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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Home Again: 1918

Home Again: 1918

"Army soldiers, Walter Reed Hospital." Back from the trenches in Washington, D.C., circa 1918. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Knitting as therapy

Knitting and other needle crafts were widely used as occupational therapy during both World Wars. It also was used in refugee camps in Asia Minor (according to one of my old needlework magazines) as a coping mechanism for children, to soothe them and get them to calm down. Speaking as a knitter/tatter/seamstress/etc, I find most forms of needle crafts very soothing.

And logistically it is a great choice as needles and yarn are portable and don't take up lots of storage space (unless you have a stash as large as mine).

Heavy Knitting

When you are using either a sock (shown) or flatbed knitting machine, you use weights to pull on, or tension, the already knit material. It keeps the knitted stitches out of the way of the ones currently on the needles. There are groups solely devoted to antique sock knitting machines and a company in New Zealand that produces new sock knitting machines based upon the antique machines.


What were the hanging weights for? Maybe to keep tension on the yarn?

An old yarn

I would love to have that knitting machine!

On a side note, speaking of "women's work," my dear grandfather took up cross-stitching when recuperating after World War II. He enjoyed it immensely and found it to be very relaxing. He kept it up until his death in 2007. He would do a couple stitches on whatever he was working on each day after smoking his after lunch pipe. He made gorgeous tablecloths and other items as gifts for everyone in the family.

Women's Work?

Tell that to Rosie Grier. And if you don't know who Rosie is, Google him.

[And if that doesn't work, try googling Rosey Grier. - Dave]

Women's work?

If you look at the history of knitting, it was solely men's work at one point, when it was mostly used to produce caps and stockings. Before the various knitting machines came along, there were entire villages in England devoted to knitting stockings, and then it was the work of the whole family. Only when knitting became less necessary and more of a recreational activity did it become solely women's work.

During the war, knitting was pushed on everyone, regardless of age or gender, as a way to help the war effort. It was considered therapeutic for patients, and probably wasn't humiliating at all.

Smoke Em if You Got Em

Check out the burning cigarette by the young lady.

From man's work to women's work

It seems odd that soldiers who had recently been engaged in that most masculine of work--war--should have been given women's work to do in their recuperation. It could have been either very soothing or very humiliating.

Got Yarn?

"Yeah I knit. You got a problem with that?"

Looks like

They made their own robes.

Thousand-yard stare

Looks like the shell shock hasn't quite worn off yet.

999 scarves left to go

The guy on the right appears to need a bit more rehab.

Stick to your knitting

The man on the left is using a circular sock knitting machine, which is a pretty cool (and rather complicated) gadget.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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