The weather has finally made a switch from winter to spring in Kansas City, and I couldn't be more pleased. Knitting time has been transitioned to time spent walking, going to the park, and generally enjoying the sunshine.
I did complete my navy blue sweater this morning, and it is blocking now. There should be photos later this week, but I would like to focus a bit on knitting and World War I. It seems a strange thing for me to be so interested in, but interested I am, so I will tell you what I learned. I'm not a history expert, so I've worked hard to ensure that what I present is error free, but if you spot an error, please let me know.
Early in the week, I received a copy of Armenian Knitting. (That link takes you to Schoolhouse Press. Just scroll down until you find this title.) I have been interested in this technique for a while, since I love big motifs, and color, but I am not a big fan of intarsia. With this technique, I could get the look I was hoping for, without all the ends, and I needed to know more.
In looking through the book, I learned that much of the Armenian knitting tradition had been lost during the Armenian genocide which began in April of 1915. Survivors of the genocide fled to France, using their knitting and needlework skills to support themselves. The most notable design using the Armenian Knitting technique is the Bowknot Sweater designed by Elsa Schiaparelli. Schiaparelli's early designs were knit by an Armenian woman, named Aroosiag Mikaelian, thus Schiaparelli said that her designs were in the Armenian tradition.
You may not know that Kansas City is the location of the only World War I museum and memorial in the United States. This year, they are hosting a program called Mrs. Wilson's Knitting Circle, which takes a look at the relationship between knitting and World War I, with the goal of having a knitting circle like those that took place during World War I.
I didn't hear about this in time to make it to the first meeting, but when Kourtney from the 20's and 30's KC Knitting Group mentioned it, I was definitely interested. So, Kourtney, Melissa and I (along with Ethan) met up there, along with about 80 other knitters from the area.
The knitting circle meet underneath the museum, in a research library, near the base structure of the Liberty Memorial statue. From the room, you can see the bedrock at the base of the statue, and a garden of poppies.
The program on Saturday was focused on the music of the era, beginning with pacifist songs that supported the position that the US was not in the war. As the nation changed their position on the war, the lyrics were re-written to be more supportive of the war effort. As troops deployed, songs changed to being uplifting for soldiers and encouraging for those left behind.
The pacifist songs had titles like 'I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier', and served to draw people to the pacifist movement. Amongst those drawn to the pacifist movement were the suffragists, because the movement had political sway.
As early as August 1915, however, news of the Armenian genocide was reaching the United States and Europe, and the popular opinion was beginning to change toward the United States becoming involved in the war effort. The overall sentiment of the population was that this wasn't our fight, but Germany began to fear that this genocide was something that would result in other European nations and the United States joining forces against them. Though it wasn't until a specific plot and attack against the United States in April 1917, that the United States joined the war against Germany.
As the United States joined the war effort, music shifted to encourage soldiers to sign up for the draft, to boldly fight in the war. In fact, the lyrics to 'I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be A Soldier' were parodied, and changed to things like 'I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Coward' and 'I Didn't Raise my Boy to Be a Soldier, But I'll Send My Girl to be a Nurse'. The sheet music covers became more patriotic, often looking like the war posters.
As the troops prepared to fight, they were buoyed by thoughts of women at home knitting for them, assured that things would return to normal when they returned home, and encouraged that time spent in the war effort was fun. Women were encouraged to knit for the troops, and to do their part on the homefront. Interestingly enough, women were being encouraged to do their part at home, both in taking over the men's jobs, and in knitting for the soldiers, yet they were also being told via songs that when the men returned that things would go back to normal; that they would go back to the home, and the men would take over their jobs again. Some of these sentiments were due to the suffragist movement and the foothold it was gaining, and part was to help the soldiers feel like things would be as expected when they returned from war.
As we all know, things didn't exactly return to normal as the men returned from war. Women gained the right to vote in 1919, and from that time on have been increasingly involved in the work force.
Mrs. Wilson's Knitting Circle will be held at Liberty Memorial on the first Saturday of each month in 2015, with the exception of those that have a holiday that weekend. So, the next session will be May 2, 2015, at 10:30 AM. Admission is free, though they do ask that you RSVP. With your admission, you will get a period related knitting (and crochet if they are able to find one) pattern, and a very informative history presentation.
I was very impressed, not only with what I learned, but with the number of knitters that attended. I didn't count, but the presenters mentioned that they allowed 85 people to RSVP and the event was full. They had to bring in more chairs, so I think that means that more than 85 knitters attended. I was really surprised that I didn't even recognize half of them, and I thought I would know a fair number.
If you are anywhere near Kansas City, Mrs. Wilson's Knitting Circle is something you should attend. If you need to drive in, make a day of it, check out the museum, meet a friend for lunch, and learn a little about knitting during World War I. You are encouraged to bring your knitting, and I certainly made some sleeve progress while there.