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More info on Louisa Pesel!

One of the great things about having a blog or website is that you never know who will find you or be reading… and just this on its own an be so exciting! Well, after my post about Louisa Pesel the other day and noting that there wasn’t much information about her online, I got an email from one of the women who organized the Ecclesiastical Embroidery exhibition in Bradford Cathedral in 2010, who kindly provided me with more information! Yeah!

Here is her email:

Dear Betsy, I came across your Craftivism blog posting of 13th April, regarding Louisa Pesel, and you say you’d like to hear more about her.

I was one of a small team who organised an Ecclesiastical Embroidery exhibition at Bradford Cathedral in 2010, which is where the “Khaki Frontal” was displayed. The photograph that you have posted of it (in the Cathedral) would have been taken at this exhibition.

This Khaki Frontal is composed of the Super Frontal (the top piece), which was made by the shell-shocked soldiers in 1918, and the Frontal (the larger piece), made by their teachers in 1919. It was made for the Abram Peel War Hospital, as you say, and it was given to Bradford Cathedral for use in the Bolling Chapel, in memory of them after the War. The Bolling Chapel was reordered as part of the extension of the Cathedral in the late 1950’s.

We are currently hoping to raise money to have the Khaki Frontal on permanent display in the Cathedral, as it is such a unique and interesting piece.

The extract below is from the Exhibition Handbook, and includes a little more information about Louisa Pesel than you have in your blog:

On the back of the super frontal are the words:-

This frontlet was worked by shell-shocked soldiers, in the autumn of 1918, at the Bradford Khaki Handicrafts Club, for use at their services at the Abram Peel Hospital. It was lengthened and the frontal added by their teachers in 1919 and was accepted, in memory of them, for the Bolling Chapel in 1920.

The Bradford Khaki Handicrafts Club was established to provide occupational therapy and employment for men returning from the First World War, using embroidery. The Abram Peel Hospital was opened in 1915 as a specialist neurological hospital, and by 1919 had 437 beds. It was sited at Leeds Road.

Louisa Pesel was instrumental in getting the Khaki Club established; she was born in 1870, the eldest daughter of the Bradford cloth merchant Frederick Pesel, and his wife Isabella. She studied drawing and design under Lewis Foreman Day, a contemporary and close acquaintance of William Morris. She was appointed in 1903 as designer to the Royal Hellenic School of Needlework and Laces in Athens, and she acted as director of the school until 1907. On her return to England she became an inspector of art and needlework, and well known lecturer.

In 1920 she was elected as the first president of the Embroiderer’s Guild of England. In 1932 she founded the Winchester Cathedral Broderers with the object of providing the stalls and seats with cushions and kneelers, and she became Mistress of Broderers there in 1938.

The embroidered motifs in the design of the super-frontal and frontal here are similar to motifs from Greek island embroideries, which were one of Louisa’s favourite areas of research. Those on the frontal are similar to motifs from the island of Rhodes. They are worked in cross stitch, which was used in the majority of Louisa’s own projects.

Louisa Pesel died in 1947, and her collection of notebooks, photographs, drawings, and embroidery samples were left to the University of Leeds, and are now held in the University of Leeds International Textile Archive.

Week #9 of 48 Weeks of Historical Craftivism, Louisa Pesel!


First of all, you may be wondering, what is a woman riding a camel in the Khyber Pass doing on a post about craftivism? Well, it’s totally related once you realize that that woman on that camel is Louisa Pesel, who helped shell-shocked soldiers and passed out cross-stitch/embroidery kits (some resources say one, some the other) to POWs with the Red Cross.

I’ve searched high and low on the internet for more information than provided below, but it’s sparse. If anyone has any more information, I’d love to hear it! While this week’s entry may be a bit sparse, I hope it helps someone learn about the fabulous work on this amazing woman.


Louisa Pesel is a special hero of mine. Many years ago I fell in love with her notebooks and her meticulously hand drawn charted designs of antique needlework. She was saying, ‘Just look at this, isn’t this design wonderful?’ Having travelled to many countries in the near East, she wanted all the world to see what she, by her good fortune, had seen. I think it is so important to keep alight the torch she lit. The more so, perhaps, since she was an old girl of my school in Bradford. How strange to think that the school founded in 1875 and something of a scandal since it proposed to teach girls mathematics and classics instead of the usual domestic arts, should have been, in its turn, slightly astonished to turn out a scholar with a passion for design and needlework.

Born in Bradford, Louisa Frances Pesel (1870-1947) was a teacher of embroidery. She studied design under the Arts & Crafts practitioner Lewis Foreman Day, who recommended her for the post of Designer at the Royal Hellenic School of Needlework and Laces in Athens, where she soon became its Director. After returning to England, Pesel worked with shell-shocked soldiers in Bradford, and was involved in establishing embroidery kits for POWs (Prisoners of War) during the Second World War.

More than 90 years ago, in the final year of the First World War, steam trains daily brought injured soldiers into Bradford for hospital treatment.

Among these hospitals was the 437-bed Abram Peel Hospital in Leeds Road, a military establishment for neurological disorders, staffed by the Royal Army Medical Corps, Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and volunteers.

A club was formed to help them, the Bradford Khaki Club, based in Forster Square.

Khaki Club members were also taught embroidery by Louisa Pesel, the Bradford-born daughter of a German merchant. She was in her 40s, a noted scholar and embroidery expert who had been director of the Royal Helenic School of Needlework and Laces in Athens.

She helped some of them to embroider what is known as the Khaki Cloth, a cross-stitch frontlet made at the club in the autumn of 1918 for use at services in the Abram Peel Hospital.


The Bradford Khaki Club was formed in the First World War to help the many shell shocked and injured soldiers brought home for hospital treatment. It had a restaurant, games room, library and held concert parties, members were also taught to embroider by Louisa Pesel (first President of the “Embroiderers Guild of Needlework”), some of whom helped embroider what is known as the “Khaki Cloth”, a cross-stitch frontlet made in 1918 and used at services in the “Abram Peel Hospital” in Leeds Road a Military establishment staffed by the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service.

From 1941 to 1947: Pesel was involved in sending craft kits out to POWS in Red Cross parcels. She also taught sewing to evacuated school girls in Winchester.

Along with all of this amazing work, she was also world traveled and master embroiderer.

The Pesel Collection of Collected and Created works, bequeathed to the University of Leeds in 1947, consists of a total of over 400 embroidered items, ranging in size, stitching and provenance. The majority are of Turkish and Greek island origin, others emanate from Morocco, Algeria, Turkestan, India, Pakistan, Persia, Syria, China, and Western Europe. The collection also includes Louisa Pesel’s own pieces and samples, including her ‘models’ for Winchester Cathedral, and also an archival collection of her notebooks, photographs, articles and drawings*. Many of her publications are available to view in Leeds University Library.

One of the founders of the Khaki Club was Louisa Pesel, a relatively well to do 46 year old woman, whose war efforts also included assisting Belgian refugees and raising money to provide ambulances for use at the Front. She was also an expert embroiderer, and used this as therapy for the soldiers.

Week #6 of 48 Weeks of Historical Craftivism, WWI Knitting!

So I started this project for two reasons: 1) to tackle my own personal issues with discipline (and I’m struggling to work through that… my current battle? Not paying attention to the calendar and letting time slip through) and 2) to learn more about historical craftivism. But the truth is for this one, WWI knitting, even though I’m keeping it to 2 hours of research, just kept being too daunting, given all the work being done all over the world for others. However, I am determined to get 48 acts up in 48 weeks, so there may be some fudging of the technical “weeks” on the calendar while I push through my own discipline issues… Apologies to all you (k)nitpicky readers out there…

Anyhoo… here we go… WWI knitting! This was especially daunting because we all know that there was knitting for the troops in WWI. But, where do we go to look for more information? That seems to be the question on this topic. So, I’m linking to various archives and fonts of information here as the breadth is too much for 1 (or even 100) blog posts.

The “Grey Sock” pattern by Irene Victoria Read: Knitting for Victory: Transatlantic Propaganda in WWI & WWII

Volunteer work on the homefront: America During WWI and WWII



A knitted garment of one kind or another takes on and transfers a certain energy from its maker to its wearer, I believe, and there’s something incredibly moving about the sort of touch that a homemade sweater or pair of socks permitted. From the hands of a wife, mother, grandmother, sweetheart, sister, or benevolent stranger to the body of a soldier, knitwear crossed the divide between home and battlefield.

Needlework and Knitting Instructions for First World War volunteers over on Scribd uploaded by the British Red Cross

The trenches of France and Belgium were muddy and constantly filled with water. As a result, soldiers were prone to a painful condition called Trench Foot. The only cure was for them to keep their feet dry and change their socks regularly. Soldiers in the trenches were supposed to have at least three pairs of socks and change them at least twice a day. Since hand knitting was time consuming, Associated Field Comforts began to supply knitting machines to people who would try to turn out from seventy-five to one hundred pairs a month. Assistance from the people of Hamilton was regularly acknowledged by the overseas contingent. In November 1915, 27,892 pairs of socks were sent to the Front from the city. By 1916 there were Four Canadian Divisions at the Front, resulting in a greater demand on the Association for socks. Various church clubs and volunteer groups began contributing to the output of Associated Field Comforts by supplying large quantities of knitted articles for the men overseas.

Aside from raising money, school children of both genders participated in knitting clubs to produce goods to send to the troops at the front. In order to make their patriotism known to their older countrymen, New York’s children also participated in patriotic parades and memorial services both during and after the war.

The “Knit Your Bit” poster you may very well be familiar with, but check out the other posters here related to WWI propaganda:


More info on Irene Read, and her “Grey Sock kit,” complete with teeny tiny photo of said sock kit!

grey sock kit

Soon after the war began, women and girls were knitting socks, scarves and balaclavas, for the soldiers. They knitted at home, on trams, in churches. When they ran out of knitting needles, they made new ones from bicycle spokes: when they ran out of dye, they used onion skins and wattle bark; when they ran out of wool, they learnt to spin their own.

– Jan Bassett



There are also 2 older posts here about WWI and knitting, which you will find here and here.

This photo is probably the most fascinating… it’s an interned German doing macrame at Fort Douglas…


And in keeping with last week’s post about the Civil War and knitting, here’s a little bit from the wonderful book No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting:

“At the sound of war, former Civil War knitters quickly surfaced. One eighty-eight-year-old who had accompanied her husband on Civil War assignments taught knitting to children in a Takoma Park, Maryland, church. Many still-spry United Daughters of the Confederacy who once knit for “Johnny Reb” now contributed over 600,000 knit articles for “Sammy.” Instead of gloves or stockings, a grandmother who proudly snapped on her Red Cross button “in place of her accustomed brooch” made “stump socks” to fit over amputated limbs. Seventy-two-year-old Mrs. Mitt Osgood, who lived on a Montana cattle ranch eighty miles from a railroad, knit 18 pairs of socks in twenty days and completed 120 pairs between February and September, 1918.”

Craftivism and Donation

The other week I mentioned writing about the 3 –tions* of 1 –ism, the donation, beautification and notification. I’ve been thinking about donation a lot lately, as I’ve been a baby-hat-making-factory-of-one lately, as you can see in the photo below.

Therefore, I’m going to tackle the first -tion, donation. Initially, this was what craftivism was to me. Making and giving to others in need. Over time, what craftivism is has expanded, becoming more of an umbrella term. But, at the beginning, there was donation.


This is the quietest, most anonymous form of craftivism, as it’s something that you can do by making something at home and then dropping off what you made at a local hospital or charity or popping in the mail to one. Unlike the others actions, this one is quiet on purpose. There is no need to attach your name to it or your style even, it is a powerful act nonetheless, making for others.

One of the most important aspects of this action is not in the making itself, but in the planning to make. It’s to be mindful that you’re donating 1) where there is a need and 2) you’re donating what they’re asking for or at least something suitable for that need. I.e., what good is knitting something for the homeless if the item is made of yarn in a color that shows dirt easily or a design that’s likely to catch on things and stretch out? Or crocheting regular-sized infant hats for a charity that works with preemies? Or sewing mats for dogs out of a fabric that is handwash only?

Sometimes when charities request donations they will give guidelines on 1) exactly what they need, 2) how they need it to be labeled, and 3) what they need it to be made of. Sometimes they don’t, which may mean that before you donate, you call the organization and ask 1) if they’re taking donations and 2) what exactly form they need to be delivered in/mailed.

Crafters are a helpful lot and the minute any disaster happens, an inevitable effort starts up to help them. Most of the time, these efforts are done well and mindful of what the community needs and it goes off without a hitch. However, sometimes people are so interested in helping others that they start initiatives for causes that already have too many quilts, blankets, hats, etc. This can be quickly amended by asking first.

The efforts out there that people are making to fill gaps where needed is amazing! Chances are great that there is a charity somewhere that can benefit from what you like to make. It just may take a web search on where this charity is and how it can be reached and even a little retooling of what you make (adjustments to size, materials, etc.)

Ever make something that looks funny when you put it on? And you don’t have the heart to throw it out? This is not an excuse to give it to charity. With the exception of perhaps mats for dogs, the items that you donated may very well be cherished by their owners and something of value and pride. Therein, make sure that the work you put into the item is the same amount of work that you would put into making a garment for a loved one.

1. Donate what’s need to where it’s needed.

2. If your charity of choice doesn’t take what you’ve made/want to make, get to Googling, there’s always someone in need of your talents!

3. Donation does not equal cast offs. Just because you’re donating to a cause where your donation may be anonymous does not mean that quality should suffer.

*ETA: Spring 2015: I’ve switched from “-tions” to “tenets!”

4 iPhone Apps to Save the World? (ft. Ralph Macchio)

So it turns out, yes, there are are apps for everything! Curious, I decided to road-test a handful of apps that have come out recently claiming they help make the world a better place.

The Extraordinaries

The first time I opened this app the screen said, “Got a few minutes? Do something extraordinary” while also mentioning it was looking for opportunities for you to “micro-volunteer!” (Sounds so much better than armchair activist, doesn’t it? Plus “micro” is just fun to say.) Excitedly, I continued on… Until I got a big “DATA FORMAT ERROR” followed by a big loud exclamation mark followed by a quiet tiny “Please restart the application.”

So I did. A lot. While it was thinking about working, it kept giving me lovely little ideas like:

“Riding on the bus? Tag some photos!’
“Standing in line at the post office? Give website feedback!”
“In an airport? Help build a map of airport heart defibrillators!”

There’s a reason why there symbol is a giant Superman-styled E, because in a teeny tiny second you’re ready to take over the world thinking “YES! I DO want to help! Pick me! Pick me!”… Until it doesn’t work. Again. And again. And again. Hopefully it will work one day and I can save the world while riding the train. Just think of the possibilities! In the carpool line! Waiting for rice to cook! In line for the bathroom where there’s only one ladies room! Genius! Until it didn’t work.

Touch to Give

Remember those emails you used to get that said something like “For every click on this page [some foundation, Bill Gates, whatever] will donate 1 [dollar, cent, banana] to [some type of cancer, demographic in need, poor helpless kittens?]” Well this app has been created so you don’t have to individually go to The Breast Cancer Site, The Animal Rescue Site and The Hunger Site to click for good.

“You have the power to make a difference at your fingertips. Touch to Give- it’s FREE. Touch an icon to select an issue.”

So I clicked to help the helpless little kittens.

Touch to Give bar popped up along with some merchandise for “The Animal Rescue Site,” and a notice you should “Touch to Give” daily and that any financial sponsors to this charity will “pay for treats” and “100% of sponsor money goes to charity.” One hopes they mean treats for the sweet pups with mange instead of the people who made this app.

Now… who are, the website linked at the bottom of all three sites? According to Wikipedia:

The Hunger Site was started by John Breen, a computer programmer from Bloomington, Indiana, in June 1999. Originally a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, the site became popular rapidly. Faced with increasing costs, Breen sold the site to GreaterGood, “a Seattle-based online shopping mall that gave part of its sales to charity” for an undisclosed amount in February 2000. [1] In July 2001, following the dot-com bubble crash, GreaterGood ceased operations after losing $26 million dollars in venture capital. In 2001,, LLC, a privately held, for-profit company based in Seattle, assumed control of the company for one million dollars[2]. CharityUSA owns and operates various click-to-donate-sites. CharityUSA currently claims that 100% of the website’s sponsor advertising revenue is paid to the aforementioned non-profit partners. [3] The Commercial Fundraiser Profile Report page on the Secretary of State’s web page for the state of Washington [4] calculates the percentage that CharityUSA returns to its charity clients as being 17% of the company’s total revenue (labeled as contributions, although the company’s explanation on the same page defines this as mix of contributions and sale of products).

Hmm… Not sure what to think of that? That’s A LOT of trading and changing names, don’t you think? And 17%? Think of all the abandoned ferrets that need homes.


This awesome little app won’t open for me. It crashes, but it’s so cute! And inspired by Free Rice.

Happily, however, there is an article over at that explains how you can actually play the game. Since I am really great at spelling 3-5 letter words, I can’t wait to play so I can dominate… While saving the world. Win win!

Give Work

Apparently with this I have to “complete a task” and “the same task is assigned to a marginalized person in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, or Haiti. When your answers match and the task is verified, this person gets paid for the work you did together.” Seeing that I’m currently looking for writing jobs, I figured it would feel pretty good to help fill someone else’s wallet while mine is bleeding out.

So I clicked on “Tasks,” where I see “Tasks Available,” where I’m able to:
*Get 5 points for “How much do people like The Karate Kid?” [YES! I LOVE THIS ALREADY!]

“We are trying to analyze trends though statements on Twitter. Below are some things people have said on Twitter regarding the movie The Karate Kid. Please tell us if the statement is positive or negative.”

The tweet just said “Cool kid!” and I was given the choice to rate it either Positive, Negative, Neutral or Can’t Tell. So I clicked on my answer, clicked “Give work” at the bottom of the screen, advancing me to the next question where I could do more helping. Yay! Helping! Easy peasy…

Next up I had to analyze a tweet from Chris Brown (who I want to punch) AND Fred Durst (Are you KIDDING me? What f*cked up algorithms are being used here?). Now I’m getting stressed as I want to pick the answers these displaced people pick so they can earn money. Mini panic attack, as the whole point of trying this app was to help. Judging tweets by my least favorite “celebrities” wasn’t making it any easier. So to distract oncoming anxiety, I started counting the number of questions I answered. 40.

40? Will it ever end? How do I get off this ride? So I clicked again to review yet another tweet and up pops up:

RT from ralphmacchio “wax on, f*ck off” whoever RTs it “wins a ’84 Karate Kid DVD signed by me!”

Ah, saved by Ralph Macchio. Seeing this as a sign, I took a break (after so much clicking it was needed) and watched the Ralph Macchio masterpiece Wax On, F*ck Off as mentioned in the above tweet. I will warn you it does have some, ahem, adult language. There is also Molly Ringwald, so it evens things out.

Even though I was feeling refreshed after this interlude, after 40 questions, I caved and hit the “next” button at the top of screen… Which takes me MORE questions! So in desperation to stop the madness, I clicked on Stats, which told me “The more you work- the more you help.” (Yes! I know this already!)

*Points you’ve earned 270.
*5 points: 1 tomato, 1 large banana, a small bunch of greens
*500 points: 1 week of cell phone data plan (enabling access to email)

So I’m guessing this means I earned something like a cabbage, a cinnamon stick, a yo-yo and 4 bananas. But, wait, wasn’t I supposed to be GIVING WORK? NOT FOOD? Eh? Not so sure, but at least I’m giving something to someone, no?

So to recap. Who’s the winner* here?

I really wanted it to be either The Extraordinaries or Sproutster because they seemed like they would be awesome. I’m sure they will be awesome, once they work. [UPDATE! According to the people behind The Extraordinaries, it’s working now. Yay!] Which means that Give Work was the clear winner here, mainly by default with thanks to Ralph Macchio.

As for the click-and-donate apps? Just make sure you learn how much of your money you’re donating to charity before you click, okay?

*Clearly the real winner is Ralph Macchio, but I’m not writing about him, so will have to default to the apps instead.

ETA: Tweaked some words, added some links and pics. Posting while sleepy = dangerous.

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