The Wartime Spies Who Used Knitting as an Espionage Tool

A woman knitting, Washington DC, 1941. Photo from the Library of Congress/LC-USF34-014621-D.

During World War I, a grandmother in Belgium knitted at her window, watching the passing trains. As one train chugged by, she made a bumpy stitch in the fabric with her two needles. Another passed, and she dropped a stitch from the fabric, making an intentional hole. Later, she would risk her life by handing the fabric to a soldier—a fellow spy in the Belgian resistance, working to defeat the occupying German force.

Whether women knitted codes into fabric or used stereotypes of knitting women as a cover, there’s a history between knitting and espionage. “Spies have been known to work code messages into knitting, embroidery, hooked rugs, etc,” according to the 1942 book A Guide to Codes and Signals. During wartime, where there were knitters, there were often spies; a pair of eyes, watching between the click of two needles.

When knitters used knitting to encode messages, the message was a form of steganography, a way to hide a message physically (which includes, for example, hiding morse code somewhere on a postcard, or digitally disguising one image within another). If the message must be low-tech, knitting is great for this; every knitted garment is made of different combinations of just two stitches: a knit stitch, which is smooth and looks like a “v”, and a purl stitch, which looks like a horizontal line or a little bump. By making a specific combination of knits and purls in a predetermined pattern, spies could pass on a custom piece of fabric and read the secret message, buried in the innocent warmth of a scarf or hat.

A knitting pattern, to non-knitters, may look undecipherable, and not unlike a secret code to begin with. This could cause paranoia around what knitting patterns might mean. Lucy Adlington, in her book Stitches in Time, writes about one article that appeared in UK Pearson’s Magazine in October 1918, which reported that Germans were knitting whole sweaters to send messages—perhaps an exaggeration.

Read the complete article on Abstract Obscura here.

Perfect Baby Sleep Sack and Hat Pattern from mysimpleknitting.com

This baby sleep sack is perfect for that precious little one in your life. If you’re wondering what to knit for baby gift giving or if you just want to knit something a little different a baby cocoon is a great idea.

“I love to knit cables and one of my favorites is the xo cable knitting pattern. Another precious grand baby is coming on Christmas Eve so I decided to knit this special little baby sleep sack with the hugs and kisses cable pattern. What better way to swaddle a precious little one than with this cable knitting pattern. I made it with the idea of being able to swaddle baby ‘Sweet Pea‘. That’s why it’s not overly wide but rather just right to swaddle a baby so he/she feels snug and secure.”

Baby Sleep Sack xo pattern from mysimpleknitting.com

“If you are comfortable with knitting circular and you enjoy knitting cables then you’re going to love knitting up this baby sleep sack. The cable stitching is worked on every 4th row with the rest of the rows being simple knits and purls so in many ways it’s pretty simple and a fun knitting project. And it’s a nice change and maybe a nice challenge for some of you.

The baby hat pattern is also knit on circulars and then closed at the top with the Kitchener stitch. I’ve provided a knitting video a little further down showing you how to work it.

Baby Hat Pattern from mysimpleknitting.com

I hope you enjoy this knitting project as much as I did creating it.”

Link to perfect baby sleep sack knitting pattern, instructions, and PDF of pattern.

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Comments now working on mysimpleknitting.com

Here's looking at you, Babe.

If it’s not one thing it’s another, but the bugs have been worked out of the Comments portion of mysimpleknitting.com.

On some pages the Comment section appeared but didn’t accept comments, and now the Comment section appears on all pages and visitors can once again leave a Comment.

Several visitors tried to leave Comments earlier and I’m sure were a tad frustrated with the Comments not functioning properly. New web sites always experience some issues during the first week of operation. Hopefully this will be the last gotcha.

Must have been a twisted stitch somewhere in all the knitted code. It’s working now. Sheesh.

 

 

 

“Knitting is great again” hat on sheep

Knitting is great again at mysimpleknitting.com

Knitting is great again at mysimpleknitting.com

My friend’s updated knitting help site is rolling along fine. Open for two days now and only a few minor problems to correct.

Starting to get some knitting forum members. Maybe one of them will win the $25.00 gift certificate for Knit Picks in September.

 

New Knitting Help site

Sheep at mysimpleknitting.com

After six years as simple-knitting.com it is now mysimplekntting.com with lots more knitting help, knitting patterns, knitting instructions, a knitting forum, lots of knitting videos, a chance to win a $25.00 gift certificate for your knitting supplies or yarn, and lots more.

Thanks to the million plus visitors to the old site every year Vickie had to move the site to larger premises, and figured she might just as well add a bunch more neat stuff for knitters.

Take a moment and drop by My Simple Knitting at https://mysimpleknitting.com

Browse through my new knitting shop, or join my new Knitting Community and post some pictures of your knitting, ask a question or answer a question, look at my videos or maybe add your own video to the knitting video collection. There’s lots to do, so stop by for a visit. https://mysimpleknitting.com

Happy knitting everyone.

sheep at mysimpleknitting.com

A new old knitting help site

Sheep at mysimpleknitting.com

A friend of mine has been running a knitting site with tons of knitting instructions and lots of knitting videos since 2011 and needed to expand the site to meet the needs of the million-plus visitors now coming to her site.

For the past several months she and I have been making changes and additions to her knitting site, including a new name; mysimpleknitting.com. We expect it to be finished soon and open to the general public, perhaps in the next week or so.

We have moved her site to her own server, no more shared hosting, increased her offerings to visitors, all the while retaining the fun of knitting and friendliness which so many visitors liked about her site.

Besides the vast amount of knitting instructions and knitting videos she has on her new site there is now an included knitting forum and other handy things for knitters.

In celebration of her six years successfully running her knitting site and to add a little more fun to her new web site, she is offering a playful knitting-related contest in which all her knitting community members can partake in and perhaps win the monthly prize.

Her new site, mysimpleknitting.com, is expected to be open in the next week or two. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that nothing unexpected pops up to delay the opening.

Retirees Knit Sweaters For Chilly Chickens In Milton

If you think the weather has been cold lately, just think about how the chickens feel. Lucky for Massachusetts estate’s poultry, a group of knitters in Milton are doing just that.

The unusual project began after members of a knitting club at Fuller Village, a retirement home in Milton, Massachusetts, heard about the hardships that some chickens suffer this time of year.

Certain breeds shed their feathers and grow new plumage in the winter months. Others imported from tropical climates just aren’t suited for the wintry conditions.

Organizer Nancy Kearns said the project benefits birds kept on a neighboring estate known as the Mary M.B. Wakefield Charitable Trust.

“I don’t think in my wildest dreams I ever thought anybody made sweaters for chickens,” said Barbara Widmayer, 76, who started knitting when she was 15 years old.

Among the sweaters Widmayer crafted by hand was one for Prince Peep, a rooster native to Malaysia.

“There’s so much going on these days that’s kind of contentious in the world,” she said. “It was actually very calming to me to work on this.”

Another knitter, 76-year-old Libby Kaplan, said the experience has helped her to overcome her fear of birds.

“One person I heard say there were more important things to do in this world. ‘Make things for people that need it.’ I think animals need to be warm, too, and I’m so glad we did it,” Kaplan said.

The chickens seem to like their sweaters: Estate spokeswoman Erica Max says egg production has jumped noticeably since the birds began wearing them.

Man who loves to knit – video

A friend of mine, Vickie, posted a video of a man who loves knitting and I thought I’d share it with you.

Vickie has hosted a knitting site for beginning knitters many years now and recently started a knitting forum. Here are the link to her Simple Knitting web site, and if you have a question about knitting or would like to meet other knitters here is the link to her Knitters Digest forum. Free registration for her forum.

 

New forum for knitters

VicPic.jpg

A friend of mine has started a new forum for knitters, experienced or beginning knitters.

Her name is Vickie and she has been operating her own knitting web site called Simple Knitting for over five years now. Her Simple Knitting web site is mainly for beginning knitters, although experienced knitters also have enjoyed her articles.

Vickie decided to create a forum so beginning knitters and knitters with experience can connect and share their love of knitting. Her forum is called Knitters Digest.

Her Knitters Digest forum is in beta testing at the moment, and is open for membership while testing. Below are links to her Knitters Digest forum and her Simple Knitting web site. Please drop by and help build the forum membership. It’s free to join.

Link to Vickie’s Knitters Digest forum: Knitters Digest.

Link to Vickie’s Simple Knitting web site: Simple Knitting.