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Guest Blogger Part 2: Karen Ballard - World War II Crocheting with Attitude

Thursday, December 12, 2013


As promised, Karen Ballard is back as my guest to inform and educate us about attitudes about crochet during the World War II era. If you missed her first article which focused on World War I, you can access it here.

Karen Ballard
World War II Crocheting with Attitude by Karen Ballard
After about 25 years of collecting World War Workbasket Campaign items associated with doing needlework for service personnel, wounded, refugees and patriotic home-front, I have amassed a very large WWII collection. Included are books, magazines, individual patterns, posters, sheet music, postcards, knitting bags; and yes, even a small number of patriotic crocheted items. While knitting patterns abound, there are extremely few crochet patterns, even fewer than those found for WWI and  I have found no explanation for this.

Out of 21 U.S. knitting books containing patterns for service men, only W. Newbold Ely, Pointers for Crocheting and Knitting has a single crocheted helmet (like a ski mask) for service men. 

Ely Crocheted Helmet
 Out of 44 individual patterns published by American Red Cross (ARC), Bundles for Britain (organized in New York before the U.S. entered the war), Bundles for Bluejackets (this organization changed its name to Bundles for America, early in the war, retaining a Bundles for Bluejackets Naval Division), and Citizens’s Committee for Army and Navy, only one pattern is crocheted: a Woman’s circular shawl for refugees. (similar to the shawl pattern for WWI “devastated France”.

No WWII British crochet patterns were found, and out of 6 Canadian Red Cross booklets only the one for babies and children has a couple crochet patterns.  One French-Canadian knitting magazine contains a crocheted serviceman’s sweater pattern.

Serviceman's Sweater Pattern
 One French magazine has a crocheted helmet.

French Crocheted Helmet
An Australian Red Cross Society Knitting Book includes a crocheted Bed Socks pattern and an Aussie knitting book has a crocheted scarf pattern. 

Scarf Pattern
While the above may sound like a lot of crochet patterns, please note that this is all of the crochet patterns found among hundreds of knitting and sewing patterns for service personnel, wounded and refugees.
No posters, postcards, sheet music, etc. depict or refer to crochet.  The only photos of WWII crochet I have seen are two photos of Women’s Army Corps volunteers having a crochet party. 

Women's Army Corps crochet party
Although their crochet is not patriotic, it shows that some people were still crocheting, despite the war.

Evidence of WWII patriotic home-front crocheting is a little more easily found than for functional crocheted military/wounded/refugee garments at least for the USA. There are women’s and children’s clothing patterns with designs influenced by military uniforms and the pictured lady’s stylized tricorne hat, reminiscent of the American Revolution. 

Dolly & Me Matching Crocheted Dresses
Tri-Corne Hat
There are patriotic doll clothes in Mary Hoyer’s Mary’s Dollies Vols 6 & 9, and patriotic toys in Spool Cotton Company’s Crochet Your Victory Barnyard on my blog. There are patterns for crocheted gob’s (slang for an ordinary enlisted Navy seaman) and officer’s hat-shaped lapel pins embellished with tiny Susan Bates knitting needles.

in Winter 1941-42 McCall's Needlework magazine and the Winter 1943-44 issue has an ad for crocheted pot holders with patriotic emblems, 

Patriotic Pot Holders
as well as an article and another ad exhorting readers to “conserve with crochet.” 

Other crocheted home-front items include: a cotton single-star service flag, a cotton “V for Victory” doily, a rayon Eagle & Shield doily

Home Front Items
and a red/white/blue rayon “gimp” homemade brooch pincushion-hat with hanging thimble-pouch (pictured in the center); perfect for wearing to an ARC sewing bee!

Perhaps exemplifying attitudes toward wartime crochet is this United States Rubber Company advertisement, stating “Once you used it [crochet thread] for bedspreads, now it makes the machine gun belts our fighter pilots use,”  clearly implying that during war we no longer crocheted.

1941 War Effort
On January 8, 1945, Life magazine ran a cover story on “Fancy Crochets Jaunty, Stylish Clothes” designed by Greta Plattry, a 1937 emigre from Germany who “reintroduced” American women to crocheted fashions. 

Life magazine -January 8, 1945
Although this was not part of the Workbasket Campaign, it indicates that when drawing near the end of the long war, American women were ready to put down their khaki, olive-green, and navy blue yarn to crochet (and knit) pretty and colorful fashions.

---. MarieClaire. No. 154, February 9, 1940, Canada (includes Un Beau Chandail au crochet).
---. McCall Needlework Winter 1941-42 (includes crocheted patriotic lapel pins pattern).
---. McCall Needlework Winter 1943-44 (includes ad for crocheted tricorne hat and patriotic pot holders).
---. Tricot  Roman 1 Dec 1939 “Pour nos Soldats”, France (includes a Passe – Montagne au crochet helmet).
American Red Cross, pattern ARC 400-15, June 1940 Woman’s Black Circular Shawl, Washington, DC, USA.
Australian Red Cross Society, Australian Red Cross Society Knitting Book (includes crocheted Bed-Socks), Australia.
Canadian Red Cross, Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work No. 3, Knitted Comforts for Babies & Children, March 1941, Toronto, Canada
Ely. W. Newbold. Pointers for Crocheting and Knitting 1st edition, 1943, USA.
Hoyer, Mary. Mary’s Dollies Vol. No. 6, USA (including Wavette & RC Nurse).
Hoyer, Mary. Mary’s Dollies Vol. No. 9, USA (including “Miss Victory”).
Patons & Baldwins’ Specialty Book No. 122 (n.d.) Melbourne & Sydney, Australia (includes crocheted scarf pattern).
Spool Cotton Company. Crochet your Victory Barnyard No. 204, 1943, USA.


John DDuncan said…
This blog impressed me and over exceeded my expectations. You know how to involve a reader and increase his curiosity to read more. Many congratulations!
photos of world war 2
Shawn Marsh said…
You have really helped several of individuals like me, who have been searching internet from past quite a long time to find detailed information on this particular topic. Thanks a war ii vedios
John and Shawn, I am glad you enjoyed my guest entry to the Crochet Queen's blog. Did you notice my hat at the beginning of the article? It is a Vintage WWII one with stubby knitting needles on top of it. In case you're interested, I also published an article on "Patriotic Knitting Tools" in Mar/Apr 2012 PieceWork magazine and provided Historic consultation for Melanie Gall's "Knitting All the Day" CD of WWI knitting music and her soon-to-be-released CD of WWII knitting songs. If you wish to contact me, my email is:

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