This section is from the book "Feeling Better? Amusements and Occupations for Convalescents", by Cornelia R. Trowbridge. Also available from Amazon: Feeling Better.
HOSPITALS report that in their convalescent wards many men take up knitting with great satisfaction to themselves. The King of England and two of his brothers learned to knit at their royal mother's knee and they have kept in practice by knitting scarves for loyal subjects to buy at bazaars. Lord Jellicoe was a skilled knitter and many other humbler followers of the sea have "clicked a useful needle." French shepherds knit. They even do it while propped up on long stilts to watch their flocks to better advantage. In an Adirondack hotel the tradition still lingers of the college president who used to sit on its porches knitting. In short this chapter need not be passed over by men abed.
Both knitting and crocheting are such familiar crafts that we shall not go into detail about them. A beginner can find some friend or relative to start him off or can get printed instructions from the handbooks on sale with worsteds in department stores. It is always a help to have the first half dozen rows done for you, for they are the difficult ones. In knitting use short needles to lessen the effort. If needles that are too long are cut down, an elastic band wound around the end or a lump of sealing wax may replace the end button that keeps stitches from slipping off. The even rhythm of knitting and crocheting, after you have attained it, is soothing and little muscular effort is involved.
Knit yourself a Hug-Me-Tight. Get seven ounces of Shetland floss or stocking wool. Set up 120 stitches on No. 4 needles and knit a plain strip two yards long. Change to steel or small bone needles, knitting two stitches together all the way across as you make the shift. Then knit one, purl one for four inches for a cuff. On the small needles, pick up the stitches on the other end of the plain strip and knit-purl a similar cuff. Sew together the edges of each cuff. Try on around your shoulders and find the point at which to attach ribbons or a button and loop to fasten the Hug-Me-Tight and make it deserve its comforting name. Cuffs of a contrasting color or stripes a few inches above the cuffs will give an effective touch.
A scarf of soft wool is still simpler to make but sometimes very comforting around one's neck. Set up 30 or 40 stitches on good-sized needles and make the scarf at least a yard long, with rows of contrasting color toward either end.
For bed socks to "cosy your feet," as the Scotch say, a set of four stocking needles and two ounces of soft, rather fine wool, like three-ply Saxony, are needed. Set up 72 stitches, 24 to a needle, and knit two, pur! two for a two-inch cuff. Then knit plain for eight inches. Narrow for the toe by knitting together on each needle the third and fourth stitches and also the corresponding two on its other end in successive rows until the toe comes to a point. For this pattern there is no laborious turning of the heel.
For knit sweaters and golf stockings, baby blankets and jackets there are possibilities without end. The latest fashions may be reflected in them or they may be "like Grandmother used to make."
With plain or boucle silk or cotton, belts can be done in plain crochet stitch. A small hook and firm, close crocheting are essential. Charming belts for sport wear can be made. They may be from 9 to 20 stitches wide and should be narrowed to a point and finished with a buckle.
Crocheted doilies are simple and light work. Crochet cotton comes in white and ecru and directions are to be had with it. Pillow tops and lace borders for runners may also be crocheted.
Berets, so fashionable nowadays and so endlessly convenient, may be crocheted of boucle silk or cotton or Saxony or Angora wool. It is safer to advise sending for patterns when you order materials than to offer any here, for fashions change and there are so many possibilities. If a department store cannot supply you, use the addresses at the end of this chapter. If you want to work out your own pattern, whether you use a loose or a close stitch, keep the circular top flat as you add stitches. For a simple cap, when the top measures six inches across, crochet straight without increasing further the number of stitches until the whole measures nine inches. Then decrease gradually until the right head-size is reached. Whatever stitch is used, there should be an inch of close, firm crocheting at the brim. Have a beret for your first hours out of doors or send one to some college girl for campus wear. If your room is kept cold at night, a light-weight beret makes a good substitute for the nightcap of our ancestors.
Perhaps you will have the ambition to start an af-ghan, crocheting or knitting small blocks which will go quickly and for which you may be able to enlist help. Four pounds of Germantown wool will be needed for an afghan, 1 1/2 x 1 3/4 yards square, for which 120 five inch or 195 four inch squares will be required. This amount will make five strips, nine inches wide, if you prefer strips to squares. If you make your blocks of different colors, plan ahead the arrangement of them and know the proportions in which the colors should be ordered. Be sure that your helpers are provided with needles of the same size as yours and that they knit or crochet no more and no less closely than you do. The finished blocks can be either sewed or crocheted together. The so-called af-ghan crochet stitch keeps on a long needle all the loops drawn through the stitches of each row as they are picked up and then slips the yarn through two loops at a time as it is worked back along the row. This is the stitch chosen by our artist for illustration in the headpiece of this chapter. It goes quickly and easily.
If you want to keep up with the fashions and knit a skirt and sweater or a dress, any dealer in knitting materials will send you a whole book of patterns and also directions for using a round needle, which may have the charm of novelty to you. A round needle has some very definite advantages when one is in bed. It needs less elbow room and less shifting about of the work. Watch carefully that the first rows do not get twisted on the needle. It is impossible to correct later such a mistake and it cannot be concealed.
We should never think of knitting as merely a modern craze, perhaps a passing one. It is a very ancient handcraft, rich in pleasant and friendly associations. Long before Shakspere saw them at it, "the spinsters and the knitters in the sun" had been busy with their yarns.
The Knitting Book, Elizabeth King. The Leisure League of America. New York. 1936. Crochet Book, Elizabeth King. The Leisure League of America, New York. 1935. Handbooks on Knitting and Crocheting are published by most makers of materials for these crafts.
Emit Bernat and Sons Company, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
Wools and silks for knitting. Alice Meynard, Fifth Avenue, New York. Materials for every sort of fancy work.
Columbia, Bear and Fleisheim yarns and worsteds, Clark's O.N.T. and J. P. Coats knitting and crocheting cottons are standard makes, carried by department stores.