Showing posts with label wartime knitting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wartime knitting. Show all posts

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Sock, the First World War, and How They Changed One Another

Today is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and Love Knitting has marked the occasion by posting an article I wrote on the origin of the Kitchener stitch.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

She Knits While Billy Tries to Bill and Coo

This is the frontpiece of the sheet music for a song published in 1917 and written by one Harry Von Tilzner. One might think it's a song to encourage knitting for the war effort, but it's actually not quite that. The lyrics, which are below, are about a woman who won't stop knitting for the soldiers, to her beau's dismay. Ah, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Verse 1
Pretty little Kitty's got the patriotic craze
Knitting scarfs for soldiers day and night
Silly little Billy now is spending all his days
Watching Kitty knit with all her might
She even knits when out in his canoe.
She knits while Billy tries to bill and coo.

Chorus 1
He'd take a hug
Then he'd hug her some more
While she'd knit knit knit knit knit
He'd steal a kiss
Then he'd take an encore
And she'd knit knit knit knit knit
Under a tree
He would rest with a smile
She'd lay her knitting down for a while
A bird in a nest
Said oh give us a rest
Go on and knit knit knit.

Verse 2
Pretty little Kitty said, now Willie do your bit
Here's some yarn and needles you can start
Come and sit beside me and I'll teach you how to knit
That's the way that you can win my heart
He'd knit a while and then he'd want to woo.
He'd look at her and drop a stitch or two.

Chorus 2
He'd take a hug
Then he'd hug her some more
She'd say knit knit knit knit knit
He'd steal a kiss
Then he'd take an encore
She'd say knit knit knit knit knit
One day a tug
Passed them by in a squall
Looking through glasses was captain and all
They both heard a yelp
Do you need any help?
And she said knit knit knit.

And a word of caution to non-knitters who are trying to get their knitting significant others to knit less... DO NOT take hold of a yarn end and pull as these men seem to be doing to the woman's knitting in this picture. It will make the knitter you love very, very angry. And remember, your sweetheart is holding two pointed pieces of metal.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Cary Grant Knits for Victory

Here's a not-to-be missed clip from Cary Grant's 1943 movie, Mr. Lucky. I don't know what I love more about it: the way the women in the movie effortlessly strong-arm a rude and blustering Cary Grant into learning to knit, or the way he almost immediately learns to like it. As Lyn Zwerling says of the male prisoners she's teaching to knit in a Maryland men's prison, "They want to knit. They just don't know they want to knit."

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Knitting for Sandy Hook

If you are wondering how you might help the surviving victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy, some group knitting projects have been organized. There's a Ravelry group making stuffed toy monsters for every child who attends the Sandy Hook elementary school.

A teacher named Jeanne Malgioglio is asking people to knit or crochet green and white scarves (green and white being the Sandy Hook school colours) for the Sandy hook students, faculty and first responders.

A web site called Snappy Tots is asking knitters and crocheters to make green and white hats to be give to the children of Sandy Hook school.

I have a few thoughts about these charitable efforts that I'd like to express, but doing so has cost me not a few minutes spent staring blankly at a blank computer screen, trying to frame what I want to say in a way that will not in any way denigrate the group efforts I've listed above.

In a time of tragedy like this one, people who weren't directly affected by the events try to process their horror and grief and often end by wondering what on earth they can do to help those who were hard hit. They are often willing to give considerable amounts of time, effort and money in order to help. This being the case, it seems a shame that, so often, these wonderful, generous, loving outpourings of time, effort, and money can get misdirected into activities that don't actually help anyone, that are the equivalent of baking an American flag cake.

I think of accounts I read after 9/11 that related how the Red Cross had so much money in their 9/11 relief fund that they wound up simply handing out money to those who just happened to live near the World Trade Center — who had not suffered the loss of any loved ones, any injury, or any destruction of their property in the terrorist attack. I think of how, in WWI and WWII, women were encouraged to help in the war effort by knitting socks and other items, though a factory could turn out more socks in a day than quite a large group of women could knit in a year. This is not to say that the hand-knitted socks were useless, as I am sure they were put to good use and were much appreciated by the soldiers who got them. One must look at the larger picture, at the fact that the war work of those on the homefront was very varied and could hardly have been greater, and that the knitting they did was probably only a way to put their little leisure time to good use. However, let it be said that the soldiers who didn't get hand-knitted socks didn't go barefoot, and that the main benefit of wartime knitting seems to have been that it made the women who did it feel useful, that it gave them a way to cope with their anxiety over the fact that the men they loved might never come back from the war. And some war-time knitting and needlework was indeed completely useless and self-indulgent. And so I consider that these efforts were at least partially misdirected, because at least in the case of the tragically pointless WWI, asking hard questions about why such a war needed to take place and lobbying for withdrawal from it would have done the soldiers who fought it far more good than any amount of hand-knitted socks.

Please don't take all this as a criticism of the charities I have mentioned. It's important that the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre receive support. There have been two deaths in my family in the past thirteen months, and I know just how much it means to people who are grieving to receive these gestures of sympathy and support. These scarves and hats and toys won't in any way make up for what those who receive them have lost and won't by itself help them recover from their traumatizing experiences, but it will demonstrate to them that there are many people out there who sympathize and care about them. When the children who attend Sandy Hook receive their cuddly knitted monsters, they'll learn that though there was one mentally ill stranger out there who wanted to kill them, there are thousands of strangers who care so much about them and what they've been through that they're willing to spend time and money making a toy especially for them.

What I would like, though, is for people to try to see the bigger picture, and to be mindful and far-seeing about the ways in which they try to work through and respond this tragedy. I'd like people to think about how they can help address some of the root causes of these horrific mass shootings: the lax gun control laws; the substandard treatment of the mentally ill; the lack of support for families trying to raise a child with mental health issues; and some of the issues with media coverage. I'd like people to really think about what they can do to change our society for the better, about becoming more politically active, or about volunteering, or organizing a group effort of their own if they've got a great idea for one.

Many who will knit for these causes are already volunteering or contributing to social or political causes, and they, or others who are already overwhelmed with their own responsibilities, may decide that all they want to do or can do is knit an item during their public transit commute or TV-watching time in evening. But there are those of us who could spare the time to work for change, and I'd like us all to think carefully before we pick up the needles. Knitting is a wonderful past-time, and it's not non-productive, but sometimes it is better to leave the needles lying in our work baskets, because there are other, more important things that we could be doing.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Not All Vintage is Good Vintage

This isn't one of those vintage knitting patterns one drools over and that makes one reflect on some supposed decline in craftsmanship or aesthetics. This is one of those knitting patterns one has to view in the proper historical context: as the perfect thing for a miserable, Valium-addicted housewife to make her closeted gay husband. I understand these "string vests", also known as "Norwegian string vests" because they were first invented by a Norwegian Army Commandant in 1933, supposedly have heating and cooling properties, because they trap air between the meshes. My guess is they also work well as a form of birth control, because if a man strips down in front of a woman and she sees him wearing this, he isn't getting any.

Now this is the type of vintage pattern one drools over. It's utter perfection. This pattern is from a 1930's Patons Beehive booklet. I'm planning on making this one myself and have bought a PDF of this pattern online and some hand-dyed merino yarn in shades of teal and green for the purpose. I like the idea of making a thirties pattern in a very contemporary-style yarn.