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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.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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A Ball of Yarn: 1918

A Ball of Yarn: 1918

Washington, D.C., circa 1918. "Soldiers at Walter Reed." Harris & Ewing Collection dry-plate glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Glad to be part of the tradition!

I was an Army Occupational Therapist at WRAMC in 1985 and I learned how to knit from my patients on the psychiatric unit. Since then the artist in me has learned to spin wool, and create my own patterns as well. Knitting is an extremely healing art form, requiring concentration, attention to detail, problem solving, and abstract thinking skills just to name a few benefits. I'm male by the way, glad to be in the company of Russell Crowe.

Real Men Knit...

Knitting, until the invention of the knitting machine, was a man's occupation. Sailors knitted (as an off-shoot of making nets). When the knitting machine was invented, they could pay women low wages as "unskilled labourers" and knitting became "women's work".

Russell Crowe is a knitter, so is Laurence Fishburne, Montreal Canadien Hoceky player Jacques Plante was, Antonio Banderas learned to knit from Catherine Zeta-Jones while recovering from an injury (he taught Melanie Griffith), Rosie Greer and Randy Grossman do (Rosie does needlepoint and crocheting)....


The third soldier's smile made me smile back at him across all the years. I pray he healed mentally and physically, that they all did.

My boyfriend knows how to knit. He's Scottish. He's also a 2nd level blackbelt, so I wouldn't mock.


It's nice to see no dopey comments about these guys for once. Who knows what these men went through? God bless them all, both then and now.
I love the beatific expressions in the nurses' faces. The picture just projects such a kind and gentle feeling.

Tough guys knitting

In his youth, my uncle had surgery on his ankle. To occupy his mind and fingers, the nurses taught him how to knit, crochet and tat. As he grew to an adult, he kept on knitting, crocheting and a bit of tatting. Today he is in his late 70s and still knits and crochets.


I'm confused. Ok, five figures, two women, three men, all look human, no chimps, gorillas or bonobos. Because they are all white? Or because the men are holding incomplete knitted objects? Or the woman look attentive and focused? Or the image looks staged?

One has a knitting rake, used to make socks by unskilled knitters. The other two are at least holding the needles like they know how to knit. The second man is wearing pince-nez, the others, sans glasses. During the war, knitting was something asked of all people, to free production of fabrics for war materials.

Everyone in America would know, at the time, what was being made and why.


The soldier in the middle appears to be working on a sweater sleeve. You can see the ribbing on the bottom edge. From the size, the soldier on the right is working on the same thing.

A common thread

There's definitely some homogeneity in this shot. I'd like to see the finished product of their knitting.

An old yarn

Soldier on the left is holding knitting frame.

SHORPY HISTORICAL 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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