Tag Archives | war

Craft and War, Old School

Whenever I’m in need of inspiration for something, I can always count on the past. And if you do as well, and you’ve never had a look at the Library of Congress online collection, you might want to. All these photos deal with craft and war. I love how of our cultural current definition of masculinity is challenged a bit in the first photo, a soldier knitting* quietly, with pin up photos in the background. The second and third are two different groups of women, both knitting for “their” soldiers.

Plus, how cool are the uniforms in the second photo?

Interned German, Fort Douglas, knitting scarf

[Note: how much his creation differs from that of German POW Jim Simpson. Not making a political statement, just interesting. Also: I’m not technically sure what the heck the guy above is doing, as it looks more like he’s making friendship bracelets than knitting?]

Women’s National Service School Under Woman’s Section, Navy League, 1916.

Berlin, Knitting for Soldiers

1st and 3rd photographs: Bain Collection, 2nd: Harris & Ewing Collection

Button’s Bit (How A Patriotic Pup Helped Knit His Bit!)

“Button’s Bit”

I cannot sew, I cannot knit,
I wish that I were wiser;
But I resolved to do “my bit”
To help to down the Kaiser.
The days grew warm, my hair was long
And softer than chamois;
They sheared my coat, and spun soft wool
And knitted socks for Sammy.

Every so often, some sends you the most amazing thing in the world. And sometimes that most amazing thing in the world gets eaten by your inbox and you discover it later only to be kicking yourself that you didn’t see it properly the first go-round. I’m blaming inbox monsters. If they can exist under your bed, why not in your inbox, too?

This is one of those very times, as this book is absolutely incredible and about a wee little dog. A very special wee little dog with super soft fur everyone compares to fleece, so like a sheep he is shorn so his fur can be made into wool which will be knit into items for soldiers at war.

Thanks so much, Erica! You are awesome.

When was the last time you actually took time to listen to other people share their stories? Learn how it can be a rare gift over here at Make & Meaning. Added bonus: Details on places to find herring, Civil War reenactors and fancy peanuts included.

War and Knitting. In Verse.

Many of you who know about knitting for soldiers overseas during the World Wars have seen the poster below. Cool, but nothing new. But about a poem about knitting for war? The poem below is by “The People’s Poet” Edgar Guest, published in 1918.

To a Lady Knitting
Little woman, hourly sitting,
Something for a soldier knitting,
What in fancy can you see?
Many pictured come to me
Through the stitch that now you’re making:
I behold a bullet breaking;
I can see some soldier lying
In that garment slowly dying,
And that very bit of thread
In your fingers, turns to red.
Gray to-day; perhaps to-morrow
Crimsoned by the blood of sorrow.

It may be some hero daring
Shall that very thing be wearing
When he ventures forth to give
Life that other men may live.
He may braver wield the saber
As a tribute to your labor
And for that, which you have knitted,
Better for his task be fitted.
When the thread has left your finger,
Something of yourself my linger,
Something of your lovely beauty
May sustain him in his duty.

Some one’s boy that was a baby
Soon shall wear it, and it may be
He will write and tell his mother
Of the kindness of another,
And her spirit shall caress you,
And her prayers at night shall bless you.
You may never know its story,
Cannot know the grief or glory
That are destined now and hover
Over him your wool shall cover,
Nor what spirit shall invade it
Once your gentle hands have made it.

Little woman, hourly sitting,
Something for a soldier knitting,
‘Tis no common garb you’re making,
These, no common pains you’re taking.
Something lovely, holy, lingers
O’er the needles in your fingers
And with every stitch you’re weaving
Something of yourself you’re leaving.
From your gentle hands and tender
There may come a nation’s splendor,
And from this, your simple duty,
Life may win a fairer beauty.

Also, check out this awesome article about green knitting!

Soldiers Knitting (1918)

Researching the therapeutic value of knitting, I came across this from 1918. More later, but too cool not to share now.

As for anyone who thinks that knitting is just for wusses, please note that this picture was taken at Walter Reed. Yes, Walter Reed Army Medical Center.*

ca. 1918-1919, Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, DC, USA — Bed-ridden wounded knit to help pass the time. Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, DC, ca. 1918-1919. — Image by © CORBIS

*Restraining with all my power to not type “Take that, hardasses” here. Yes, I know a lot of really nice military guys, but knitting, let’s just say is not on their radar.

Knitting From Nothing, Rug By WWII Prisoner of War

I get a lot of really great emails from people telling me about some of the absolutely brilliant things that people do. Yesterday was no exception when I discovered the story of Jim Simpson, who knitted a rug while a prisoner of war in Germany with unraveled garments, using pot handles as knitting needles.

Click on the italic text to go to the respective news stories. And never forget the power and spirit invoked by embracing your creative spirit.

From The Weekly Times:
Jim Simpson would have to be the toughest man to ever pick up a pair of knitting needles.

The former prisoner of war, who spent more than 19 months in Germany’s World War II prison camps, not only survived interrogations and torture but managed to knit arguably Australia’s most valuable war artefact, outside a museum.

Jim’s rug is a perfectly preserved 1.83m x 1.9m knitted woollen blanket, featuring the map of Australia and the Coat of Arms.

“I knitted it with straightened handles from the camp’s cooking pots; they looked like pieces of number eight wire,” Jim says.

“The cook agreed to give them to me if I knitted him a pair of socks.”

Jim credits his mum and his practical bushman’s upbringing in the Nariel Valley, near Corryong, for his knitting skills.

“It’s one of those things, if you put your mind to it, you can do it. I could even turn the heel of a sock as a kid,” he says.


And in Jim’s own words here:

At about this time I had gathered quite a few worn out pullovers, some lousy, some not. Boiling the garments for a few minutes kills the lice and their eggs, and it did not seem to hurt the wool very much. I knitted a few pairs of socks for some who were eager to escape, but they all seemed to return rather crestfallen, but; with socks intact. With this result I gathered enough wool, so I started teaching some of the lads to knit, about forty in all.

They were really good lads, especially the R.A.F. boys. They were helpful in getting more old worn out pullovers to delouse, dismantle and roll into balls of wool of many colours. I had Red Cross Parcel boxes of balls of wool, especially the white wool, which was to be used in the White Map of Australia, which I had envisaged to be able to produce for the centre piece of my rug. The Jerries were very curious about these boxes of wool, but accepted my explanation for them.

Oh, and once you’ve wrapped your head around this awesomeness, consider the fact that it took Jim six weeks to make the rug. Yes, arguably he had a lot of free time on his hands, but it’s still incredible nonetheless. And the next time you complain about not having what you need at hand to finish a project, remember that even in the toughest times, beauty can still find its way to you, with a little creativity, fierceness and love.

Read more about Jim here, here and here. A Google quick search for him also turns up some interesting stories online via PDF. Jim’s rug is also profiled in The Knitted Rug by the wonderful and always inspiring Donna Druchunas.

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