Friday 25 October 2013

Knitting in World War 2

Last week Angharad and I went to Harrogate to talk to the Wednesday evening knit-and-natter group at  Baa Ram Ewe in Harrogate, as part of Yorkshire Wool Week, which was organised by Baa Ram Ewe.  The original Baa Ram Ewe yarn shop in Headingley (Leeds) has been established for some years, but the Harrogate branch is new and I hadn't been there before.   The shop is spacious and light (well, it would be during the day when it isn't pouring with rain) and sells some very tempting yarns.  

We had lent some things from the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection for Yorkshire Wool Week, and the very talented Katherine, who is based in the Harrogate shop,  constructed four splendid window displays in successive weeks during October, on doilies, tea cosies, World War 2 knitting & crochet, and Kaffe Fassett's knitwear designs.  (For this purpose, Yorkshire Wool Week lasted 4 weeks.)  My favourite was the display of doilies - Angharad had selected a range of colours that went well together, and they looked splendid hanging up in the window.  Much better, I think, than laid flat on a table or plate in the traditional way. 

When we were in Harrogate, the window display was on World War 2, and featured a small crocheted blanket made out of small oddments of leftover wool, a knitted balaclava helmet, and several socks, including a spiral heelless one knitted by Angharad to a wartime pattern.  Katherine also used enlargements of several wartime knitting patterns from the collection.

 On the Wednesday evening at Baa Ram Ewe, I gave a talk about wartime knitting, covering knitting for the services (including all the many women's services),  the Home Front (air raid shelters and gas masks), and coping with shortages and rationing. 

Lister 802

Sirdar 887
Cronit 301

 After my talk, Angharad showed the spiral socks that she is making, and demonstrated knitting in the round with two circular needles.  Knitting heelless socks in a spiral rib was one way of trying to make socks last longer in wartime.   The idea was that whenever you put them on, your heel would go in a different place, and so the sock would wear evenly, rather than going into a hole at the heel.   That's the claim.  Angharad and I aren't sure how well they will work in practice, so we are both knitting a pair to try them for ourselves.  I'll write more about mine later - we are both onto the second sock of our pair.  Here is the extremely worn, torn and creased pattern that Angharad is knitting from - the one I'm using is a slight variation on the same idea, from a different spinner. 

The leaflet claims "The HEEL forms itself when the Sock is pulled on.  MUCH QUICKER TO KNIT THAN ORDINARY SOCKS AND WEARS THREE TIMES LONGER BECAUSE THE HEEL WEAR SELDOM OCCURS IN THE SAME PLACE TWICE. The photograph shows how snugly the Heel forms itself and the close, comfortable fitting round the legs and ankles."   So we'll test whether this is all true when we have finished our respective pairs.   



  1. The shoulder cape worn by the lady in the shelter looks really useful. I'm not sure about the socks. I'll be interested to see if they work. But I suspect the heel will always go in the same place after they have been worn a few times.

    1. That's one of the things we'll be finding out when our socks are finished. But if the heel stays in one place, it wouldn't really matter these days - sock yarn is much more hard-wearing now than it was during the war, if it has a proportion of nylon or other synthetic. What we mainly want to know now is whether they fit well or not.

    2. I have always admired the spirit of Home Front knitting during wartime.
      I wonder if the Royal family knit for this cause ?
      I am enjoying reading your delightful blog.


    1. Wool (along with other clothing) was rationed from 1942 until 1949. At the time, people would have knitted baby clothes in wool (though baby wool was I think especially soft - possibly merino?). Now peopel are more likely to use the synthetics that weren't available during WW2, or possibly superwash wool.


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