Posted by: judyweightman | September 14, 2012

Over Here: Knitting on the Homefront in World War I


During World War I, people on the home front supported the troops not with yellow ribbons but with yarn — they knit everything from mufflers and afghans to socks and wristlets to sweaters and balaclava helmets.

These were not created willy-nilly: knitters used detailed instructions that came in booklets of patterns approved by the armed forces. And of course, they used approved yarn.

The Red Cross played an important role in promoting all this knitting.

Sometimes a Red Cross nurse took some time out from her duties to pick up her own needles.

“Portrait of a Nurse from the Red Cross” by Gabriel Emile Niscolet

Red Cross affiliated groups sprang up around the globe.

Members of a Red Cross group in Australia, 1915

But schools, from elementary to high schools to colleges, were also hotbeds of yarnly activity.

Knitting club of young Canadian children during WWI.

Boys from Cooperstown (New York) High School, 1918.

Plate from “La Vie Pariesienne” magazine, 1916

Not everyone knitted in groups, of course. Some spent some time with a beau on leave. Others stayed home and worried. And knit.

Knitters didn’t abruptly put down their needles in 1918; the need for warm garments continued.

Mary Pickford knits a sweater for disabled World War I veterans while waiting for filming to begin on “Sparrows” in 1926.




For what happened during World War II, click here.




  1. […] As they had during World War I, people on the home front during World War II picked up their knitting needles almost as soon as the war began in September 1939. Very young English girls knitting, November 1939 […]

    • I have enjoyed your history on knitting during the world wars. I am currently creating an info graphic for my blog to show the history of yarn. Could you recommend some other books I could check into?

      • Sorry, I’ve done most of my research online.

  2. […] written about knitting history before, in posts about homefront knitting in WWI and WWII. There’s another side to it, of course — not just that people were knitting in earlier […]

  3. My great grandmother was listed in the census as a knitter for the gov’t. I haven’t been able to find any information on this project. She lived in the city of Philadelphia. If anyone has additional info., It would be greatly appreciated.

    • That’s cool! Hope you find out more — and let us know!

      • Will do.

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