Saturday, October 27, 2007

Kitchener Stitch--Tidbit of Knitting History

It was only a few years ago that I really mastered the knitting technique known as "Kitchener stitch." Using yarn threaded through a tapestry needle, you can join two raw knitted edges invisibly, so that they seem to be knitted in one continuous piece. It makes a tidy sock toe. I was never sure whether "Kitchener" should be capitalized, or why the seamless grafting technique had that name, but yesterday, while looking for something else, I discovered the answers to both these questions.

"Kitchener Stitch is called after Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, British military hero of Boer War and WW I. He associated himself with a Red Cross plan to dragoon US womanhood into knitting 'comforts' for the men in the trenches, and contributed his own sock design, which included a square-ish 'grawfted' toe. Hence the Kitchener Sock; hence Kitchener Stitch. Truth is indeed stranger than imagination . ."

4 comments:

OfTroy said...

Both Lord Cardigan and Lord Raglan (generals in Crimean war) lent there names to style so knitted garments!

--the more you know, the more you learn how knitting is also part of history.

Dave said...

The perfect suture
may wear a general's name,
but was he the knitter?

OfTroy said...

Yes, dave he was!

it was not uncommon for people (of all classes!) to knit their own socks. (the last US president to do so, (to my knowledge) was Coolidge.)

but sailors (and all members of the navy) and foot soldiers, too, often learned enough knitting to mend or re-work socks.

(they bought/had knit for them, tall socks. when the toes gave out, they cut off the toes, and snipped the cuff.

they unraveled the cuff and a bit more.. then picked up the stitches and knit a new toe,(where the cuff was) and took the cuff yarn and used it to make a new cuff on what was the toe (and turned the thread bare foot into the leg,--and made the hardly worn (away) leg into a new foot!)

we were poor enough that i remember 'edges to middles' being done with sheets (the middle of the sheet --where you sleep--tend to get thread bare before the edges (that you tuck in) Split the sheet, and you can extend its life.)

so to with socks. sailor (or officers!) might not knit socks, but they knew enough knitting to unravel and re knit a toe! (to extend the life of sock!)

but kitchener actually knew how to knit.. (he proudly donated socks he had knit to the war effort!--he didn't just expect other to knit!)

Rebecca Clayton said...

My great-grandfather attended school in the Scottish Highlands, where he and all the other children learned to knit at the same age they learned to read. If you had plenty of socks for yourself, you could always sell new socks for pocket change--enough to buy more knitting wool, for example.