Knitting for the warriors
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
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 Record. Read their reviews.
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
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
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
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
Post by: Auckland Museum
Auckland War Memorial Museum tells the story of New Zealand, its people, and their place in the Pacific.