Update! In my last post, I mentioned that my knitting kits are now available at the National WWI Museum Gift Shop in Kansas City, MO. Just last week, I was able to visit the museum gift shop, chat with the manager, and see how my knitting kits are being displayed. What a cool experience! Below are some pictures and hopefully they inspire you visit the wonderful museum and to take some “history” home with you…
My summer research has extended into the fall! After moving north in August, I finally had time this past weekend to visit the local historical society where I found a Red Cross Auxillary Meeting Book on display.
AND I found out that a local woman during WWI wrote a poem about knitting for “Over There”…see below!
By Elizabeth Clarke Hardy
I am knitting a khaki sweater for some soldier boy to wear,
And besides my peaceful hearthstone the stitches I set with care
And the firelight falls around me with a warm and cheerful glow,
As I knit the soft, warm sweater for the soldier I do not know.
With my dear home comforts round me I knit with no sense of fear
Of the cruel Huns who have ravished homes to other women dear,
For the boy who will wear this sweater will be out on the firing line,
In the midst of death and danger, safeguarding me and mine.
I’ve no boy to give to my country, but I fashion with tender joy
The soft warm things that will comfort bring to some mother’s soldier boy.
And over there in the trenches when they’re wearing the things we knit,
They will know that the women behind them are faithfully doing their bit.
They are needing the garments we fashion, and needing the comfort and cheer
Of knowing they’re not forgotten by the home folks over here,
So loyal women are knitting warm garments on every hand,
For the boys over in the trenches on the borders of No Man’s Land.
This summer, I am doing some research on the role of limited synthetically dyed yarn during WWI since Germany, at the time, produced much of the world’s dye. I am interested in how this affected what the American Red Cross asked for from homefront knitters. According to the records of the American Red Cross, “During the first part of the war it was a common practice for chapters to buy their materials in the open market instead of from their division headquarters…The disadvantages of such a practice became more and more evident as time passed. Chapters were appealed to not buy dyed wool in the open market, for in so doing they were simply bidding against the government and Red Cross buyers, with a probability of dislocating the market and rising prices” (Fullbrook, The Red Cross in Iowa, 6). Here’s a picture of another source called Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments that explains the largely German controlled market for dyes during WWI also:
I find all of this pretty interesting, especially since it can help me understand what colors were used by homefront knitters! During the rest of the summer, I hope to find out even more information. The summer and its heat is the only time I would prefer researching in a nice cool archive rather than actually knitting!
I found a great original World War I source full of patterns for soldiers. Since it is a source from 1918, the pattern did not translate easily to the knitting tools and yarn we have today. So, I decided to do some experiential learning by knitting one of the patterns and adapting as necessary along the way. The winner for my first foray? The Skull Cap!
First, I started using double pointed needles (dpns) since that is what the original pattern called for. But the original called for a needle size of 8. Well, I knew that the sizes of needles have changed since 1918 so I decided to use a size 5 in order to attain the right gauge with the worsted weight wool I was using…here’s a picture of the beginning stage:
As I started knitting along, I found myself dropping stitches off the dpns since there were so many stitches to keep on the needles. This is a nightmare for any knitter! So, I tried switching to a size 5 needle on circulars…here’s a picture of that:
But, as I started my decrease rounds for the crown on the cap, I realized that circulars weren’t going to work since they were too large in diameter as my stitches became less and less. How frustrating! So, I decided to switch back to the dpns as shown here:
What did I learn through this first experiential learning experience? I learned that original 1918 patterns can be adapted for today’s knitter and that using dpns for this pattern is a must. In the future, though, I think I will use a longer dpn needle size so that the stitches don’t drop as easily!