memory of my Great Grandfather, to donate to the 5000 Poppies Project for the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC Day landings in WWI.  I blogged about it here.

Poppy for ANZAC Day

Poppy for ANZAC Day

My little poppy winged its way to Melbourne months ago and was incorporated into the art piece known as 5000 Poppies, now installed at Melbourne’s Federation Square.   When the organisers originally started this project 2 years ago they were hoping to collect 5000 Poppies to display, thinking that was a super ambitious number.  Guess how many poppies it takes to produce a result like this?

Fede

5000 Poppies at Federation Square, Melbourne

By the end they had received over 250,000 (!!) handmade poppies created by over 30,000 individuals from all over the world!  An extraordinary example of community organising that has beautifully found the sweet spot between the emotional, remembering the fallen and those who have served – and the practical, that knitting and crocheting poppies is easy enough for just about anyone to do so participation was easy and high.  It turns out that 250,000 handmade poppies creates over 800 square metres (that’s over 8600 sq ft, for those who still use the old money) of poppies!  A true ‘Field of Poppies’, which was, after all, the actual point of the exercise.  Many have dedications attached to them.  I wish I had thought to do that.

I particularly love this amazing sculpture created by a local, Melbournian metal fabrication plant, Uniweld Engineering, under the direction of artist Adrian Egglestone: entitled GRATITUDE.  Stunning.

Gorgeous sculpture by Adrian Egglestone entitled: Gratitude

Gorgeous sculpture by Adrian Egglestone entitled: GRATITUDE

GRATITUDE

GRATITUDE

I don’t know why but I can’t get the video feed to link right now.  To see some video footage to get a true appreciation of the scale click here for link to SBS News’ footage.  And here for some newspaper coverage.

5000 Poppies will be on display in Federation Square, Melbourne, from Thursday April 23 – Sunday April 26 after which it is starting a national tour around the country.

So glad I could participate in such an extraordinary event.

Happy ANZAC Day.

Lest we forget.

Proliferate Poppies – from 5000 to 200,000!

Check this out!  This is the 5000 Poppies Project I crocheted the poppy for a few months ago and told you all about. You can read about it on my blog post here.  It seems that there has been much media coverage of late and so much interest and I am just so thrilled to hear that the 5000 Poppies Project has received this kind of support!

An example of part of the 5000 Poppies installation.  It will certainly look amazing once all 200,000 poppies are sewn together!

An example of part of the 5000 Poppies installation. It will certainly look amazing once all 200,000 poppies are sewn together!

Such a lovely idea and remembrance for those that served.  I can’t wait to see the final installation this ANZAC Day.  And I have to say, it does feel good to be involved in a home-grown, very Aussie, community project from so far away.  Feeling quite patriotic, actually (humming … Once a jolly swagman/Camped by a billabong …).

If any of my Aussie readers happen to see the finished project would you please take a pic and post it for me?  I know the display will start in Melbourne on ANZAC Day (April 25 for those unfamiliar) but as I understand it the plan is to travel around the country to display the finished piece all over during the 100th anniversary year (this year).  So it may well come by your neighbourhood sometime.  Keep a look out for my little poppy I made in honour of my Great Grandfather, Pvt Edgar Gibbons!

Anzac Day 2015: Melbourne handmade poppies project exceeds expectations, hopes to collect 200,000 flowers

Updated about 10 hours ago

Two Melbourne artists behind a project to create 5,000 handcrafted poppies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings say they expect to finish with about one kilometre’s worth of flowers.

Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight started the project in June 2013, and thanks to other volunteers, their 5,000 poppy target was shattered and they are now on track to reach 200,000.

Margaret Knight told ABC News Breakfast the project was initially a way for the two women to commemorate their fathers’ war service.

“We were into commemorative art and we decided to do what we call a ‘yarn bombing’ around the battalion tree [for the battalion] that Lynn’s father fought in, and on the walk to the shrine,” Ms Knight said.

“And my father was a British soldier [so] that’s where it all started.”

Lynn Berry said the idea quickly snowballed.

“Everybody was asking, you know … do you mind if I knit a couple, my mother would like to knit a couple, my aunt works at a retirement village and the retirement village ladies would like to knit a couple,” Ms Berry said.

Ms Berry said the project had now collected about 170,000 knitted, felted and crafted poppies.

“And we’re expecting by the end of it to have somewhere in excess of 200,000,” she said.

“It’ll be about one kilometre of poppies by the time we’re finished.”

The poppies will be assembled onto nets and placed around Melbourne as fields of poppies.

She said the finished product will be beautiful, because no two poppies are exactly the same.

“Well, many of them follow the same pattern, but everybody puts their own slant on them,” Ms Berry said.

“We get tatted and knitted [ones] and just the most glorious creations.”

Ms Knight said the project was also initiating plenty of conversations among families.

“I think it’s encouraged people to have a look into their family history of service,” she said.

The poppies will go on display at Melbourne’s Federation Square on Anzac Day.

In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow

5000 Poppies

So, after hearing about the Socks for Centenary project I came across another fabulous community initiative to mark the 100 ANZAC commemoration, 5000 Poppies.

From the Victorian Government’s ANZAC Centenary website:

From its association with poppies flowering in the spring of 1915 on the battlefields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli, the poppy has become a symbol of both great loss in war and hope for those left behind.

As part of the 2015 Anzac commemorations, the 5000 Poppies project group will be ‘planting’ a field of more than 5,000 poppies in Federation Square, Melbourne, as a stunning visual tribute to Australian service men and women for more than a century of service in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

Poppies at the Shrine of Remembrance MelbourneThe group is inviting all crafters to participate in this meaningful and heartfelt project. Contributors can make one or more poppies, which can be crocheted, knitted, felted or sewn from any materials.

Contributors are asked to provide their own materials, but there is no entry fee and no limit to the amount of poppies that can be submitted. Patterns, information and inspiration can be found at the blog 5000poppies.wordpress.com.

Such a fun idea, right?  And easy.  And so many options, crocheted poppies, knitted poppies, felt poppies.  There is definitely something for everybody here in this project and plenty of pattern choices listed on the project’s website here.  As of this writing I understand the project organisers have received close to 100,000 poppies (!!) so well over what was their initial goal.  The problem now is to raise enough funds to be able to display all the poppies on Federation Square as originally planned.  It turns out that a 100,000 poppy installation is much more costly than a 5,000 poppy installation(who knew?).  The space required is approximately 1200 square metres, nearly 13,000 square feet or 1/3 acre for those who still count in old money.  That’s about the size of our entire house plus the land it sits on!  HUGE!  Then there’s transport and storage costs, rigging and equipment hire, strict OH&S guidelines governing public art installations that must be complied with, along with public liability insurance.  I can see how the costs have added up.  The organisers have launched a crowdfunding campaign on POZIBLE to raise the $50,000 (!!!) needed for the project’s installation but they are well short of their goal.  Please consider contributing to the cost of this amazing art piece.

5000 Poppies Poppy

So, of course, I had to crochet up a little poppy of my own to send in as part of my contribution and in memory of my Great Grandfather who fought in the trenches in France and Belgium.  I remember at his funeral the other men of our family who had served in the armed forces all wearing crepe paper poppies on their lapels.  At the conclusion of the service they all removed their red lapel poppies and laid them on the casket. A solemn and poignant moment for even this, self-involved and clueless, teen.  Red poppies not only remind me (and so many others) of the sacrifice so many young men and women have made and continue to make to preserve our freedoms but remind me of my Great Grandpop.  

Tower of London Poppies

The idea reminds me of this extraordinary poppy art installation completed at the Tower of London in 2014.  The final poppy was planted in the moat of the Tower of London at 11am on Armistice Day. The installation is entitled ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ and is comprised of 888,246 ceramic poppies, each representing a British or Commonwealth military fatality during the First World War.  Ah.May.Zing.

Knitting for 100 years

Socks for Centenary

ANZAC Day is a big freakin’ deal in Australia.  And this year is particularly significant as 25 April 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand forces’ landing at Gallipoli.

For those who are rusty on Australian WWI history and who would appreciate a quick primer the Australian War Memorial does a good job explaining it all here.

File:Australian_9th_and_10th_battalions_Egypt_December_1914 from the Australian War memorial

These are the ANZACs.  But why’d they take a kangaroo to Egypt?

So, a few days ago a feed came across my Facebook page linked me to a page outlining the importance of providing warm socks to the soldiers during the Great War (wha?? So random, right?  Stay with me).  You see clean, dry, warm socks were incredibly important to the diggers.  Trench Foot was a real and horrifying medical condition brought on by the damp, unsanitary and cold conditions in which the soldiers found themselves.  You could literally die from all the crud you were standing in day and night!  The details are too gory to describe here but Wikipedia is happy to tell you (and show you) all about trench foot.  Ugh.  Awful.  But trench foot could be prevented by regularly switching out wet socks for dry – but there were just never enough to go around.

So the Red Cross put out the call for those left at home to knit socks for the troops.  Women (mainly, although some men and boys too) from all over the country took up their needles and hopped to it.  Schools, churches, womens’ guilds, boy scout and girl guide troops all came together to provide some comfort to Australian troops by knitting and sending them socks.  More than 1 million pairs of socks were knitting during the war.  1 Million!!  Incredible!

Love this acrostic poem.  Can’t find the citation though, sorry.

As a tribute during the centennial, the City of Sydney has organised Socks for Centenary (terrible name, btw) and is asking people to knit a pair of socks, following the official Red Cross pattern from 1914, and send them in to be a part of an ANZAC Day art installation in Surry Hills library.  Once the exhibit ends all the socks will be donated to the Weyside Chapel in Kings Cross.

Cudgewa, Victoria, October 25 1916, photographer unknown. State Library of NSW

Women knitting for the war effort.  Fancy new camera she has there on the right.

Fabulous concept.  Awesome!  But why am I telling you all this?  Because this has all really moved me.  You see, my Great Grandfather, Pvt Edgar Gibbons, fought in WWI.  I remember him fondly for his gentle nature and cheeky sense of humour but I was a young teen when he passed away and I didn’t get a chance to ask him about his war memories.  Fortunately, his war records are available online though through the National Archives (isn’t that amazing?) and reading them gave me a whole new appreciation for the sacrifices so many made to fight for King and Country.

Family lore has it that he was gassed in the trenches and evacuated to hospital in London.  There he met and fell in love with his Scottish nurse, married her, and brought her back to Australia (told you he was cheeky!). She was my Great Grandmother and I still use her shortbread recipe that was handed from her, to my Grandmother, and down to me.My Great Grandpop was just 18 when he enlisted, having lied about his age to sign up, and he served in the 5th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery in France and Belgium between 1916-1919.  When I think of the deplorable conditions and read of his many illnesses and injuries I wonder how anyone could ever survive such a hellacious experience, much less someone I actually knew and loved.  No wonder handmade socks with kind letters of encouragement pushed into the toe were so welcomed and valued by a digger.  I like to think that maybe someone might have knitted some new, warm, socks and sent them to him to help ease some of his discomfort.  To be so young, so far from home, and in such a horrible situation.  Heartbreaking.

Now for the knitting.  As part of the Socks for Centenary project the original 1914 ‘The Grey Sock’ pattern has been digitalised by the Mitchell Library and made publicly available – here.

I figured I’d give it a go.  I have to say it isn’t the clearest set of instructions to follow.  Some of the terminology has changed and clearly it is written for those who use DPNs and not magic loop, as I do, but I got the gist.  I bought a skein of grey 8ply wool and dove in.  Here’s a progress shot:

Just finished turning the heel. Now for the foot.

Clearly NOT historically accurate since I’m using non-period magic loop technique and circular needle, fancy stitch holder AND all the computer, modem, and router cords are clearly visible in the background, but still it is coming along nicely.  And I have to say it really is so warm and soft and snuggly.  Very comforting for a young soldier on the Western Front I would think.

Anyone else like to try knitting WWI era socks from an original pattern?  Truly, it’s not that scary! If you would like to have a go all the instructions can be found here at the Socks for Centenary webpage.  Once your beautiful socks are finished just complete the participation form found here and then send them on to any of the City of Sydney public libraries to be displayed in honour of someone you love or loved who served to protect our freedoms.  Deadline for submission is 27 March 2015.

If you live somewhere other than Sydney you can just post them in to one of the Sydney libraries along with the participation form.  That’s what I’m going to do.

Surry Hills Library
405 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Australia

Don’t forget to leave a comment and tell me all about it!

Lest We Forget.