Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day Knitting

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

So what does Memorial Day have to do with knitting?  A lot, in fact!

Memorial Day started as a day to honor soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War, and later it was expanded to include the fallen in all wars.

Sojourner Truth knitting, 1864
During the Civil War the government issued socks for the soldiers.  They were awful, and soldiers quickly learned to write home to their wives, mothers and sisters to send them good-quality, hand-made socks.  The Spring 2012 Knitting Traditions magazine has an excellent article on Civil War sock knitting, as well as two patterns for socks originally published in 1864 and 1865.  The magazine includes the original patterns, plus versions updated with modern knitting terms.

WWI Poster, 1917-1918
The knitting tradition continued through all of our country's wars.  The American Red Cross especially encouraged knitting during WWI and WWII.  There is a page on their museum website with some really interesting and original knitting patterns from World War II. 

You don't have to go back in history to help our troops this weekend.  A number of groups provide an opportunity for military charity knitting.  Socks for Soldiers, Inc. is a good one, and Ravelry has charity knitting groups including We Care Stitchers and Soldier's Angels.  You should also try your local knitting guilds and church groups.

When knitting for soldiers the military often requires 100% wool.  Wool blended with a polyester, and even some wool that has been "Superwash" treated, will melt when exposed to fire - causing major skin burning.  I often recommend Brown Sheep Nature Spun 100% wool to knitters making helmet liners and hats for our troops in the Middle East - nights are cold over there!  I also like to recommend Suzy the Shepherdess fingering weight 100% wool yarn to those knitting socks for soldiers - and all sock yarn is 15% off through the end of May!

Knitting for hospitalized soldiers (afghans and lap blankets are popular) often requires acrylic so that they can hold up under rigorous hospital washing.  I recommend Berroco's Comfort and Knit One Crochet Too's Nautika, both acrylic and nylon blends.   

Have a great weekend!

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