Guest Post by Deborah Hopkinson,
Author of Knit Your Bit
Illustrated by Steven Guanaccia
April 1917 marks the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I. Although much has changed in our nation and around the world in a century, two things have not: families are still separated by war and military service, and gifts from home are always welcome.
I was inspired to write Knit Your Bit, a historical fiction picture book, after I read about a real event on the WWI home front: a “knitting bee” in Central Park in August 1918. When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the American Red Cross and other agencies realized that soldiers in Europe would need more warm sweaters, wool helmets, socks, mittens, and wristlets.
Knitting for soldiers became a national effort by women, men, and children and the campaign spread across the country. People knit on subways and on their lunch hours, in classrooms, and in church halls. From firemen in Honolulu to the Governor of Arizona, men and boys also became involved. Schoolboys formed the Rocky Mountain Knitter Boys of Colorado, taking up their principal’s challenge to prove themselves as patriotic as their girl classmates by knitting.
On July 30, 1918, the Navy League Comforts Committee sponsored a three-day “knit-in” at Central Park. By all accounts, it was a successful event, raising $4,000. According to The New York Times, the fastest knitter was Mrs. Ethel Rizzo of East 67th Street, who completed a sweater in six hours. Over three days, knitters made 50 sweaters, four dozen mufflers, 224 pairs of socks, and 40 helmets. The Times reported that the prize winners included four blind women, two men, a woman of 83, and four children under eleven. I like to imagine that those children might have been a bit like the ones in my light-hearted story about Mikey and his friends, as they search to find a way to make a difference.
So, this winter, get our your needles and Knit Your Bit today!
Download Knit Your Bit patterns from The National WWII Museum
Deborah Hopkinson’s book, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, was recently named a Sibert Honor book and a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist by the American Library Association. Visit her at www.deborahhopkinson.com