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  • Writer's pictureMatilda Butler

Do You Knit? Rosies Did (and So Did Soldiers!)

Do You Knit? Do You Purl?

Recently, Kendra wrote about Rosie the Riveter socks. [We call them Rosie's Toesies]. That got me thinking.

OK. I don't knit these days, but I used to as a teenager and into my early 20s. Once upon a time, I knitted a sweater as a Christmas present for a high school boyfriend. I got it finished except for one sleeve. I was away at school and so had to bring the project home to complete.

Now is when it gets a bit complicated. I had two boyfriends -- one in Washington DC where I went to school and one in Oklahoma where I lived. When I finished the sweater, I needed to take it to the dry cleaners to have it "blocked" before sending it to my DC boyfriend. "What's a girl to do?" I didn't have a car, so I asked my Oklahoma boyfriend to drive me to the cleaners. My excuse? "I was helping a friend."

OK. That wasn't my finest moment.

Kendra also has a knitting story. It's more humorous than mine. Her mother used to knit argyle socks. She did that for a number of years -- until she one day when she walked into her project room (she was also an artist). What did she see? An argyle sock completely un-knitted. Who did she see? Kendra happily taking the sock apart -- down to the last few stitches. Her mother never knitted another pair of argyle socks.

As it happens, Kendra was just two years old so her story is much cuter than mine.

Why Am I Mentioning Knitting?

I knew that many women knitted during WW1. We've probably all seen pictures and read about the boxes of hand-knitted socks that were sent to soldiers. I remember my mother mentioning rolling bandages and knitting scarves for Red Cross shipments. (She was young enough that she didn't have the skills to knit socks.)

But I wondered about WW2? Did women knit socks for soldiers? Well it turns out the answer is "yes" but with a bit of an interesting twist.

Clementine and Eleanor...

Clementine Churchill, wife of then First Lord of the Admiralty and later Prime Minister Winston Churchill, contacted Eleanor Roosevelt and persuaded her to promote Bundles for Britain. And before long, Eleanor became known by several names — First Lady of Knitting, Knitter-in-Chief, First Knitter of the Land.

Eleanor carried a large knitting bag with her almost everywhere and was often seen knitting when in public. Her visibility meant more promotion and efforts were initiated than would have been possible otherwise. For example, large department stores sponsored knitting bees for relief organizations of all types.

There was even a movie that featured wartime knitters. The movie, Mr. Lucky (1943), showed its star, Cary Grant, learning to knit.

But the real work of Bundles for Britain was initiated by Natalie Wales Latham, a well-known New York City socialite. The humble beginning included a group of Latham's friends meeting in a small office on Park Avenue on January 14, 1949. As the popularity of Bundles for Britain spread, the Red Cross became involved. Soom there were 1.5 million volunteers that could be found in almost every city and town across America. By the end of WW2, Americans associated with Bundles for Britain had sent hundreds of thousands of knitted garments for the citizens of Britain.

In January 1942, after America had entered the war, a parallel organization was started and named Bundles for America. Natalie Latham resigned her position with Bundles for Britain in order to bring her expertise to Bundles for America.

There was Even a Song...

During WW2, Glenn Miller edited the patriotic song -- KNIT ONE, PURL TWO -- and then recorded it with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. If you look at the cover of the sheet music, you'll think the words and music were by written by Flossy Frills and Ben Lorre.

Don't know the music of this dynamic duo? Well, there's a good reason. It turns out that Flossy Frills was actually a cartoon character that regularly appeared in the Sunday supplement called American Weekly, a Hearst newspaper published in San Francisco. The song's writing credits -- featuring Flossy Frills -- were intended to show Randolph Hearst's contribution to the war effort.

Flossy Frills Helps Out was a strip story running from March to July 1942. In it, Flossy starts a knitting club with her friends. According to some sources, the idea became popular and there were Flossy Frills knitting clubs established in many locations and they made sweaters and scarves for servicemen.

In reality, "Knit One, Purl Two" was written solely by Ben Lorre. Here are some of the words:

Sitting, waiting, yearning

was at first too hard to bear

But now I have an outlet for each mood,

Tho' I still feel that yearning

for you know how much I care,

No longer do I brood,

I've found a way to share.

Knit One, Purl Two,

This sweater my darling's for you.

While vigil you're keeping

thru' rain and storm

This sweater will keep you warm.

Purl two, knit one

Our trials I know have begun


So Yes...

Women in America knitted during WW2! Many of these women were primarily at home taking care of their children, but even those who were ambulance drivers, railroad maintenance engineers, taxi drivers, mail carriers, ammunitions workers, book makers, parachute seamstresses, volunteer crop pickers, fire fighters, nurses, cryptographers, riveters and welders (as well as many others) -- also knitted in their "spare" time. Everyone wanted to contribute to the war effort.



World War II as well as The Great Depression taught the lesson of frugality. And today, with inflation causing all of us to consider our expenditures, we'd like to suggest that you take a look at our Red and White Polkadot Rosie Bandana Seconds.

YES! You get two of these lovely, soft, official size (27 inches by 27 inches) bandanas for LESS THAN THE PRICE OF ONE BANDANA.

So, What's the Story?

Our Rosie Legacy Gear is made for us to our design. When they arrive, we unpack and open each one. Sometimes there are extra threads and we remove these. Then we refold and individually package them.

But Seconds?

Sometimes we find flaws. Most of these are minor flaws. When there are major flaws, we toss them.* But we don't feel good about selling the bandanas with these minor flaws. For a while, we just put them in a stack.

Finally, we decided to offer them in a TWO-PACK. But how to price them? We are currently offering them -- TWO BANDANAS for less than the price of ONE.

So if you don't have your Halloween costume yet...or just love bandanas like we do...we hope you'll consider our TWO BANDANA Pack.

The Good News? You Don't Have to Knit Anything!

* Well, actually, we can't toss anything -- it seems too wasteful. So we wrap holiday presents in them. The red and white colors look so cheerful under the tree.


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Oct 16, 2022

What fun. And love your and Kendra's personal stories. Thank you.


Oct 16, 2022

Knit One, Purl Two, Cary Grant, Whoo Hoo!

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