Finished Birthday Socks

A few weeks ago, I shared socks for which the plans changed once I finished the cuff. Well, the pair is now finished and gifted, so I can post about them!

The yarn was hand dyed using some kool-aid packages, which created this interesting swirling effect.

The pattern was super simple:

Rounds 1-3: Knit
Round 4: *YO, K2Tog, K6* rep to end
Rounds 5-7: Knit
Round 8: *K2, YO, K2Tog, K2* rep to end

I had originally thought of making a pair with a textured pattern, different knits and purls forming the design, but the swirling of the colour lent itself better to a design that would let the colours shine.

Happy knitting!

Red Cross WWII Socks

‘Tis the season to start holiday knitting, so one of the several pairs of socks on my needles right now is for my nonagenarian grandfather. For the last few years, his Christmas presents have been very simple – a donation in his name to World Vision, some dishcloths (which get very well used) and a pair of socks. This year will be no different.

For his pattern, I thought I’d try something from the Red Cross World War II Knitting pamphlets, the ones my Museum received as a donation earlier this year and that I wrote about a few months ago.

I settled on the ‘Lady’s Ankle Socks’ from The Canadian Red Cross Society Knitting Instructions for the Armed Forces (Compliments of The Yellow Pages of your Telephone Directory).

Lady’s socks, you say? Aren’t they for your grandfather?

Look. Socks shouldn’t be gendered. A sock is a sock is a sock. This pattern is over 64 stitches, which is what I wanted, so Grandad’s socks are using this pattern. And, really, there was nothing too revolutionary, unexpected, or difficult to understand about this pattern. It read like most top-down vanilla sock patterns.

So, the pattern for Ankle Socks, with Double Heel and Flat Toe. It calls for size 13 needles (or 2.25mm for those who prefer a metric needle size). I used 2.5mm along with some self patterning sock yarn.

The pattern calls for 64 stitches cast on, work 4 inches of 1×1 ribbing then 1 inch of stockinette (or ‘plain knitting’). I didn’t do that. I cast on 64 stitches, sure, but then I worked 2×2 ribbing for 20 rounds, and the leg stockinette for 64.

As I continued with the sock, and once I got to the toe, I realized that, really, the only part of the pattern that I followed were the instructions for the heel.

The heel instructions were a standard slip-stitch heel directions (k1, sl1 on RS, p all sts on WS), worked for 29 rows. Turning the heel also followed what is typically seen in a heel turn. When working the gusset, it called for K2tog through the back loop in place of a SSK, which essentially is achieving the exact same thing. I worked the foot over 72 stitches, as that’s my usual length when making socks for Grandad.

For the toe, I decreased every other row, and now that sock #1 is done, I’m quite pleased with the sock.

The pamphlet, The Canadian Red Cross Society Knitting Instructions for the Armed Forces (Compliments of The Yellow Pages of your Telephone Directory), is undated and unauthored, so I’m erring on the side of caution and not republishing the sock instructions as written in case I’m accidentally violating copyright.

Inside the front cover, although undated and unauthored, it notes, “Instructions and Revisions – Courtesy Patons & Baldwins, Limited.”

Socks in October

I suppose I got bored working on the sleeves for my Fezziwig cardigan, so what have I been focusing on instead? Socks. Lots of socks.

One pair is stalled after finishing sock 1 – it doesn’t have a hard deadline, so sock #2 can take a bit of a break

Two pairs I’ve made good progress on over the last week or so, and I’m working on the foot of both. These pairs will likely get their own posts in the coming weeks… They both have hard deadlines, so I’ve really been working away at them.

And, finally, I haven’t cast on the fourth pair I want to make, but the yarn is bought and the pair has been promised to my mum. For that pair, I simply need to cast on, get past the cuff, and decide what pattern I want to make. It’s a self patterning ball of yarn, so I won’t be looking for anything too complicated, but a little interest is always nice.

So, what have I been working on? Socks. Rounds and rounds of socks.

Sock Stories – The Weasley Homestead

Erica Lueder designs some simple, yet lovely, socks. You might know her most popular pattern, Hermoine’s Everyday Sock. Also by her, I’ve made Petunia Dursley’s Double Eyelet Socks, Dumbledore’s Christmas Stockings (RAV LINK), Socks for the Deputy Headmistress, Devil’s Snare Socks, and the Weasley Rib. Yeah, safe to say I like her patterns. They usually feature a simple repeating stitch to give the sock itself some texture and the knitter some interest while making it. With many of the pattern repeats often happening over a small amount of stitches, it makes the socks fairly adaptable as well.

I just finished The Weasley Homestead for a pair for my dad. It’s a 2×2 ribbing pattern along the leg and instep.

If I have to rib, 2×2 is my preferred way to go. In my mind, it feels less tedious than 1×1, but, getting towards the end of a 80 row sock, the ribbing was starting to lose its appeal altogether! That said, the sock yarn and its fading and colour changes kept me interested.

Canadian Red Cross Knitting During World War II

Recently, the Museum I work at received a donation of materials from a local Canadian Red Cross Branch. The first thing I asked was whether there was anything knitting related. To my delight, YES. Included in the donation were four pamphlets created by the Red Cross:

  • The Canadian Red Cross Society Selected Civilian Knitting Instructions for Women and Children (Compliments of The Yellow Pages of your Telephone Directory)
  • The Canadian Red Cross Society Knitting Instructions for the Armed Forces (Compliments of The Yellow Pages of your Telephone Directory)
  • Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work, Number 1 For the Services, Issued by The Canadian Red Cross Society, Revised Edition, November 1940
  • Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work, Number 2 Knitted Comforts for Women, Issued by The Canadian Red Cross Society, November 1940

After carefully looking through the pamphlets, and after our Registrar scanned them all so I could look at the digital versions, the next thing I wanted to do was learn a little more about them and about the Red Cross and knitting in general.

From the archival collection of the Oshawa Museum

I turned to the Toronto based newspaper, The Globe and Mail, to see what might have been reported on at the time. One thing that surprised me the most was how often it was reported that items were having to be fixed or reknit completely by Red Cross volunteers.

It was estimated that some 750,000 people on the homefront (the majority of which were likely women) produced more than 50 million garments during the Second World War.1 There were likely knitters of every skill level pitching in to do their bit.

Pieces were quality controlled, and in Toronto, they passed through the Red Cross offices on Jarvis Street. One volunteer, Mrs. Gibbett, was interviewed about the work of re-knitting items, and about socks, she commented “I hate to think of the poor boy’s feet after wearing a pair of those [socks with knots along the bottom under the heel and toes]. I rip them back and knit it up again.” Her job was described as ‘Unexciting,’ and even Mrs. Gibbett herself said “It’s not a very attractive job, but it’s got to be done. We can’t let all that wool go to waste, you know.”2

The Red Cross often made materials available for volunteer knitters – they would send out wool and the knitters would send the finished items back. The quality control job was one I hadn’t thought about, but it’s importance was great. Not only did it mean materials were not wasted, but it helped ensure that what was being sent was top quality – it would fit and not lead to potential injuries (like with knotted sock bottoms). Those who looked after the quality control were working throughout the war, and I’m sure many a feet were thankful they were.

  1. That stat came from the Canadian War Museum:
  2. “Reknits Others’ Knitting, Woman’s Job Is Unexciting,” The Globe and Mail, Aug 1, 1944, pg. 10.