Knitting for soldiers during WWI & WWII

Posted by on November 11, 2012 at 6:21 am.

Did you know that Knit Your Bit, was an American Red Cross slogan?

I learned about this several years ago. And since that time, I’ve collected some memorabilia from that time period.

The American Red Cross used the slogan, Knit Your Bit, during World War 1 and World War II. A creative way to get the American citizens to support their troops.


I always hated those super long knitting needles, like the ones shown in above poster. It’s no surprise that I embraced the smaller needles, and finally moved to circular knitting needles for all my knitting; flat and straight.

From my research, I learned that many women and a few children knit for US troops. I imagine some men did also.

Children knitting for the War Relief League


In  1918 the Seattle School Bulletin printed a patriotic knitting song:

Johnnie, get your yarn, get your yarn, get your yarn;
Knitting has a charm, has a charm, has a charm,
See us knitting two by two,Boys in Seattle like it too.
Hurry every day, don’t delay, make it pay.
Our laddies must be warm, not forlorn mid the storm.
Hear them call from o’re the sea,
‘Make a sweater, please for me.’
Over here everywhere,We are knitting for the boys over there,

It’s a sock or a sweater, or even better
To do your bit and knit a square.


The American Red Cross, even supplied a sock knitting kit that included yarn and a pattern to knit regulation military socks. It seems that a lot of people knit for US Troops. The American Red Cross said…

If the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for the biggest knitting party of all time, the winner would be the American Red Cross and its millions of volunteers who “Knit Their Bit” during World War II to support American troops fighting around the world.

The Red Cross played a critical role in outfitting troops during World War II with warm socks and sweaters. Nearly 7.5 million Red Cross volunteers supported the war effort then, many of them knitters. The Red Cross provided the materials, and volunteers came back with thousands and thousands of socks, sweaters, “sea boots,” and gloves.

Each military pattern was designed to be compatible with soldier’s and sailor’s uniforms and were required to be knitted in olive drab or navy blue.

“If the garments did not pass inspection, they were ripped out and redone,” said Steve Shulman, executive director of the American Red Cross Museum. “Any leftover yarn or rejected pieces were returned to the Red Cross and recycled for use by another knitter, and not a bit of it went to waste.”
Upon passing inspection, each item had a label sewn into the garment reading, “Gift of the American People thru the American Red Cross.”

I’m involved with numerous charity organization, one of which is Operation Write Home. Recently, I’ve been thinking about knitting some balaclavas for US soldiers. I really must take a better photo of the knitted balaclava I made for my father. He seems to love it, and it looks great when he wears his hat. I does a great job protecting his head, face, and neck from the cold.

I know that balaclavas can be worn by US soldiers. I’m unsure if they can wear them with their military attire, but they can wear them when their off duty. Now, I’m thinking of knitting a few for a few US soldiers.

I’ve sent a few boxes to soldiers after checking out some of the needs on AnySoldier. Sending items to those within the US military, is one way I can thank them for serving our country, and hopefully it lets them know that there are people at home thinking about them.



Imagine my surprise, when I stumbled upon one of Glen Miller’s songs; Knit One, Purl Two. Although much before my time,  I’ve heard several of his songs.

On December 15, 1944, Glen’s plane disappeared over the English Channel. He was on his was to entertain US troops in France, during World War II.

Glen Miller: Knit One, Purl Two

Knit one, purl two
This sweater, my darling,’s for you
While vigil you‘re keeping through rain and storm
This sweater will keep you warm
Purl two, knit one
Our trials I know have begun
And while you are fighting each battle through
My darling, my heart’s with you

I just left the cot where our little Todd
In sleep was smiling
He must have dreamed of you…

Knit one, purl two
My darling, whenever I’m blue
It’s comfort to know that when he’s a man
He‘ll be glad that his Dad came through
Knit one, purl two…

Resource: History Link
Photo Source: American Red Cross


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