[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.]
Rationing during wartime made keeping a family clothed and fed a daily challenge. ‘Make do and mend’ encouraged people to come up with ever more ingenious methods of using the resources at their fingertips; a re-envisioning of waste and ‘upcycling’ we could all learn from.
Mrs Maureen Mackie spent her childhood in Glasgow during WWII, and her father served as a fireman throughout the Blitz. She remembers her mother knitting all the socks for the firemen as well as balaclavas to protect their faces from sparks and burning debris. There were few goods being imported at that time, so it was hard to find presents to give to children at Christmas. Mrs Mackie remembers the firemen filling their time between call outs by crafting wooden toys to give to their families. She was given a little wooden scooter with the footrest made out of part of a hot water-bottle, and her sister got a little wooden horse in her stocking. She recognised the saddle blanket on its back as a scrap taken from her old jumper and cried; “How did Santa get that?”
Mrs Aitken was born 1937, one of six children in the family who all knitted. She remembers her brother knitting sweaters from rug wool, and it was her dad who taught her to knit. He believed they should all learn to crochet, embroider and knit, all from a very young age. He would always say; “No, you can do it!” She recounts how they always recycled in those days; “You had to use what was there”. The knitting needles she used as a girl were made from long matches sharpened to a point!
Because of yarn shortages knitted garments often went through many different incarnations during their lifetime. Mrs Muriel Anderson described how her mother would unravel her father’s holey jumpers to re-use the yarn. The recovered wool was all wrinkled, so was wrapped round the arms of a chair and dipped in water. As it dried the weight of the water would straighten the fibres out. It could then be used to knit a sleeveless pullover, and when that was worn through her mother would unravel it again and turn it into a sweater for one of the children. When that had finally worn out she could use the remaining wool to a knit hat or pair of mitts!
I have heard so many wonderful stories of humour, creativity and perseverance in the face of real hardship and heartbreak - there is not enough room to share all of them with you. However I hope that this short piece has given you a snapshot into these turbulent moments in our history and allowed you to hear from some of the amazing people who lived -and knitted!- in that time.