Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Knitting and War: A History

I just loved the speaker at this month's Madison Knitters' Guild meeting. A graduate student from UW-Madison named Rebecca Keyel talked about her research area: knitting during the two world wars. Knitting and history are a heady combination for a nerd like me.
This was called a "helmet." It's one of the samples that Rebecca knit using the traditional patterns. She used Quince & Co. yarn.
I didn't take notes (too busy knitting) but here are some tidbits that stuck in my mind:

  • Socks were really important during the trench warfare of WWI because the men's feet were always wet and muddy. Trench Foot was a real condition.
  • Knitted items were called "comforts" because they brought comfort to the soldiers.
  • Women started knitting the minute war was declared, feeling the need to participate in the war effort and to support the soldiers.
  • By WWII, there were more knitted items than were really needed, but the government kept encouraging knitting to keep up morale on the homefront.

These are socks based on wartime patterns. Again, Rebecca knit them from Quince & Co. yarn.
I hope Rebecca eventually publishes a book because she was fascinating. She told us that there were constant rumors that the Red Cross was selling the sweaters and other items instead of sending them to the front. So far, she has found no evidence that this is true.

I apologize for the poor quality of the photos, but there was quite a crowd around the table that held the samples.

As you may have already noticed, I'm getting back into the swing of blogging and have been catching up on my reading and commenting. I've missed you so it's nice to see what you are all up to.

15 comments:

  1. I imagine receiving ANYTHING from home was quite a comfort, but especially something to keep you warm and dry.

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  2. I love to learn about historic knitting, too. My granny knit socks for soldiers during WWII.

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  3. I recently read a few articles on the role knitting has played in world history. It's fascinating.

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  4. A fascinating subject, I would love to see some of the patterns and indeed knitting.

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  5. I have No Idle Hands from Audible and I know I have listened to it at least 20 times. I guess I am a knit history nerd too!

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  6. Sounds like a neat talk! I'm not surprised that knitters over-produced and contributed even more than was needed. Knitters are the best. :)

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  7. Oh, how fascinating! I too love knitting and history! And, welcome back :)

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  8. I would have loved to go to that lecture too. Interesting stuff and so many knitters to meet!

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  9. I would have been an excellent WWII knitter. But then the stress of war would have done me in... Welcome back and good luck catching up, sometimes it's easier to just start with the recent. (I find if I am woefully behind)

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  10. What a great lecture that must have been! I have the patterns my M-I-L used during WWII and I have knit from them! There is still a group that takes knitted socks for the soldiers today-Afghanistan based.

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  11. Lecture sounds really interesting especially as I am reading Mrs Mile's Diary, her story of life on the home front and talks regularly about different knitting groups and the letters of thanks they sometimes got

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  12. IT sounds like a fascinating talk. I would have loved to hear it.

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  13. I would have loved to hear that talk. Glad you are back. Hoping the New Year will be a tad easier for you.

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  14. one of the most exciting knitting experiences i've ever had was knitting for a british WWI movie, using vintage patterns. I made a shawl, a little girl's coat and hat, and some men's mittens. The patterns were very sketchy...you really had to be a rather comfortable knitter to interpret them, but they all turned out just fine. Sizing was only a suggestion, too....but for me, fortunately, they just found someone the right size for the items! Historical patterns are a whole study unto themselves!
    My Dad was in elementary school during WWI and they taught all the kids to knit for the war effort. He was the one who taught me to knit ...although he never knew how to cast on or bind off. He looped x# of stitches on the needle...I'd knit to the end of the ball of yarn...and then together, we'd rewind the yarn and he's loop on a different # of stitches. I knit that same ball of yarn for YEARS!!! (Yes, I was a very boring only child!) But, boy can I knit garter stitch....and never have a lick of a problem ripping out anything! He taught me well!!!!!

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  15. When I was in third grade (a very long time ago) we knitted squares for the Red Cross. They were then sewn into blankets for soldiers probably by volunteers.

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