The Knitted Green Sweater Project: A Holocaust Survival Story

Although the PieceWork January/February 2018 issue focuses on handknitted socks and stockings, you won’t want to miss reading Lea Stern’s moving article, “The Green Sweater Project: A Holocaust Survival Story,” about one small knitted green sweater made for a beloved granddaughter in the midst of the madness that became World War II (1939–1945).

That granddaughter, Krystyna Chiger, and her mother, father, and brother survived . . . as did the sweater. Krystyna donated the sweater to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Lea Stern painstakingly reengineered it and wrote the pattern. Here’s an excerpt from Lea’s article explaining how she recreated Krystyna’s green sweater:

knitted green sweater

Krystyna Chiger’s re-created green sweater, knitted from the pattern Lea Stern “reverse-engineered” from the original. Photos by George Boe.

When I saw the sweater, I felt that I had a duty to try to reengineer a pattern for it, so its history would remain alive. After contacting the museum, I was able to set up a time to directly examine the sweater with the exhibition curator, Suzy Snyder, and Cynthia Hughes, head of textiles. I determined gauge and took many measurements, notes, drawings, and photographs that would assist me in figuring out the stitch pattern.

I spent many hours searching for the pattern in every available stitch collection I knew of, but I was unable to find a previously published form of the pattern. I thus assumed that it was something that Krystyna’s grandmother had made up or was a popular pattern of the time, commonly known, but not written. Fortunately, I was able to reproduce it on my own after examining the sweater closely.

To purchase the pattern as a digital download, go to Ravelry at Search for “The Green Sweater” by Lea Stern. Hard copies of the pattern may be purchased at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Bookstore: 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl. SW, Washington, DC 20024; (202) 488-0400. All proceeds from the sale of the pattern are donated to the museum.

To read the rest of Lea Stern’s article about the knitted green sweater, pick up a copy of PieceWork’s January/February 2018 issue. To read more about needlework inspired by World War II, read “Life Lessons in Needlework,” which is about a pair of a pair of hand-embroidered army-issue mittens made in a Japanese internment camp during World War II that were featured in the September/October 2017 issue.

Lea Stern is a physician who lives outside Washington, D.C. She learned to knit from her mother and older sisters at age four. She is interested in all types of historical knitting and needlework. She thanks Julia Grossman, Phyllis Jaffe, and Liora Moriel for their technical assistance and editing. She also thanks test knitters Julia Grossman, Patti Bernstein, Jenny MacWilliam, Tanya Ford, Sue Tunney, and Jessica Kaufman. Special thanks to Suzy Snyder, curator, Cynthia Hughes, textile conservator, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Lastly, she thanks the late Deborah Pulliam for her encouragement in pursuing this project.

Featured Image: Detail of Lea Stern’s re-engineered green sweater.

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