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Knitting for Empire


New Zealand soldiers living in the misery of trenches in Belgium in 1917 could be certain of a few comforts from home. Hand-made socks, balaclavas, scarves and gloves were included in the parcels women sent them. New Zealand women had always knitted, but the craft took on a new meaning during the war. ‘Sock day’ was held in May 1915 after soldiers reported that a pair of socks only lasted a fortnight when the wearer was on active duty.

Her Excellency’s knitting book appeared in August 1915. This 193-page book, produced by Lady Liverpool, was New Zealand’s first locally published knitting book. It contained patterns for socks, balaclavas and gloves and was designed to fit snugly into a woman’s knitting bag. There was even a rousing song, Canadian in origin but popular in New Zealand:

Knitting, knitting, knitting, with a pray’r in every row,
That the ones they hold in their hearts so dear
May be guarded as they go.



'Knitting for Empire' image: Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: BK 810-Cover
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa must be obtained before any reuse of this image.

Socks kindly knitted for us by Jill Goodwin

How to cite this page

Knitting for Empire, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated