Wednesday, 10 September 2014
Knitting for Tommy
Apologies for the long gap since the last post - been busy.
One of the things I have been doing is reading a new book on knitting in the First World War - Knitting for Tommy by Lucinda Gosling. I have been waiting for it for several months, because I supplied some of the images, from the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection, and also saw a draft version of the text. And a couple of weeks ago, Luci sent me a copy of the finished book (which was actually published on 4th August, for the centenary). It's lovely to see it all come together, with lots of other images from the Mary Evans Picture Library. And here and there I recognise the ones from the collection - a couple of ads for spinners, promoting their khaki yarn, and several pages from Woman's Own magazine with knitting patterns for comforts for the troops.
Luci has done a lot of research in publications of the time - there are no other books on First World War knitting that I know of, so hers had to be based on original sources. The Mary Evans Picture Library has runs of several magazines of the period, including The Queen, Punch, The Tatler, that she has been able to use. The Queen had a needlecraft column and during the First World War, it published several patterns for knitted comforts designed by Henrietta Warleigh - as Luci points out, an unusual instance at that time of a named designer.
The Library also has a collection of First World War postcards, including several with knitting subjects -- usually sketches or cartoons, sometimes featuring winsome little girls. Some of these illustrate Luci's chapter on Knitting Fun, along with cartoons from Punch.
The book reproduces several knitting patterns that are readable, although perhaps not as easy to follow as we would expect these days. So it would be possible, with a bit of interpretation and perhaps some experimentation in adapting them to modern yarns, to knit a wide variety of comforts from this book. There are socks, body belts, waistcoats, mufflers, and cardigans. There are several caps and helmets, and an amazing variety of gloves and mittens, with and without fingers, including the rifle glove that has an open thumb and first finger, and a mitten part to cover the other fingers. And as well as garments intended for serving soldiers, there are specialised garments for the wounded, to cater for a range of injuries.
For anyone who is interested in the topic, this is an indispensable book.