Military Knitting Part 2

This post is pre-fab. I am currently out of the country and probably not checking my blog, but I promise to share vacation details once I’m home!

Last post I gave a brief history of knitting in the military up through World War I. The next documentation of servicemen knitting is in Russia, immediately following WWI.

Russian Civil Wars
Soldiers from the failed White Army fled into China, where they were seen teaching local traders to spin and knit readily available camel fiber. Considering the main routes to China from Russia go through Siberia, I can’t imagine why anyone in the area wouldn’t want to know how to knit. This was almost certainly not the first time Asia had seen knitting (Middle Easterners traded here as frequently as Europe), but may have been the first these particular nomads had encountered it or seen it as immediately useful.

white army

White Army Retreat By Неизвестен – ru:Участник:Vikiped, via Wikimedia Commons

World War II
Knitting became more of a civilian job as organizations like the American Red Cross pushed it as a way for those on the homefront to contribute to the war effort. Many civilians formed groups like the Little Norway Knitting Club in Butte, Montana (pictured below) to create socks and sweaters for soldiers. However, there are also records of soldiers held prisoner in Germany unraveling their own sweaters and reknitting them into socks with improvised barbed wire “needles” – knitting was not demilitarized yet.

little norway knitting club

The Little Norway Knitting Club in Butte, Montana. Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) ca. 1942

Korean War
After WWII, manufactured goods were more readily available than ever. Knitting was still seen as a useful skill, but no longer a necessity. New, easy wash synthetic fibers were available in a variety of bright colors which made knitting quite fashionable. The entre of knitting into the fashion world solidified knitting as “women’s work” and likely sounded what appeared to be a death knell for knitting in the military. Can’t imagine why – I mean, nothing says “battle ready” like a twinset and pearls, right?

1960s knitting

Photo via Infrogmation and Wikimedia Commons

The Knitting Dark Ages
As Western economies flourished and convenience ruled over all, knitting became the “poor relation” of the art world. It was now overwhelmingly cheaper and easier to buy a sweater than to make one, and knitting for pleasure was seen as an “old lady” pastime. Yarn became cheaper and lower quality as fiber businesses tried to keep from failing. Almost no soldiers knit because fewer and fewer people overall knit.

Taquilenos_knitting

Ethnic kniting, however, continued unabated. Photo by Bcasterline, via Wikimedia Commons

The Modern Day
Ironically, the continued improvement of manufacturing and farming technology has made more luxurious and exotic fibers more readily available to knitters around the world. While no longer a necessary skill, knitting is once again a skill many are entering the military with. As noted at the beginning of this series, it is also a skill many are learning while deployed. The combination of more women in the military and ever-blurring gender roles, as well as the increased availability of supplies and information (thanks to the internet) means knitting in the military now has the potential to reach heights never imagined before.

Did I miss anything? If you know anything more about knitting and military history, I’d love to hear about it! In particular I’d love to hear more about soldiers knitting outside Europe and the English-speaking world. I know there must be info out there, but my Google-fu is just not up to it.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. […] This post is pre-fab. I am currently out of the country and probably not checking my blog, but I promise to share vacation details once I'm home! Last post I gave a brief history of knitting in the military up through World War I.  […]

    Reply

  2. Posted by caityrosey on August 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Improvised barbed wire needles??? That sounds like it would hurt your hands and snag on your yarn. At least the guards can be reasonably certain that if you’re using the wire to something labor intensive like knit socks, you’re not likely to whip it out (losing all those hours of hard work) to stab them in the throat.

    Reply

    • Yeah, my husband was suitably impressed by the idea of barbed wire needles. If I keep finding tidbits like that I might actually convince him to take up knitting. 😉

      Reply

  3. […] World War II: Knitting became more of a civilian job as organizations like the American Red Cross pu… […]

    Reply

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