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Simple Toymaking

During the war WVS ran/organised a number of services and activities for children. We mentioned one of these services in a previous blog Tales of under-fives nurseries were authors had written about their experience when visiting the nurseries.

WVS always strove to make  children’s lives a happy one during the War particularly when it came to providing toys. In the 1944 December Bulletin this article appeared:

TOY MAKING IN A VILLAGE


FROM the early months of the war our W.V.S. working party had knitted every kind of comforts for the Services and Merchant Navy. We had also sewn all sorts of garments for evacuees, but making toys we had never even thought of, and when the appeal came for soft toys for the new day nurseries, we felt rather dubious as to our capabilities in this direction; however, we said we could but try. To commence, patterns, materials and a demonstrator were sent to our village from the County Office, and we were duly launched as toy makers. Dolls were our first efforts; the bodies and clothes were simple, but the painting of their blank faces was a real work of art. We all tried our skill and the results caused much amusement. We decided we could not send out dolls dressed like a six-year-old with an expression of eighty years old, so this job was given to the one person who seemed able to paint the right look. After the dolls we became more ambitious and begged all kinds of materials to make various animals. From old grey flannels we made elephants and donkeys, and from the bits little mice with hairs pulled out of an old brush for their whiskers. Bits of fur were used to make cats and dogs, white felt hats made beautiful polar bears, even an old silk hat was trimmed into a seal. Woollen materials of the appropriate shades were used for giraffes, their spots being embroidered in brown wool. Horses had fur manes and tails, dozens of little rabbits, some sitting, were made out of real scraps of material, and lambs from old Turkish towelling. Besides the recognisable animals we produced a large number of cuddly soft toys which, we hope, though unlike any known species of animals, will be loved by and give pleasure to the little ones they were made for by the novices of our W.V.S. working party.

As is evident from the above article presents and toys were already being made and collected by WVS but the organisation also encouraged people, even those without carpentry skills to make toys themselves in a booklet produced in 1941 and reprinted in 1944, WVS GUIDE TO SIMPLE TOYMAKING FOR WAR-TIME DAY NURSERIES. Like the Elves who work in Father Christmas’ work shop the WVS were busy making toys here are just a few examples:

“Clothes pegs painted to represent funny men in variously coloured clothes. These are fitted by the children on to the open end of a tin which has been attractively painted e.g. as the funny men’s house.”

“Bobbin Toy, a solid base, square or oblong. Uprights on to which bobbins will slip easily (e.g. meat skewers) should be glued firmly into the base, and coloured to match its bobbins e.g. red stick red bobbins, green stick green bobbins etc. The whole can be mounted on bobbin wheels and a hook screwed in front of the drawing it along. Or using pegs of different lengths, this can be made into a counting toy, putting one bobbin on the first peg, 2 on the second (of the same colour) and so on –up to five or six.”

“Mosaics, these may be either loose pieces of different shapes (squares and half squares of different colours are best), which can be freely used for pattern making, or pieces which make a definite pattern, and fit into a tray. Plywood should be used for pieces, but the tray may be made of stout cardboard.”

Perhaps you will be inspired to make some toys for next Christmas.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 19 December 2016.

Labels: Children, Toys, WVS, Nurseries, Under Fives, Christmas

Reports from everywhere - November 1954

MABLETHORPE. When a party of children came here on a school treat, about 20 were swept out to sea by a sudden enormous wave. Fortunately all were saved. They were brought to us. We gave them tea and lent them clothes while we dried and pressed their wet ones. By 6 o’clock they were ready to catch the bus for home as arranged.

DARLINGTON C.B. Writing postcards in a crowded London Post Office, I was asked by a man with both hands bandaged to address a parcel for him. He thanked me saying “ I knew you would help me,” proving that even the back view of a W.V.S. uniform attracts those in need. Long may it remain so !

PADDINGTON B. A member visiting the doctor’s surgery was in uniform. While in the waiting room a harassed G.P. looked in, saw the W.V.S. member, and asked, “ Can you cope with looking out files?” An hour later she entered the surgery. “ Gosh,” said the doctor, “ I apologise, but I was hours behind and am only a locum. In the hospital I’ve just left we had two W.V.S. who did cope, and so have you! Do you want a regular job ?”

RUISLIP U.D. The Guide Commissioner asked us to find some work of public service for a 15-year-old Guide, so we arranged for her to help in the Darby and Joan Club one afternoon. She continued helping all through the holidays, serving tea and washing up, and prepared vegetables for meals on wheels when we were short of a cook. She was always smiling and willing and the old people were delighted to see her.

BROMSGROVE U.D. A demonstration of emergency feeding was said to be the best of its kind so far. Eight women who can build ovens and feed fifty people at a time assembled an oven from a few bricks, a hotplate and a dustbin within an hour. The following day the oven was tested and quickly turned out cakes and tea.