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.


Community contributions

10 comments have been posted about Knitting for Empire

What do you know?

Nicki Stewart

Posted: 28 Jun 2014

Alexander Turnbull Library (National Library) in Wellington , NZ have 2 versions (1915, and 1917) of 'Her Excellency's Knitting Book' . You can order photocopies or digital files from them online.

Annie mcentyre

Posted: 22 Jun 2014

Hi June,

Do you still have your copy of Her Excellency's Knitting Book to sell? I would be interested in purchasing it.

june holman

Posted: 03 Jan 2014


I am in Uk Have a copy of the book which has a handwritten dedication to her neice, by her Excellency, Annette Liverpool. As nobody responded to my posting on this site last year I have put it for sale on eBay UK. Item number 231125645162. I see that a couple of people are interested in obtaining a copy.

Nicki Stewart

Posted: 16 Nov 2013

I am also seeking a copy or PDF of this book or other pictorial references to womens or soldiers handcrafts of WW1,


Sandy Cowan

Posted: 04 Nov 2013

I am seeking a copy (pdf if possible) of this book or something similar regarding WW1 knitting patterns for a project I will be involved in during 2014.
Many thanks, Sandy

Anna Cottrell

Posted: 03 Oct 2013

I would like to ask if anyone has any WW1 knitting needles.
Thank you,
Anna Cottrell

Jeff Reznick

Posted: 04 Aug 2013

Hello - I'm seeking to purchase a copy of this book for purposes of scholarly research. If anyone might have and be interested in offering a copy, I'd appreciate being in touch. Thank you. ~ Jeff Reznick, Rockville, Maryland, USA

june holman

Posted: 31 Jul 2012

I have a copy of this book which has a small inscription on the first page which says "cousin Alice from Annette with best Christmas Wishes 1915".
As I have no emotional attachment to this book, I would like to sell it and wonder how I should go about it, as I am in UK and it obviously has more meaning to the people of New Zealand. Please let me know otherwise I will put it on eBay. Thanks