Remembering WWI and its Knitters

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Before I was a knitter, I was an amateur historian.  It's a wonderful thing to be able to combine knitting and history, and to feel connected to knitters from previous eras.

World War I began one hundred years ago this week, when events occurred to ignite the smoldering aggressions between Baltic nations and spread that flame around the globe, claiming the lives of over 9 million soldiers within four years of battle.

Because there were so many fighting, the demand for warm clothes for both soldiers and refugees became hard to meet.  Knitters in America, especially, took up needles to help offset the need and turned out heroic quantities of socks, scarves, shawls, sweaters and more to be sent overseas.

Some say that a certain heavily mustachioed Lord Kitchener developed a special technique for grafting the stitches on a sock to prevent the seam rubbing the toes within army boots.  Whether this is true or not has yet to proven, but I like the story just the same.

 Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener

Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener

No matter how we knit socks or whether we Kitchener the stitches at the toe, we would be wise to remember with gratitude the men, women and children who knit in the face of a global conflict (and a wool shortage, as supplies were apportioned for military use first and Red Cross yarn second).  The intangible importance of doing what seems like an insignificant thing cannot be overstated.   The morale boost that WWI fighting men received with each handknitted item, combined with the sense of accomplishment felt by those on the Home Front as they worked row up on row, remind us to keep doing good things, no matter how small.

If you, too are a history buff who happens to knit, I highly recommend Knitting America by Susan M. Strawn.