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Knit Your Bit
By: Michelle Edwards
 

November 10, 2006. When I started my morning walk, it had been a lovely fall day; sunny and warm. I knew it would be one of the last. Sign of winter were everywhere from scavenging deer to barren trees. Still the chilly rain and darkening sky came as a surprise. I hurried back home, to warm up and work. Later on in the afternoon, I had planned to participate in a local Veterans Day knitting event.

I had read about Knit Your Bit in our local paper, the Iowa City Press Citizen. It was started by Lauren Hadley at the World War II Museum. She had invited knitters to once again pick up their needles to provide scarves for World War II soldiers, now elderly veterans. The scarves would be distributed at Veteran Administration Centers. In support of this national knitting project, our local historical society was hosting a knitting circle. Knitters and crocheters of all ages were invited to attend. Museum Studies students from the University of Iowa would be there taking oral histories of those who had stitched away on the home front during World War II.

By the time I was ready to leave for the knitting circle, a heavy snow was falling. I shrugged into my warm winter coat, grabbed the knitting basket I had prepared and chugged over to our new historical center on the Iowa River. In the lobby of the building, a circle of comfortable chairs were set up around a gas fireplace. Nearby was a table with a coffee urn, a plate of home-baked cookies, and a stapled-together collection of Knit for Soldiers patterns in a neat pile. The students, bright and cheerful with knitting of their own, greeted me. The local TV news station set up cameras to film the occasion. A woman who knit during WWII was wheeled in by her husband. They had driven a great distance because she wanted to give her testimony. The students huddled around her.

Two women I knew from Iowa Fiber Alliance arrived, their knitting in big bags. One brought her mother-in-law, a prize-winning knitter, who remembered knitting in school for the war effort. We all buzzed back and forth about knitting and ideas. The room was very warm from the gas fire. Occasionally we looked out the large window, catching a glimpse of the gloomy weather. When it came time to go, no one was anxious to leave.

Michelle's father, Stanley Epstein
Michelle's Father, Stanley Epstein
Photo courtesy Michelle Edwards
Later that evening, knitting at home, I thought about my father who was a soldier in WWII. He died before I was able ask him the kind of questions I thought about now. What was it like to be at war, to be battle a fierce enemy far away from home? What was it like to witness death and destruction, and then, to receive a wooly gift from far away, from the safety of someone's classroom or the comfort of a family's living room. What did a piece of hand-knit warmth, a pair of warm socks, a scarf, or a sweater mean to soldier at war?

As I put my knitting down that evening, I looked over the Knit for Soldiers patterns. If he were alive, how would my father feel now, an old man with time to ruminate over his soldiering days? Would a hand-knit scarf bring comfort to him and his war memories? As a life-long knitter, that's the hope that keeps me stitching most days. The possibility that the wool and needles will make an object of comfort and warmth for both body and soul.

Knit Your Bit 2006 was a great success. Over 1600 scarves were collected and distributed to veterans all over the country. And although, it was intended to be a short term project, the founder Lauren Hadley has decided to keep it running.

Are you ready to knit your bit? It doesn't take a lot of wool, much time or even great knitting skill to make a scarf. You could try an easy pattern, say the Road Scarf.

Knit Your Bit asks that the scarves be made in male-friendly colors. This Veterans Day, I'm going to knit one in honor of my father's service. Wool-Ease® Blue Mist #620-115 -- a blue with subtle overtones of greens and grays. Three skeins. May the veteran, who receives it, wear it in good health.

Send your scarf to: The National World War II Museum
Knit Your Bit Campaign
945 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70130



Authored by Michelle Edwards

Michelle Edwards is the author of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION. She has also written and illustrated many award winning children's books. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
 
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