Coding Resistance (or: How WWII prisoner stays sane with needlework)

Hi, all!

photo by David Fearn, newsteam

I just stumbled upon this great article about a British soldier in a Nazi prisoner camp during World War II! The soldier, Major Alexis Casdagli, used embroidery to while away his time in captivity. Since Nazi guards watched his activities, he designed the sampler above. What takes more careful reading is that he buried messages of passive resistence into the dotted borders of the symbols framing the piece. These are in Morse code and spell out “God Save the King” (King George VI was King of Great Britain during WWII.) and other anti-Nazi epithets.



Major Casdagli’s daughter, Alexis Penny, wrote this wonderful blog post about her father’s experiences during WWII, and growing up in post-war Great Britain. In 2014, she published his diary of being a POW. While he was a prisoner, Major Casdagli stitched images of a room where he was held, bookmarks, and a note that was smuggled to his family. In the prisoner camp, Casdagli taught other imprisoned soldiers to stitch as a way of passing the time.






Casdagli’s son picked up the stitching habit from his dad. In his retirement, Tony Casdagli would stitch side by side with his father as a way of relaxing. Several of the younger Casdagli’s embroidered pieces were shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum‘s exhibition, “The Power of Making” in late 2011.

Tony Casdagli, in front of work of his and his father’s. Photo by Graham Turner for the Guardian

This is just a short note to remind you that we’re still busy here at the FIT Gladys Marcus Library! We’re still hunting down interesting design-related stories for you, and will bring you more of these once we get our renovated spaces polished up to open, and the new students settled in.

While you wait, take a look at what I wrote a few months ago about stitching and knitting during WWII, along with creative uses of Morse code:


Enjoy, and we’ll chat more soon!

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