Once a war-time duty, still a great skill: knitting Landgirl1980: With this new year of ours, I have reaffirmed my need to learn a new skill. I adore embroidery but crafts with wool have been out of my reach for some time. I curse myself for not choosing knitting over cross-stitch as a child and appear to lack the patience required now I am all grown up. It does not help that, being a fan of Miss Marple, I am taunted by her click-clacking as she solves yet another strangers untimely demise. However, this year shall be the year I get over the I-can’t-do-it-RAGE and learn this endlessly inspiring hobby. Ideally I would love to knit myself a jumper from an actual vintage pattern, something in blackberry stitch. Something fitted and flattering. I realise that this is the goal I must head towards and not the first thing I shall make. I feel I shall attempt a scarf. After I have learnt to cast on. Sigh. I wonder what my female forbears would think of me and my non-purling skills? I would certainly not have gone down well in wartime, both The Great and the Second. If you were not involved in other works, and in many cases even if you were, it was seen as a patriotic duty to knit garments for those soldiers far away from home. During WW1 it was very much all hands to the needles with socks, mufflers, hats and scarves all in high demand from those living in wet and cold conditions on the Western Front. On both sides of the pond, yarn and patterns were Government issued with olive green being the colour of choice. In the US, the American Red Cross set up vast knitting networks to ensure that those abroad were catered for. A popular magazine even produced a pattern for the more advanced to knit two pairs of socks at once. With the spread of trench foot and limited army issues socks, these foot coverings were essential. During the wartime Forties, the need for home-made clothes for all came to the fore. Soldiers still needed their socks, but many civilians also needed warmer items. Both the Women’s Voluntary Service, the Women’s Institute and the Red Cross arranged knitting circles and classes, as well as collecting and providing items to those displaced by bombing. Magazines promoted coupon friendly patterns and many worn out garments were unpicked, re-rolled and knitted into something new. LIFE Magazine began the “Bundles for Britain” campaign, with knitters across the US adding to a much needed woollen convoy. Not only was knitting seen almost as an essential skill with which to clothe oneself and family, but it was also believed to be a great stress reliever, with many turning to it for both practicality and peace of mind. With long evenings spent in shelters, it was a hobby that took up little room, occupied the mind and produced something of worth. Nervous energy and worry could be poured into a warm cardy for winter. Today, I love seeing people knitting on the tube, in the passenger seat on a long journey or at the bus stop. Some of the items that folk make blow me away, and I would very much like to join their number. And, with a bit of practice, I think I just might. LandGirl1980 is Charly Surry, a gal with a penchant for history, head-scarves and humour. Charly is a full time retro dressing, history book reading, letter writing (the pen & paper kind), old recipe trying, hair setting, red lippy wearing, cat loving lass. The female role within both World Wars grabs her interest most, but she also has a thing for Anne Boleyn and Royal History in general. Charly runs Well Rounded Retro, an Etsy shop stocking mainly plus-sized vintage and retro. 3 Responses Lisa February 7th, 2013 Good for you lady. I’m taking up sewing. Again. 🙂 Reply Story Tellers Vintage February 7th, 2013 Oh this is such a great skill set to have! You can do it with a little patience and persistence. I thought myself the basic stitches in a week. You just need to find yourself a very (and I mean very) basic instruction booklet 🙂 Reply christine boyle February 10th, 2013 Hello Lena! I attempted knitting 3 times the last several years & always seemed to get side tracked. I thought if my grammy can do it so can I! Took a beginners class at the local yarn shop a few months ago & that did it. No sweaters yet but I do knit a little each day. Give it a good try & pretty soon everyone will look over your shoulder & ask “what are you making”!! love your blog! Thanks for reading my comment 🙂 Chris Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.