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Orangeville’s Poppy Project – a Community Knit

September 29, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

The idea started back in January this year, very organically, as Laura Austin informed the Orangeville Citizen.

She said, “A friend of mine from Stouffville told me about the idea of the whole community joining in to make a poppy cover for their clock tower for Remembrance Day. I thought it was a wonderful idea and I went straight to the town council to suggest it.”

The town council agreed with Ms. Austin and promised to support it.

Orangeville Public Library, under the guidance of CEO Darla Fraser for both the Mill Street and the Alder Street branches, was natural as the town lead on this and there are nice displays with details about the project and patterns for both knitted and crocheted poppies. The hopes are high for lots of community participation, since the numbers of poppies wished for is 2022.

Details, details: 

Said Ms. Fraser, “We reached out to the Legion and made arrangements to use the image of the poppy. We had to get an endorsement from the Legion out of respect for our war vets.”

Ms. Austin continued by saying, “The town was amazing in supporting this project with a website.”

Decorating the town’s central clock was that the Remembrance Day parade runs along Broadway past the clock tower in the meridian. The hope for 2022 poppies was a whimsy.

“We just picked that number,” commented Ms. Fraser. “However many will be coming we’re happy but we picked a number. Laura brought this idea forward and the library was ready to get things out, bringing it together.”

To keep count, for each poppy a card is completed to keep up to date. Already people are interested in working to help with the installation on the clock tower and the ladies are delighted this project is so well received. 

The Poppy Project was first announced on June 11, on the “knitting public day,” which was a huge success.

“We had some Brownies come to learn how to knit, in the community; it was also Worldwide Knitting Day,” Ms. Austin enthused and, “I was so impressed by the little girls who were so good at crocheting.”

By now the poppies are rolling in. One day the President of the Horticultural Society brought 80 poppies which she makes during commercials, while she watches a television show.

The many aspects of this enterprise have brought some unintended benefits. There was an educational day, as they were told: one lady bringing a share of poppies had taught two of her male neighbours how to knit so they could contribute.

“This is really connecting the community,” Ms. Fraser emphasized, “and adds to the Love Orangeville program the town is promoting.”

They pointed out as well, to the intergenerational teaching and learning as young people learned from their grandmothers and others older than themselves. People teaching each others this time-honoured skill that leads to the making of so many much-loved sweaters and mittens (an unending list), perhaps making a come- back into the lives of people or being introduced as a life’s lesson, good to last all that life.

“Laura is so great about getting these things going,” Darla Fraser said. “We are all so aware in Ukraine, [the news is] showing young people taking that in and this shows young people how we are blessed to live in this community. To give them a certain hope.” 

Ms. Austin added, “I have gone out to speak to a number of groups, all kinds of groups. This is the genesis of an art installation. With our partnership with the town, this is really grass roots but it only works if the community is involved, like the tiles at the town hall.”
She enlarged on her praise for “the Orangeville Public Library makes it look easy but without public support it wouldn’t work.”

Ms. Austin just reached out to the Guides and Brownies and they were on board. When Ms. Austin went out and bought needles and crochet hooks, the Probus Club supported that paid for them. 

“It has really been an entire town project,” she said.

The project continues to be presented with poppies. Last week the Ladies Fellowship at Tweedsmuir Church brought 300 poppies.

There is a deadline naturally. The poppies have to be done with time to assemble the poppies on the webbing and time enough to bring the volunteers together for the assembly. It has been heartening to see some young people offer and wanting to help out with this project too. 

Collection continues right into October. On October 1, there will be an open house to celebrate the re-branding of the library when there will be stations showing different projects. By October 13, it will be time to start the assembly.

“We want to do it in an artistic way,” Ms. Fraser commented, “to be appealing and there are certain rules we have to follow, being respectful.”

To the extent possible, the plan is to reuse the poppies that survive until November 11. The time for the installation is limited as closely as possible to about 10 days, depending on the schedule of public works which will provide the cherry-picker needed. 

“Not up very long,” was the explanation. “The same as when you wear a poppy, same kind of time frame.”

In answer to the question about equally bringing attention to Veterans who are not so lucky about accommodations and services as others, the hope was, “If this does bring social awareness, that’s good but that’s an independent thing that others will incite.

“This just shines a warm light on something we can demonstrate through the project.

“Laura Austin started at the top with this idea and it filtered its way from council,” said Ms. Fraser. “It just made sense that the library is the connector. We have the means and we’re happy to help too when it’s about the town.”

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