Fordingbridge Museum is appealing for people to hand knit socks to commemorate the centenary of the end of WW1 next year after failing to find someone who could operate a circular sock knitting machine that was used by the local WI to knit socks for the troops in WW1.
In 1914 Lord Kitchener appealed for 300,000 pairs of socks so that they could be sent to frontline troops to combat trench foot. By December 1914 the Salisbury Journal reported that the Fordingbridge Work Guild for Soldiers and Sailors had already produced 1067 garments including 147 pairs of socks.
Hand knitters were so productive that they could get “knitting neuritis” which we would now call repetitive strain injury. Because of this circular knitting machines were often used and the socks were taken off these with open toes that were stitched up later. These seams were uncomfortable and rubbed the toes raw leading to infections. Lord Kitchener, who was a knitter himself, devised a “Kitchener Heelless Sock” method of seamless grafting to avoid the problem.
Museum Manager Philippa Duckworth said, “As part of our commemoration of the end of the Great War it would be wonderful if we could display some socks knitted to Lord Kitchener’s pattern. Khaki socks were knitted for the army whilst the navy had navy ones. Each sock was coded with a coloured stripe, white for small, blue for medium and red for large. Any socks that we receive will eventually be donated to appropriate charities.” Fordingbridge Museum has an early type of cast iron circular knitting machine made by a British company called The Harrison Patent Knitting Machine Co. Philippa said, “We would dearly like to find someone who could show us how to use our machine to knit socks. Anyone who thinks they may be able to help us either with our machine or by hand knitting socks should ring 01425 657850.”