Knits of Yore

World War I-era knitters, as shown in Knits of Yore

I love the word "yore." It conjures up all kinds of images for me, including an episode of Friends when Phoebe asked Rachel what era an apothecary table (from Pottery Barn) was from and Rachel said, "It's from yore." Phoebe said,"Oooooh," with wonder. I loved that show.

Aaaaanyway. . . We have a new DVD called Knits of Yore with Susan Strawn. Susan is a knitting scholar (don't you love that?) with a Ph.D. in Clothing and Textiles. She was taught to knit by her Danish grandmother, and she passes on her knowledge to her students at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois.

In Knits of Yore, Susan covers a ton of material, but one of the things that really caught my interest was a segment about knitting in wartime.

There was an extraordinary quantity of knitting that went on during both World Wars. In fact, knitting was synonymous with patriotism during that time. Knitters appeared in all kinds of advertising, from cigarettes to groceries to war bonds.

One thing that really tickled me was that the larger the knitting bag, the more patriotic the knitter was considered. If that opinion were still in place today, I'd be thought of as a super patriot!

War poster asking people to knit "sox" for the troops

Everyone was knitting during wartime: men, women, and children. There was a sentiment that if you didn't have knitting with you, you were wasting your time. The Susan Bates Co. even made red, white, and blue needles!

Susan tells a story about a Mrs. Kahlil of Palm Beach, Florida, who was a prolific knitter during WWII. Mrs. Kahlil was the oldest child with three younger brothers. Two of her brothers died in battle and she requested that the third one be brought home on compassionate leave, which he was, and he lived a long life.

Mrs. Kahlil was knitting a sweater when the war ended and she simply put it down and left it unfinished. We don't know if she did it as a symbol of the ending of the war, but it's a really nice thought, isn't it? Mrs. Kahlil's family donated their wartime memorabilia to the National World War II museum in New Orleans, where the unfinished sweater can be seen today.

Interestingly, wartime was a prolific time for female inventors. Patents related to knitting approached 50 percent by women, compared to 1 percent of women for all patents during that time. One interesting invention was Henrietta Hensley's glow-in-the-dark knitting needles. The tips of the needles were coated with radium paint, which created the glow. Henrietta didn't know at the time that she's created radioactive knitting needles!

Susan is an absolute wealth of knitting knowledge. She's passionate about knitting and its history, which comes across wonderfully in Knits of Yore. I was riveted and I think you will be, too.

Knits of Yore is available on DVD or as a download. Get your Yore today!


P.S. Have an interesting wartime knitting story? Share it in the comments!

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