Why we love to knit for soldiers, proven charities to get your knitting to soldiers, and more
In the United States**, charity knitting for soldiers may well be our oldest tradition of charity knitting. In fact, it may even be the oldest form of charity knitting in the world!
Did you know that the balaclava—a knitted helmet of sorts—actually derived its name from a war effort? Here’s a tantalizing tidbit of history from War History Online:
The battle of Balaclava (October 25, 1854), in which the legendary Charge of the British Light brigade took place, gave its name to the knitted head coverings worn by soldiers under their military helmets. The balaclavas were knitted by wives and sweethearts at home.”https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/knitting-in-wartime.html
These, of course, were wives and girlfriends knitting balaclavas, rather than intrepid knitters offering their gifts to unknown soldiers.
Still, it’s easy to see how this particular effort could have spread from one involving only women knitting for soldiers they loved to knitters of all ages creating clothing for soldiers fighting for their countries.
World War II may be when charity knitting for soldiers began in earnest, at least in the United States**. In 1941, Life magazine urged women to knit sweaters for soldiers, as this was a way they could help with the war effort while at home.
Why We Love to Knit for Soldiers
I find it rather unfortunate that “doing our part for the war effort” is so foreign to our current society. Once upon a time, a country with soldiers fighting overseas considered it their civic duty to do whatever they could to help those soldiers.
That might be, in part, because the United States has a volunteer military. When the men and women stationed abroad chose to be there, it is tempting to think “well, they knew what they were getting into” and become convinced it has nothing to do with us.
Here’s what we fail to recognize when we think this way, however. While they did choose this life, it’s a life of tremendous sacrifice for a cause much greater than themselves. They chose this life because their greatest desire is to protect the men, women, and children living at home.
The least we can do, then, is offer what we can to show our support and our appreciation of that sacrifice!
Knitting for soldiers is, like any other form of charity knitting, a special way to show that we care about them. Every soldier loves to receive a gift from home. Imagine receiving a gift from home from someone you’ve never met!
(If you want real-life examples of just how much this means to soldiers stationed abroad, I encourage you to read the notes of gratitude displayed at Operation Gratitude’s website.)
So now that you know why knitting for soldiers is wonderful, maybe you’d like to know where you can send your charity knitting.
I’m glad you asked!
Below are some of the time-tested, proven charities to which you can offer your charitable knitted gifts for soldiers.
Get Involved in Charity Knitting for Soldiers with These Charities
Hats for Israeli Soldiers: This is the one charity on this list for which you can contribute to soldiers aside from Americans. If Israeli soldiers are close to your heart, this is the charity for you.
Military Families Ministry: One of the hardest part of the life of a military man or woman is concern for the families they leave behind. This charity supports those families, and knitters and crocheters can play a huge role! You can knit prayer patches, prayer shawls, dishcloths, and/or baby blankets.
You can also knit directly for soldiers by creating Christmas stockings!
Operation Gratitude: This incredible group creates care packages for soldiers; you can help by knitting (or crocheting) scarves and/or hats to include in those care packages.
Socks for Soldiers: This amazing group works tirelessly to offer handmade socks, facecloths, and caps to soldiers.
Warmth for Warriors: Last but not least, this terrific group sends soldiers gifts of handmade hats as well as Christmas stockings.
**Note: If you live in a country other than Israel or the U.S., and you’re aware of charity knitting efforts in soldiers in your country, please let me know! I would love to add to this list with charities for knitting for military all over the world.
How to Be Successful in Knitting for the Military
- I know I say this a lot, but it always bears repeating. Check the guidelines before you donate. I cannot stress this enough. Please, please check the guidelines of whatever group you wish to donate to.
Every charity involved in knitting for soldiers has guidelines of some sort. I assure you that there is always a good reason for those guidelines.
Most of the charities listed here offer knitting patterns on their site, and many require you to use these patterns. This is not always the case, but I highly recommend that you look for these patterns first. If you are required to use their own patterns, believe me, you will be able to tell easily!
And if somehow you can’t tell? Ask.
Which leads us to…
- Contact the charity before you donate. Some charities actually require this. Others do not.
Regardless, it is always wise to ensure that the charity you wish to donate to is actually still operating, or even—not impossible, given the pandemic we’ve been living through!—not currently accepting new donations, even if they are still at work.
This is true of all knitting charities, but it is especially true for those operating for active military.
Some charities collect donations only during a specific time frame, especially when collection space is limited.
You may also find that a charity has recently changed an address or added a new one. All of these are good things to learn before you actually go through the trouble of sending or dropping off a donation!
- Wash your creations before you donate them. Be sure to use dye- and fragrance-free detergents and fabric softeners. Some people are sensitive or even allergic to dyes and fragrances.
Again, some charities actually require this. But even if your chosen charity does not, it’s simply good donation etiquette to do so. Especially, again, in the age of COVID-19.
If you’re eager to knit for soldiers, I hope you now feel equipped and ready to do so. Let’s show the men and women who sacrifice for our safety how much they are loved and appreciated!