Threads Through Time-Red Cross Socks

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Red Cross Bed Socks, 2020
Wool yarn
Modern reproduction


On April 16, 1917, the United States entered World War I by declaring war against Germany. The Red Cross, already in action in Europe, began organizing volunteers at home.  While the initial focus of the Red Cross was to provide medical assistance with doctors, nurses, and medical supplies, the call was put out to knitters across the country to help supply the military with socks, vests, mufflers, and wristlets. The “Knit Your Bit” campaign energized women across the country, and led to the founding of the Production Corps in 1917.

With approval from the army and navy, the Red Cross provided instructional booklets to volunteers. These instructions included the type of yarn (gray wool) and needles to be used, and were designed so knitters of all experience levels could participate. At the end of WWI, volunteers made over 23 million knitted items. The program was revived during WWII, where 19 million items were knitted. World War II was last time a knitting campaign was used for the military.

The Production Corps became one of the nine volunteer units of the Red Cross officially in 1920. Currently this unit is calling for volunteers to make facemasks for the active military and veterans.