vintage Red Cross knitting

Yesterday I ventured out into the chilly autumn rain (and forgot my umbrella) to go to a fabric flea market in the Glebe. I don’t have much need for fabric (I’m a lapsed quilter, and never learned to sew on a machine, though I’d like to change both of those at some point) but I heard there’d be some knitting-related items there and so decided to check it out. There was a lot of old and scratchy acrylic yarn in horrible 70s colours, as well as several dinged and dented pairs of aluminum needles. I was about to give up and leave when I spotted a seller with lots of old crafts magazines, and there I found this:

It’s an instructional booklet published by the Canadian Red Cross in 1940, for knitters who wanted to make items for soldiers. It was an original copy for only $2, so I quickly snapped it up. I love historical items like this; for a while now I’ve been toying with the idea with writing a historical piece or two for a magazine like Spin-Off or Interweave Knits. I also scored several other knitting patterns from the 40’s and 50’s, mostly sock patterns featuring photographs of men with Brillcreamed hair playing golf and generally looking wholesome. I love the Red Cross booklet, though–it’s got patterns for items needed in all branches of the service, as well as hospitals:

Note the “amputation covers”. When I first saw that I thought, thank god we’ve come a long way since WWII. And then I remembered all the soldiers coming back from Iraq missing limbs, some of them even returning for further tours in the Middle East once they’ve become accustomed to their prostheses! Further research reveals that amputation covers, or “stump socks”, are still used in fitting artificial limbs. Interesting.

There are no pictures in the booklet, so it’ll be a surprise if I decide to knit anything from it. I’m thinking a pair of mittens, though probably not the Rifle Mitts with the separate trigger finger! Whoever picked up this little booklet back in 1940 evidently decided on socks, judging by the pencil mark:

Given how hugely popular sock knitting is right now, I imagine she (or he) would be in good company these days. I wonder if she’s still knitting?

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One Response to vintage Red Cross knitting

  1. Kristin says:

    I love that! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about old knitting publications, and would love to come upon a find like that.

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