During World War II, volunteer knitters were crucial to the war effort. Now Knit Your Bit encourages us to knit for veterans.
When my daughters were younger, we loved to read American Girl books together. We owned the Kirsten Larson series and the Molly McIntire series.
By pure serendipity, our first Molly McIntire book was “Molly Learns a Lesson.” A major plot point: Molly’s female classmates’ decision to knit socks for troops. (World War II offered a backdrop for the Molly McIntire series.)
Though I first read this book as an adult, the story’s depiction of ordinary citizens, like Molly and her classmates, being urged to dream up projects for “the war effort” entranced me.
Actually, it boggled my mind.
Knit for Veterans and Soldiers: a Lost Ideal?
Full disclosure: war has never really touched me. The biggest war I’ve experienced in my lifetime was the Gulf War, but that didn’t affect me at all. No one I knew had to ration food. No one had to worry about buying clothing because the armed forces required material for the clothing of their soldiers.
Unfortunately, in the United States today the idea of ordinary citizens making sacrifices to help our military is almost completely foreign.
Not many schools encourage their students to think about how they can help our soldiers or veterans. I don’t blame schools, which I know do the best they can. I don’t even blame parents, many of whom (like me) don’t have any idea what it’s like to sacrifice for the good of our soldiers abroad.
Like so many of our older traditions, the ideal of sacrifice for soldiers being a part of our patriotic duty has died off from lack of use.
But like Socks for Soldiers (featured last week) encourages knitting for troops, another knitting charity that has stepped up to encourage us to knit for veterans.
Are you a UK knitter who’s interested in knitting for troops? Check out this post on knitting for UK military!
Knit Your Bit: an Opportunity to Knit for Veterans
Knit Your Bit has a sterling pedigree: its founders patterned it after a program championed by the Red Cross back in World War II. Today’s incarnation encourages us to knit scarves for veterans.
Many of these veterans benefited from the original knitting for troops program more than 50 years ago!
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana (founded by the great historian Stephen Ambrose) originated Knit Your Bit and continues to support it. The program began in 2006, less than a year after the horrors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Knit Your Bit drew its inspiration from the original WWII-era Knitting For Victory program. This program provided American soldiers and sailors with much-needed knitted items. These included sweaters, socks, mufflers, gloves, mittens, toe covers, and stump covers in khaki, olive drab, and navy blue.
Back then, the Red Cross spearheaded the effort by urging folks to “Knit Your Bit” because “Our Boys Need Sox!” They provided knitting patterns. Even Eleanor Roosevelt famously offered her involvement.
The National WWII Museum’s website proudly proclaims the following about Knit Your Bit:
Since its launch in 2006, Knit Your Bit’s reach has been vast: more than 10,000 knitters and crocheters in all 50 states have participated. Through their efforts, the Museum has distributed 50,000 scarves to approximately 1,000 veterans’ centers, hospitals, and service organizations across the country.
Want to Do Your Bit? Knit for Veterans with Knit Your Bit
Ready to knit for veterans? If so, read on.
Check out the Knit Your Bit section of the National WWII Museum website. You’ll find their website extremely useful, giving you detailed guidelines as well as free knitting (and crochet) patterns for scarves. (Although they also encourage you to use your own patterns, if you so desire.)
A shipping address to the Museum’s New Orleans location is available, but you may also want to take note of the Community Partner portion of Knit Your Bit. (Scroll down the page for a map of Community Partners.)
All over the country, yarn shops have offered to set themselves as drop-off locations for Knit Your Bit scarves. They then distribute the scarves to local veterans hospitals, centers, and service organizations. This is a great option for those outside New Orleans who would also like to support veterans locally.
Finally, if you’d like to get involved in an online community of like-minded knitters, you might want to join the official Knit for Bit Facebook group.
Knitting for veterans and troops doesn’t have to be a bygone idea. Thanks to Knit Your Bit, you can continue the old tradition of offering your own sacrifice to help those who have sacrificed so much for your country!