Wartime knitting patterns came from numerous sources including the Red Cross. During these times (before photocopying) patterns were eagerly shared around or typed out using carbon paper to create multiple copies. Some women stuck to the same pattern producing a number of identical items, which had the benefit of memorising the pattern and which therefore required no written instructions. But knitting patterns were not above being used in espionage. The Belgian Resistance were reported to have recruited women knitters whose homes overlooked the railway station and enemy train movements, which were then recorded in their patterns. Britain’s Office of Censorship banned the sending of knitting patterns abroad to prevent any possible use as code books. Steel knitting needles were exempt from being commandeered for melting down for arms, as they were considered too valuable to the war effort. By unravelling old garments, the wool could be reused to knit new. This not only helped reduce the demand for wool but also provided new for old garments and was epitomised by the encouragement to ‘make do and mend’ campaign.
However it wasn’t just he ladies who took up knitting to help the war effort. On the home front male ambulance drivers and members of the Home Guard also learned to knit along with bus drivers and London Cabbies. Some jobs were reserved occupations, which excluded them from the call up to fight. These were deemed necessary to maintain some semblance of normal life at home and included, miners, farmers, agricultural workers, railway and dockworkers and schoolteachers and doctors. In all about 5 million men were listed under reserved occupations. Many saw their commitment to the war effort satisfied by taking up knitting to provide support to their colleagues at war.
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