|"From every hearth, parlor, log cabin, and farmhouse,
whether in the North or in the South, women sent socks to protect and
warm their soldiers. With every stitch, they knitted in their courage,
tears, prayers and hopes."
- Karin Timour, Piecework magazine 2009
An article about Civil War soldiers' socks started me thinking about
knitting for soldiers. Something I have never done. Then an email from
my friend, Anne, whose son Darren is serving in Iraq, nudged me even
further. All weekend, she wrote me, they waited tensely to hear from
him. Worrying the big worries until they finally did. "Would he like a
hat?" I offered, embarrassed that I had overlooked knitting for him,
and for others.
In every war, American knitters have been called upon to fill the
gap in what the country was able to provide. Socks, wristlets, vests,
helmet liners. Warmth for the troops. What kinds of needs were there
now? Looking for answers to share with those of you, who like me, have
never knit our bit, but might like to start, I googled "knitting for
soldiers." That's where I found The Ships Project and The Handmade
In October 2001, Ellen Harpin's letter to "Any Sailor" mentioned her
love of knitting. The sailor who answered mentioned her very cold feet,
and joked "maybe Ellen could send her a pair of knit slippers. She did.
After the first pair, and the snowball effect of the demand it created,
Ellen launched the Ships
Project. In eight years, with the help of over 1,000 volunteers,
284,000 hand-made slippers/socks, hats, neck gaiters and other items
have been sent to soldiers on the land, at sea, and to those wounded
and injured. The troops have nicknamed their gifts "hugs".
Without noticing, many times I've stumbled over Ellen's Ships
Project hat pattern (click for the pattern) on the Lion Brand site, but now I'm knitting it. On
size 7 needles, casting on 80 stitches of Lion Brand's Fishermen's
Wool. 465 yards. Should make a bundle. One will go directly to my
In 2004, determined to do something for the wounded soldiers she saw
on the news, and remembering her own "cold and lonely childhood
hospital stays", Deborah Starobin-Armstrong began The Handmade Project.
With over 1,100 volunteers, HAP, as they call themselves, collects 6 x9
knit or crochet rectangles, and sews them into afghans "to warm the
body and soul." Over 2,192 have been given to American Red Cross,
hospital chaplains, Walter Reed Medical Center, and other military care
centers in the US and abroad.
HAP recommends cutting a 6x9 template. It's the first thing I
simple seed stitch made my rectangles flat and easy to measure.
Knitting in Vanna's
(HAP prefers a soft, washable yarn) on size 9 needles, 4 stitches to an
inch, one skein gave me four patches. There are 49 in an afghan.
Check each project's websites detailed guidelines for yarns,
patterns, and needed items. Note that each project requires you contact
them first before you are given a mailing address.
I now know there are thousands of knitters who have been hard
work, for many years knitting for our soldiers. With Memorial Day
approaching, you might like to join them. One skein at a time. Hats,
slippers, or rectangles, your choice. Knit your bit of hand-made
comfort and warmth to those in harm's way, and those recovering from
the fight. May they all return safely, and one day, enjoy them in
If you have a project, share it with others by posting it on
from the Heart.
And by the way, you might like to know that The Ship's Project founder,
Ellen Harpin, was Lion Brand and Knitter's Magazine's 2005 Knitter of