Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sock It To E’m Boys

Knitting socks was one of the moral boosters that the ladies on the home front provided the front line troops -  thousands of socks. Soldiers were very happy to get them. Some even put them on their feet! Little did the ladies know that they had many uses - mittens, covering for rifles, stowing away trinkets picked up here and there.

A veteran in Library and Archives Canada‘s “Oral Histories of the First World War” outlined how much the men appreciated these treasures from home:

“I got two or three pairs of socks sent to me by a lady in a church organization. I wrote back and thanked her and explained what it meant to have dry socks and that the issue was only two pairs of socks per man. It was impossible to dry the socks out and get back up again and I'd be awfully glad if we could get about three hundred pairs of socks. To my utter amazement along about November, to my utter amazement, along came a shipment of socks from that lady and her organization - about 300 pairs. We got them each winter, I got those socks. So that when [you had] wet ones, alright you picked them up, issued a pair of dry socks and that meant an awful lot for comfort, amongst other things. You [were] issued dry socks and you got your wet socks dried out properly and there was a second pair of dry socks ready so that you always had dry socks. That made a whale of a difference.”
Lady in Red Cross uniform from Whitby, Ontario shows off socks she made. Whitby Public Library.
Wool was supplied by the Daughters of the Empire to all who would knit away. These are directions for making socks that appeared in the “Dutton Advance“, January 13th, 1916:

Cast on 68 stitches: 4 ½ in. 2 plain, 2 purl; knit plain 7 ½ in. (12 in. in all)

Heel-Knit plain 34 stitches on to one needle; turn, purl back these 84 stitches; slip 1, knit 1 to end of row, turn, repeat these two rows (always slipping the first stitch) 16 times, 17 in all. With the inside of the heal towards you, purl 19 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.

Turn, knit 6 stitches, slip 1, knit 1,pull slipped stich over, knit 1, turn, purl 7 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 8 stitches, slip 1, knit 1,pull slipped stich over, knit 1 turn, purl 9 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 10 stitches, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit 1, turn, purl 11 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 12 stitches, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit 1, turn, purl 13 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 14 stitches, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit 1, turn, purl 15 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 16 stitches, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit 1, turn, purl 17 stitches, purl 2 together, purl 1.
Turn, knit 18 stitches, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit 1.

Pick up and knit 18 stitches down the side of the heel piece.
Kit the 34 stitches of the front needles on to one needle. Pick up and knit the 18 stitches at the other side of the heel piece. Divide the heel stitches on the two side needles, and knit right round again to the center heel.

First needle: knit to within three stitches of the front end of side needle, knit 2 together, knit 1.
Front needle plain.
Third needle: knit 1, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit plain to end of needle.
This reducing to be done every other row until there are 68 stitches on the needles (front needles 34, side needles 17 each).
Knit plain until the foot (from the back of the heel) measures 2 ¼ in. less than the full length required, 8 ¾ for No. 3 and 9 ¼ for No. 4 sock.
To decrease toe begin at front needle: knit 1, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit plain to within 3 stitches of the end needle, knit 2 together, knit 1.
Second needle: knit 1, slip 1, knit 1, pull slipped stich over, knit plain to end of needle. Third needle: knit plain to within 8 stitches of the cud, knit 2 together, knit 1. Knit three plain rounds, then decrease as before; knit another 3 plain rounds, then decrease as above. Knit 2 rounds and decrease  ; 2 more decrease; 2 more and decrease.
Knit 3 plain rows, decreasing each row and decrease as above in each of the next 3 rows, which leaves you with 24 stitches on 2 needles.
Intake of toe; Thread a wool needle. Begin on front needle, put needle in as if to knit, pull wool through and take off stich. Put needle in next stich as if to purl, pull wool through, but leave stich on. Go back to needle, put needle in next stich as if to knit, pull wool through but leave stich on. Come to front needle and repeat.

There you have socks! I have no idea what all the above means. Hopefully knitters do!

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