Thursday, February 2, 2017

Knitting Socks for the Red Cross

This is a slight diversion from vintage Singers, but it relates to history, which is what I study.  I am preparing for a demonstration in an upcoming exhibit related to the home front efforts in WWII.  The exhibit will be primarily about Victory Gardens and canning foods, but I volunteered to demonstrate how women knit for the GIs during the war.

Several years ago I bought a really neat commemorative Knit Kit from the Red Cross which had a replica of the man's sock pattern they issued to knitters along with yarn for the project.

I made a sample pair for the demonstration:

The history included in the kit explains the Red Cross "Knit Your Bit" campaign.  

Socks could obviously be knit faster and more efficiently by machines in factories but manufacturing was allocated to the war effort as much as possible. Anything that could be produced by alternate means freed up factories for war production.  (And this, of course, is why sewing machines weren't being manufactured during the war either.)

But there was another benefit to the home knitting initiative.  Every American wanted to be involved in working for Victory.  Kids collected tin for scrap metal drives, women worked in plants producing war materiel, and older people tended Victory Gardens.  Knitting was something anyone could do - young and old alike - so the Red Cross urged Americans to "Knit Your Bit" and supplied the yarn and specifications for the garments that were needed.  I imagine that to women on the home front, worried about their men on the front lines, it could be calming and therapeutic to knit with other women and know they were providing warm, comforting items to the troops.  And for the men who received these items, I imagine that just knowing they were hand-knit by the women back home gave them an extra measure of encouragement.  It was a human connection that reminded them of what they were fighting for.

So in the spirit of the Knit Your Bit campaign from WWII,  I am reflecting on those who fought and sacrificed for our freedom while I knit these socks.  Even though a GI won't wear them, I still think about the young men who fought and died overseas while their mothers, wives, and sweethearts did their part back home.  I have four sons of my own, so I can imagine how knitting socks like this would have been an outlet for the constant stress of knowing my boys were in danger.  I hope that during the demonstration I will be able to convey some of these sentiments while I knit the socks.


  1. Those look like very nice socks. I wish I could see your demonstration.

  2. Just discovered your blog and find it fascinating. I too am a history major, but never really used it during my career.

    I think the home effort during WW2 kept everyone connected with the national effort to win the war. We began to lose that collective spirit with the public acrimony over the Vietnam war. It has gotten even more disconnected from the public consciousness during our involvment in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no public connection whatsoever with those conflicts after 20+ years of spending lives and treasure. It seems we are not in it to win and be done with it as it just drones on almost out of sight.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, I love to hear from someone who is also a history major. I am also beginning a somewhat related History Blog which only has a couple of entries so far (including a repeat of this one) but I hope to get it rolling as soon as I get more involved in research and other projects.