Monday, March 02, 2015

Purling Harder

A 1942 WPA poster encouraging
America's women to knit.
   I am constitutionally able to sit still and do absolutely nothing. Part of it is training--I grew up at a time when parents and employers hated the sight of anyone sitting around doing nothing. Remember, "if you can lean, you can clean"? Part of it is also my nature--I get bored very quickly if I don't have something to keep my hands occupied. This is why I knit--a simple pattern doesn't require a lot of thought, and if my hands are busy with knitting needles, I'm not tapping pencils on tables, looking at my watch for the fortieth time, or (worst of all) mindlessly eating.
   As I start to go to historical events again, I need to take my knitting with me to keep me occupied (and happy). My rules for "historical" knitting:
  1. It must be historically accurate.
  2. It must be useful in some way.
   The first is pretty obvious--if it's not accurate, I can't have it out, so it will be accurate. Fortunately, I have a lot of historically accurate yarns, needles, and patterns for everything from 17th century socks to WWII sweaters and gloves. I've got this covered.
   The second is a bit more challenging. Right now I have a WWII sweater for myself in the works, but I like to do that kind of knitting on modern (circular) needles. Same with socks--I'm a confirmed "toes up, one-at-a-time, 2 circular needles" sock knitter. I've knit socks on double-pointed needles (DPNs), and I've knit socks from the top down, so the knowledge and skills are there. I simply don't like to knit socks that way. I also don't like plain socks, especially in navy, khaki, or olive green. Socks are definitely out for reenacting knitting.
   That leaves sweaters, of which everyone seems to have plenty, gloves, and mufflers. Sweaters and gloves are a bit silly in the land of eternal sunny weather--after all, what good are heavy sweaters when it rarely gets below 60 degrees? Mufflers (aka scarves), on the other hand, have some possibilities. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans began a scarf drive back in 2007, with the goal of making scarves for WWII veterans. The drive was so successful that the program has continued, and has now distributed more than 30,000 scarves to veterans through the VA centers scattered throughout the United States.
   Mufflers are flat, so they can be knitted on "straights" (single-ended needles), pretty mindless, use up a lot of the worsted-weight yarn I have in the stash, and will end up keeping some veteran's neck warm.
   I found a nice muffler pattern distributed by the American Red Cross in 1940 that is incredibly simple: 2 inches of 2x2 ribbing, then 68 inches of stockinette before finishing with 2 more inches of 2x2 ribbing. I'm going to alter the pattern slightly to fit today's scarf requirements--after all, there isn't that much demand for a scarf that is 11 inches wide and 72 inches long--and see how many mufflers I can knit "for the boys" (and girls) before shipping them off to the museum at the end of the year.