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2016

Knitting for the warriors

Fri, 27 May 2016

Knitters were in great demand from the start to the finish of the First World War. Soldiers' socks didn't last long on the battlefield!

An industrious industry

Knitting for the troops was one of many ways to support the troops. Fundraising memorabilia such as this Australian badge from the Coo-ee Club was sold on the street.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. 1992.326.

Women and school children quickly got their needles clicking. Knitting bees were held, knitting clubs were formed, and fundraising appeals were launched to pay for all the wool.

Suitable knitting patterns were in great demand. They were published in magazines and newspapers, and as small books.

"There are two sorts of books that have a great sale just now - books about the war, and books about how to knit for the warriors." Star, 23 November 1917.

Despite the millions of the knitting items made during the war, very few have survived. The display of knitted garments in the Home Front - Experiences of the First World War in New Zealand exhibition was made by Auckland Museum volunteers.

They used patterns from two books in the Auckland Museum collection - Soldiers' and Sailors' Comforts and The Red Cross RecordRead their reviews.

Cover of Soldiers' and Sailors' Comforts.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Soldiers' and Sailors' Comforts

Long soldier’s socks, page 1

4 x size 12 needles

"Very wordy old pattern. Some skill needed to 'turn' the heels." Josie Roberts

Helmet with ear slits, page 3

5 x size 12 needles, 4 ply wool

"The pattern was quite difficult to follow and probably assumed a fair degree of expertise. It was a great challenge and I really enjoyed talking about the project with family and friends and had to seek advice from some knitting experts to complete the piece. It took me about 5 days."Arwen King

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Comforts book included four knitting patterns for helmets.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Bag mitten, page 4

4 x size 10 needles, 4 ply wool

"Needle size; changed from 12-10. Pattern assumed expertise, but was not difficult to follow. A pleasure to be part of the Home Front experience, 100 years late!" Anne Warren

Chest and neck protector, page 5

2 x size 11 needles, 3 ply wool

"Pattern assumed you know how to knit it. Thank the internet for YouTube. Pattern wordy and only comprehensible in retrospect." Linda Adams

Fingerless mittens, page 5

4 x double pointed size 12 needles, 3 ply wool

"Tried doubling the 3 ply – lovely and thick but thought it wouldn't have as much dexterity if loading a rifle etc. So used 3 ply and increased the number of stitches and rows to give reasonable size mitten." Jenny Potter

Muffler, page 7

Size 8 needles, 3 ply wool

"Have to concentrate because the pattern is irregular."Cynthia Dove

Two patterns for a cholera belt.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Cholera belt, page 12

Size 13 and 14 needles, 4 ply wool

"Found out that cholera belts were recommended during the time of the British troops being in India - it was considered that cholera came from getting a chill. It was not until after the First World War that it was discovered to be water borne." Lois Ahlquist

The Red Cross Record.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

The Red Cross record

Quickly Made Sock, page 9

"Very impressed with the pattern, very clever design and very clear instructions. These socks are knitted from the top down to the end of the toe with no seams; the pattern gives exact instructions as to how to sew the toe end and results in the stitches 'woven' together in a flat seam. I would think they would be very comfortable to wear."Florence Bentham

Gloves, page 14

4 x Size 13/14 size needles, 5 ply wool

"The wool supplied was probably too soft and fine for a soldier's use. There also appeared to be an error in the pattern when knitting the fingers. "Marguerite Durling

Knee warmers, page 16

4 x Size 8 and 10 needles, 8 ply wool

"As the pattern was for 4 ply wool I worked with a larger gauge of needles and less stitches for the ribbed stretchy bit. For the kneecap I used a smaller gauge of needle so that the knee warmers did not end up with baggy knees. No baggy knees in the army!"Lindsay Smith

Knee caps, page 16

4 x size 13 needles, 3ply wool

"Tried another pattern first but that was going to fit my cat's knees!! These ones are still very small so I would make them bigger next time - bigger needles and 4ply."Kirsten Butt

This book includes patterns for a soldier's cap, a bed sock and a knee cap.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

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