"We knit all afternoon, and the next day too. By the third day, the pressure was on. Dan's piece looked more like an old dishrag than a hat. Nick was still clicking away, though the edges of his muffler were all zigzaggy because he kept adding stitches or dropping them. I'd finished one sock yesterday. Now I was on my second. I was feeling pretty good. That first sock was definitely my best yet! Maybe I'd even win a prize for the pair -- if I could get the second one done by the end of the day." Well, it has only been a few years, since while writing about Leda Schubert's FEEDING THE SHEEP (which will pair nicely with this story), that I shared my own misadventures with sheep husbandry. So I'm going to skip repeating that one. I don't know how to knit. I wish that I did. My most prized clothes are my Jerry Garcia necktie collection, and my little cedar chest filled with comfortable wool sweaters and the beautiful bluish-green muffler knit for me by an old friend from high school. As I write this, I'm wearing a well-worn black, white, and gray sweater that I've owned for decades. That's one of the things I love about wool sweaters. Take care of them and they will stick around and become part of who you are. My grandfather, Rex Partington, volunteered with the Red Cross during WWI. Maybe he knit for the troops. I never heard either way. I imagine that if I had the ability to listen to audio books, rather than read books (an ability pretty much lacking in me), I could sit around and knit while reading.
But the fact is that, nearly a century ago during the first world war, a lot of Americans learned to knit. They crafted hats and socks and mufflers and sweaters for troops who were freezing in the trenches in Europe. As we learn from Deborah Hopkinson's Author's Note at the end of KNIT YOUR BIT, it was during those years, at the end of July in 1918, that "the Navy League Comforts Committee sponsored a three day 'Knit-In' at Central Park in New York City." Hopkinson and illustrator Steven Guarnaccia have utilized the history of this Knit-In as the nucleus of a fun story in which a brother and his buddies are goaded into learning to knit and competing against his sister and her friends during that Central Park event. In due course, the boys do get walloped by the girls, but the main character Mikey, whose dad is serving Over There, does knit a perfect sock that he gets to hand over to a soldier he meets, who has returned from the war with only one leg. And, perhaps this could generate a great lesson for young people: Spend more time learning to knit sweaters and less time learning to be aggressors and blowing each other’s virtual brains out on video games. Such would be a good first step toward a civilized society.