As military parades go this one is rather small in stature and quiet; so quiet you can almost hear a stitch drop. No guns, no drums, no machines of war, this is a peaceful parade of 700 hand-knitted soldiers from every corner of the earth.
These soldiers, resplendent in authentic uniform detail, are the work of 500 knitters from 5 continents who responded to the call for help from Madame Delit Maille (Anna), knitting artist in chief of the Wool War One installation at La Piscine, Museum of Art and Industry at Roubaix in northern France.
Back in May 2014, my NZ friend Barbara and I were two of those 500 knitters; we knitted miniature uniforms to help dress the British and Commonwealth soldier dolls. Through the summer and autumn knitters mobilised to join Delit Maille’s working bees around France and the knitted army came together ready for exhibition in December 2014.
The result is spectacular in its simple symbolism. Seven hundred soldiers in distinctive uniform; French cornflower-blue jackets, red pompomed Belgians, caped Spahis and helmeted Germans all stand out. Each figure seems to have his own personality. Some peep from behind the man in front, others are stooped – weary looking – row upon row of fragile little figures representing all nations despatched to the Great War stand together in this parade.
I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to contribute my knitting to this project. The exhibition, L’Adieu aux Armes, is a fitting memorial – well done Delit Maille, a clever and meaningful interpretation, thoroughly enjoyable to visit and to have participated in.
The Wool War One exhibition runs until 12th April 2015. Eleven different artists whose exhibitions have been commissioned to commemorate the centenary of World War I run one after the other from September 2014 through to May 2018 at the museum in Roubaix. The museum has a wonderful permanent collection of art and industrial archives – particularly relating to the textile industry from the region. More about the wonderful art and industry museum at Roubaix coming up soon.