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: https://www.warmuseum.ca/blog/an-army-of-knitters-in-support-of-the-war-effort/
  2. “Reknits Others’ Knitting, Woman’s Job Is Unexciting,” The Globe and Mail, Aug 1, 1944, pg. 10.

On making something cozy for my BFF

Find yourself an Ashley.

Ashley is my best friend. We’ve known each other for a stupid amount of time. The fact that we’ve known each other for more than 20 years is absolutely mind boggling, because that means we’re not in our 20s anymore, and I totally feel like I’m only 23. Wait, what was I saying? Oh, right.

Ashley and I had homeroom together in Grade 9 & 10, but we didn’t talk. I was a little intimidated by her, and, according to her, I would sit there and talk with my friend about the Backstreet Boys (and yeah, that’s 100% accurate). Then grade 11 came around and we had three of four classes together, including drama. That year’s big project was writing and performing a ‘docudrama’ and we were partnered together. I think I have the script somewhere in storage to this day. We’ve been friends ever since.

Last spring, due to unforeseen circumstances, I found myself at my parent’s house for a week, and at first I was there without access to knitting needles or yarn. She didn’t hesitate to run over to my parent’s with a few supplies for me, including balls of yarn and needles.

She truly is the best.

Knowing the yarn was Briggs and Little, I feel it’s safe to assume she bought it from the mill in New Brunswick. Her family lives nearby to the community where Canada’s oldest woolen mill is located, and I’m pretty sure the yarn came from the store at the mill. After I was back home, I asked if she would like the yarn back, and she told me to hold onto it.

So I did.

And I made her something.

A few months back, I professed my love for marled yarn as I made my nephew just the cutest little clothing set using a sock weight marled yarn. I took a look at my stash and realized that the yarn from her was two skeins – one marled and one white. I wanted to knit her something cozy. Warm, perhaps a little scratchy, and cozy. 

The pattern is The Fisherman’s Boot Socks by Maritime Family Fiber. I followed the instructions for the smallest size, but my needles were 4.5mm, not 4mm, so I was ultimately making something a little bigger than the pattern called for. They were worked on and off for about six months. But they were finished while the Canadian winters were still bringing about the cold, like they always do. Because toes get cold, and sometimes a thick wool sock is the coziness you need to help stave off the chill.

So, if you can, find yourself an Ashley. Ashleys are good people. Ashleys know how to hook a friend up, and Ashleys totally deserve warm socks.

I adore this human. From 2018, when concerts were a thing…