Tuesday 11 November 2014

Knitting for Tommy

Today, on the 11th November, at almost 11am as I type, I thought sharing this book would be an apt thing to do.

Knitting for Tommy: Keeping the Great War Soldier warm by Lucinda Gosling
Published by The History Press
4th August 2014
Paperback Edition

During the First World War a knitting craze swept across Britain, as women everywhere wanted to ‘kit out’ their Tommies with socks, mittens, balaclavas, vests, jumpers and all manner of knitwear - some more graciously received than others! Millions of socks were sent from the home front to the fighting fronts in a bid to wage war on the dreaded ‘trench foot’ and thoughtful knitters would often tuck a love note or simple message into parcels to offer extra cheer to the soldier far from home.

Knitting for Tommy explores the knitting craze through magazine adverts, postcards, cartoons and photographs of the day, as well as offering a guide to kitting out your own First World War Tommy using original knitting patterns.

For the historian, and knitter in me, this is a fantastic resource.  One hundred years ago, women across the world were encouraged to knit for those fighting overseas, with the following rhyme:
For the Empire and for Freedom
We all must do our bit
The men go forth to battle
the women wait - and knit
Now obviously today that seems a bit sexist, but in 1914 when women didn't take part in front-line fighting, their 'bit' was to do as much as possible to keep the home fires burning, and to show their support for the men who had gone to fight - and one of the ways in which they could do this was by knitting.  This book includes the original patterns for woollen helmets, a crochet balaclava, convolvulus (leg warmers), an adjustable abdominal belt as well as bed jackets, gloves and scarfs. 
The Cumberland Mitten
Just three weeks after the outbreak of the war, Lady French, wife of General Sir John French, placed an appeal in The Times: There is a great need for knitted socks, &c., for our troops.  It is, indeed a crying need as the War Office allowance is only three pairs for each man, and a long day's march will wear socks into holes.  I would ask those who have leisure to knit, or are willing to employ others to do so, to send parcels as soon as possible, not direct to me but to Miss Douglas and Miss N. Selby Lowndes at the Ceylon Tea Depot.  Lady French kept up her requests and at the start of 1915 requested some 300,000 mufflers to be knitted, at the request of the War Office.
The book also has a detailed history of the role that knitting played, why it was so important, and how it varied around the world.  The book also contains some fabulous photographs, advertisements, and propaganda posters detailing the craze for knitting one hundred years ago.
G x 


  1. A very appropriate book for today.
    I just love old patterns and books.

  2. I was discussing knitting socks and so on for soldiers just the other day! xx

  3. What a great book for a great day!

  4. what an amazing book, thanks for sharing xx

  5. I am not a knitter but that looks fascinating x


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