[This post is part of our Knitting in Memoriam series. A blog series in which ERIBÉ gather together some of our hand-knitters inspiring stories about knitting in wartime. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.]
During wartime many of those at home wanted to do all they could to aid the war effort, and one of the ways they were encouraged to help was by knitting ‘comforts’ for the troops. During the Second World War the Red Cross and other voluntary organisations produced knitting patterns and coordinated the nations stocks of camouflage coloured yarns.
Images: Schoolchildren knitting and a knitting size guide from WWII, a Punch Magazine cartoon from WWI.
When Mrs Margaret Craik was a girl during WWII, her father was posted in the Air Raid Precautions Headquarters next to her school. She remembers going to visit him at lunch time:
“He and the other men used to knit – what a comical sight some of them were – one was concentrating so hard his knitting ended up between his knees and another used to keep going until he couldn’t go any higher!”
Mrs Valerie Hamilton was born 1939, and grew up in a household of women as all the men were at war.
Image: Valerie Hamilton as a little girl between her parents.
She remembers watching her great Gran, Gran and mother all sitting knitting. When she was about three she asked “could I knit?” So Mum got her needles and yarn and was about to show her how to cast on when she said “I can do that myself! I was watching!” That was it, she has been knitting ever since.
She made scarves for the sailors, soldiers and airmen during the War. She thinks her first attempts were a bit squiggly to begin with but hopefully still kept them warm! Everyone took their knitting into the local school, the school packed it up and then someone posted it all off to the troops.
Miss Liza Lorimer was born in 1935 and her father had served in WWI.
She remembers being taught to knit socks as part of an initiative at school. She took the first sock home and mother showed her how to turn the heel, but the second one she had to do in school and couldn’t remember how to do it. As a result the socks didn’t match and she “got a telling off from the teacher for making a midden of it!”
Mrs Kirsteen Ballantine’s passion for knitting also began in wartime:
“In September 1939, as World War II began, my Granny and I were evacuated to a small country town where we went to stay with Granny's old friend. These two elderly ladies must have wondered how to keep a five-year-old entertained, so they taught me to knit. Everyone was knitting scarves, gloves, pullovers etc to keep the armed forces warm, and the first article I knitted was a pair of wrist-warmers in khaki wool - a square of K1 P1 rib, sewn up one side. I was hooked on knitting from that moment on, and seventy-five years later I am still knitting!”