Nfld. & Labrador

German couple donates socks to WW I commemorative project

Last week, a small package arrived in the mail at The Rooms in St. John's from Friedrichshafen, Germany. When staff opened the package, out fell two pairs of hand-knitted socks.

100 pairs for 100 years, + 2

This package contained a letter and two pairs of knitted socks from Erika and Michael Schumann of Friedrichshafen, Germany. (CBC)

Last week, a small package arrived in the mail at The Rooms in St. John's.  

The return address was postmarked Friedrichshafen, Germany.  

When staff opened the package, out fell two pairs of hand-knitted socks.

Socks that have been knit for the 100 pairs for 100 years project. The different stripe colours on each pair represents different sizes: white-small, blue-medium and red-large. (The Rooms)

"Oftentimes in our work," said Anne Chafe, director of the Provincial Museum-The Rooms, "we don't know the impact that we've had on people." 

More than a year ago, The Rooms initiated the 100 pairs for 100 years project, as part of its commemoration of the centenary of the First World War.

Chafe said volunteers were asked to knit socks using a pattern in the museum's collection, one used by the Women's Patriotic Association (W.P.A.).

Throughout the war years, women in W.P.A. branches across Newfoundland and Labrador knit more than 65,000 pairs of socks to send to men serving overseas, along with 8,900 pairs of trigger mitts and 22,000 scarves.

Chafe said with the help of 72 volunteer knitters, the project reached its goal of 100 pairs of socks.

The socks will be featured in part of an exhibition due to open July 1, Beaumont-Hamel and the T‎rail of the Caribou: Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at War and at Home 1914-1949.

Chafe said along with the socks, the package contained a letter from Erika and Michael Schumann.

These two pairs of socks were sent to The Rooms from Erika and Michael Schumann of Germany. (CBC)

They wrote they had visited The Rooms this past July and had learned about the sock project then.

"We found it a great idea to collect socks for every son you lost in France. While knitting, the thoughts are with these boys who had to live through this terrible time to fight and die in a foreign country with other young boys, on both sides, in the same terrible situation. What an incomprehensible madness! But mankind will never learn. We are still fighting useless wars and three generation [sic] after us, the human race will still shake their head about us."

The Schumanns wrote: "We would like to support you by contributing these two pairs of socks to your campaign. With the best wishes to you, Erika and Michael Schumann."

"So a hundred years ago, Germany was our enemy," said Chafe, "and now today, Erika was so inspired by coming and learning about the sock project that she went home to Germany and knit up these two pairs of socks. So a very nice link to the past, a hundred years later."

Chafe said the socks are well made, but look nothing like the pattern used in The Rooms' project.

She thinks they may have been inspired by a pattern from Germany, reminiscent of lederhosen.

"We're thinking of displaying them next to our sock project, just to show the continuation of the idea and how it sparked somebody to respond."


Christine Davies has worked with CBCNL for more than 30 years and is currently an Associate Producer in the St. John's bureau.