Sunday 9 December 2012

War Crochet

On Friday at Lee Mills, the hardiest of the volunteers were looking through boxes of assorted crochet downstairs in the cold.  (The rest of us were sorting pattern leaflets upstairs in the warm office.)    In one of the boxes, they found some wonderful filet crochet items from World War I.  One is a small piece with little strings of beads (alternately blue and clear glass) around the edge to weight it down - a milk jug or sugar bowl cover, to keep off the dust or flies.   Such covers are usually circular, but this one is rectangular, presumably because that shape fits the "Success to the Allies" slogan better.

The other item is a small table cloth (about 33 in./85 cm. square), in plain white cotton with an edging of filet crochet.

Along each side is the slogan "Welcome home" with some sort of naval ship on either side, and in each corner there are crossed British and French flags and an anchor.

To go with these, the week before I had found a bound collection of World War I women's magazines at Lee Mills.  They are in very poor condition, but mostly readable, and they are full of crochet patterns, including a few "war" designs.

Waterplane design, Woman's Own, January 15 1916 

"A Patriotic Tea Cosy", Woman's Own, March 11 1916

The "Welcome Home" cloth is touching, because presumably it was made in anticipation of a sailor coming home on leave, or at the end of the war, by someone in his family.  But the "Success to the Allies" piece doesn't seem very helpful to the war effort, although at least it does acknowledge that there is a war on. The magazines do have quite a few patterns for garments for the armed forces, mainly knitting patterns, but there are probably more patterns for decorative bits of crochet (doyleys, fancy edgings, and so on). Given our current view of the horrors of the First World War, it seems callously frivolous to spend hours on fine crochet work rather than something more useful, but maybe it seemed different at the time.


  1. Hello there. What a fantastic site and such beautiful finds. I myself am making a collection for teaching purposes, with children and older people, and wonder if any of the items you show could be for sale? or if someone could knit me some authentic WW1 balaclavas etc? Love to find out more. Thank you, Lorna

    1. The items I wrote about are in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, and so not for sale. I'm not sure where you could find people to knit for you - you could try a local knit-and-natter group where you live, perhaps.

  2. Hello - I've come across your fascinating site while on a quest to solve a little mystery - and here I find an answer of sorts.......
    I picked up an old plain white cotton table cloth at a car boot sale in Norwich a few days ago - in the middle is a rectangular panel with the word United crocheted along each side. All around the edge of the cloth runs a wide crocheted border with the words 'Welcome Home' and a little three-funnelled ship with a tall flagstaff along each edge. In each corner is a pair of crossed flags - one possibly a Union Flag, and another with three broad vertical panels - with an anchor in the angle created by their staffs.
    The lady I bought the cloth from (for 50p) said she believed it was in commemoration of an incident in the First World War, possibly to do with submarines, but could tell me nothing else.
    ........well, this is the description I sent to someone who runs a WW1 military website, but on your site I find a description and picture of something very similar - I thought it had to do with a particular ship and event, but perhaps it's just one of many made from a pattern similar to the one you have here! I'd love to hear back from anyone with any comments. - From

  3. Hi is it possible to get this pattern I am involved in the celebration of WW1 thank you

    1. Hi Lin - which pattern do you mean? We don't have the pattern for the sugar bowl cover. to discuss the others, please email me: barbaraknitsagain at


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