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  • A pair of knit wristers (one done, one in progress and on the needles) in a pale khaki yarn.
    1. Carry On,  Mysterious Powers

    Knitting for the war effort – Wristers

    Knitting for the war effort during the Great War involved all sorts of things. Some were simple – wristlets and mufflers (scarves), and socks. (I admit, I am intimidated by knitting socks.) They also included more complex items, like gloves designed to allow for easy shooting of a gun, or caps to be worn under helmets.

    Elen, the heroine of my latest book, Carry On, does a lot of knitting. I wrote in my last post about wartime knitting in general, but I wanted to give it a try myself.

    So I spent a bit of time in late November knitting up a set of wristlets. (About 7 hours, all told.) Read on if you’re curious about knitting your own historical pattern.

    An example

    I ended up using a modernised pattern from Holly Shaltz, taken from a July 1917 issue of Modern Priscilla Magazine, using patterns from the American Red Cross. There are very similar patterns in British Red Cross guides too. Holly has patterns for a scarf there too.

    British and American knitting needles are different sizes. Worse, needles during the Great War were also different from the sizes we used today. I was happy to use someone else’s guidance on an appropriate combination.

    The yarn for these is in a colour suitable for wartime (not quite British khaki, but would not draw attention), Jagger Spun Heather in the Peat colourway. Basically any wool worsted-weight yarn should do for this.

    My yarn comes from my local yarn shop, Mind’s Eye Yarns. Much thanks to the shop owner, Annie, who also consulted on some of the historical knitting here.

    My adaptations and process

    I have small hands, so instead of 20 stitches on a needle for a total of 60, I went for 16 each.

    (Since the pattern runs in groups of 4 stitches, you probably want to add or remove stitches in groups of 4. If you want to remove fewer than 12 from the original pattern, you could remove 4 from just one side. This saves you having to remember whether you start each needle with knitting or purling.)

    I used double pointed needles (three to hold the stitches, one working needle). I liked this pattern edit because it also gives an option for knitting flat and seaming the finished piece into a proper tube (leaving a hole for the thumb.)

    Other than the multiple needles, it’s a very simple pattern – knit 2, purl 2. Repeat for as many rows as you need.

    I did 40 rows total. 25 to the start of the thumb, 10 for the hole for the thumb, 5 more plus binding off to make the band across the palm above my thumb. They’re shorter than the original version, but I wasn’t entirely sure how much yarn I’d be using up.

    For the thumb hole, I rotated so I could knit going the opposite direction, leaving the gap for the thumb – this worked great.

    Let me know if you try your own Great War knitting project! I’d love to feature it if you’re willing to share.

    Resources

    A short video guide to getting started with historical knitting from Engineering Knits. (She’s also done some great Edwardian and 1920s pieces.)

    British Red Cross knitting and sewing patterns (via the Internet Archive). Dated 1914. Includes everything from hospital clothing to knitting to dressmaking.

    British Red Cross knitting patterns (PDF). Undated, but I think this is from around 1917. Includes patterns for sewing as well (pyjamas and other hospital attire.)

    Historical Resource Shenanigans talks about a sock knitting project using a British Red Cross Pattern. (She’s also got a post about a Canadian knitting nurse.)

    Some examples of American patterns (with modern samples) from the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

    The Antique Pattern Library for a wide range of (mostly not War related) historical knitting patterns

  • eReader with cover of Carry On showing on it, on a bed of pale pink rose petals.
    1. Carry On,  Mysterious Powers

    Knitting for the war effort

    Carry On, my latest book, takes place in March 1915, early in the Great War. Knitting for the war effort was still ramping up to some extent, but many people were hard at work knitting all manner of items to go to the front.

    Elen, my heroine, is no exception. She knits when she’s waiting to be called into someone’s office. She knits when her patient is dozing. She knits when she’s not doing something else with her hands. Basically.

    A pair of knit wristers (one done, one in progress and on the needles) in a pale khaki yarn.

    What did they knit?

    There was a huge range of war time knitting, but there were a few constants:

    The items had to be practical

    Mufflers (scarves), wristers or fingerless gloves, gloves, socks, and knit caps to go under helmets were the most common, but in the resources below you’ll see patterns for a few other things.

    Colour mattered

    Items going to the front had to be a suitable colour. In 1915, this was a bit more flexible, but dark colours or khaki were common. White or other light colours not only would show dirt (and other things) but they could make it easier to spot you in the dark.

    Wool was great.

    Wool has a lot of advantages as a fibre. It wicks moisture well, and it will still keep you warm even if it’s wet. It was also widely available in the British Isles

    Some modern techniques didn’t exist quite yet.

    If you’re a knitter, you might be wondering about circular needles (patented in 1918, so not quite available during most of the War.)

    Likewise, the Kitchener stitch (now widely used in sock patterns) didn’t start being used until 1918 – lore has it that it was intended to reduce trench foot. You can read more about the history in a post from In The Rounds.

    Resources

    Knitting for soldiers, a blog from the Kingston Public Library in Ontario, with some fantastic photos and images.

    And American knitting for the war effort from Atlas Obscura. Also with great photographs of people knitting. I can’t decide if my favourite is the motion picture office employees knitting during lunch or the grand jury knitting socks.

    Curious about knitting just before the War? Here are some examples of patterns and finished garments from The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done.

    A short video guide to getting started with historical knitting from Engineering Knits. (She’s also done some great Edwardian and 1920s pieces.)

    Coming soon, my own attempt at a (simple) pattern from the Great War.

    eReader with a copy of Carry On displayed on the cover, sitting on a bed of fall decorations - small pumpkins, bittersweet berries, and dark green leaves
  • 1. Carry On,  Mysterious Powers

    Carry On is out!

    I’m delighted to be able to share Elen and Roland’s story with you. 

    eReader with a copy of Carry On displayed on the cover, sitting on a bed of fall decorations - small pumpkins, bittersweet berries, and dark green leaves

    The first thing Roland remembers after being injured at the First Battle of Ypres is waking up in a hospital room at the Temple of Healing in Trellech. Over the following weeks, he is tended by a series of nurses, none of whom stays more than a week or two. He never sees the healer assigned to his case – and worse, he has heard nothing from his family.  

    Elen just wants to keep nursing. Sent home from the Front after a bad concussion and ensuing migraines, she knows that taking whatever assignment she is offered is her only option. Even if it’s a decidedly odd assignment – the sole nurse tending to an unusual patient. Together, she and Roland must figure out what is going on with his Healer, how to make sure he gets the care he needs to recover – and how to remember to have hope again. 

    Carry On is full of quiet resolution, knitting, and compassion. Set in the spring of 1915, it takes place early in the Great War. 

    You can get ebooks from your favourite source

    (Paperbacks and library options will be following shortly, keep an eye out at my newsletter for when they’re available.) 

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