Johnnie Lees' recycled mittens

Mountaineers and hill walkers quickly learn that good quality gloves and woollen socks can make all the difference to comfort and enjoyment when out on the hills. Good quality socks and gloves are still expensive today but in the 1950s they could be a significant financial investment - climbing legend, mountain guide and outdoor lover Gwen Moffat had a thrifty solution to this problem...

In the 1950s Gwen was married to RAF Mountain Rescue pioneer Johnnie Lees (find out more about him here) - in his Mountain Rescue role at RAF Valley, Lees was issued with submariners sea boot stockings. These were long woollen socks which came to mid thigh, even on a tall man. (you can find pictures of sea boot stockings and a knitting pattern to create your own here!)

When Johnnie no longer needed these stockings, Gwen decided to make good use of the warm (and very importantly free!) wool. She first unravelled the stockings, then skeined, washed and balled the wool. Gwen then knitted herself a jumper and socks, as well as gloves and mittens for herself and Lees.

Johnnie Lees Collection, Mountain Heritage Trust

It is thought that this pair of mittens were knitted for the 1955 RAF Mountaineering Association expedition to the Himalaya -hence the need to label the gloves with embroidery - "JAREL Keep Off!" (JAREL was Johnnie's informal sign off on correspondence).

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