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The New York Times was rife with dire headlines this week, from unemployment reaching 9.8% , unemployment aid coming to a permanent end for so many and a look back on the ongoing Iraq war, now entering its 7th year. A strong believer in misery loving company, I scoured the archives for ‘knit your bit’ patterns from the WWII era of strict rationing, when patterns were stamped with warnings materials weren’t guaranteed available and all aspects of life were curtailed. Plus economy in design then means less pennies spent today!

3 increasingly frustrated hours later I hadn’t found a single pattern fitting the bill. HUNDREDS of patterns from the era and NOTHING with a hint of sacrifice or supply limitations. What was going on? Staring at a page of 4 full hockey get-ups for boys and several hats for curling, the answer hit me- MOST OF MY PATTERNS ARE CANADIAN. I purchased an enormous lot from an Alberta woman who’d amassed a library of knitting books over her lifetime and no joke, every winter book has at least one curling/hockey pattern in it and several of the summer issues feature blouses named after provinces.

What makes this stranger is that Canada entered the war before the U.S. and certainly had its share of tribulations. A slight aside, they also hosted the Dutch Royal Family whose lands were Nazi-occupied and to this day as thanks, Ottawa receives tribute in the form of 10,000 tulip bulbs from the Netherlands. Still, if Canada had yarn rationing it doesn’t show up in knitting books from the era, or at least none of the ones I have.

So, in summation: lots of research, several tangents going nowhere, some historical fun facts, so nuts to it here’s some penguin socks.

It needn’t be a little penguin. It can be the biggest penguin you’ve ever seen. An electric penguin, twenty feet high, with long green tentacles that sting people, and you can stab it in the wings and the blood can go spurting psssssshhhh in slow motion!

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Ah, the holidays. A time for carefully laid plans to age gangly in the face of regression and 50+ channels in HD. Still, better late than never, here’s a fun vintage pattern for the gents or the ladies- Smart Alex socks!

The twisty stripe reminds me of a carousel or carnival; this one would be fun in any bright 50s color combinations including the green, yellow and brown recommended.

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I dug these patterns with considerable difficulty from the belly of the New York Public Library. I’m quite sure they sat untouched for years on their shelves, and would have quietly crumbled to fragments and dust with no one the wiser had I not intervened. As it was, in handling and photocopying them I’m pretty sure I fast-forwarded that destruction by 10 years.

Perhaps someone who has greater familiarity with general library organization can clue me in to why they bind certain books together; each volume I sought was trapped amidst seemingly random texts. One was between a German book on what appeared to be house care and a Swedish knot-tying pamphlet, another was sandwiched with several Good Housekeeping excerpts from the 60′s and practically disintegrated hand-typed minutes from some meeting of the Italian Electrician’s Guild.

On a slightly random tangent- what lies beneath the New York Public Library? If their ridiculously hi-tech screening room, with its clear glass floors and design straight out of ‘Diabolik’, is any indication, at least 5 floors of medieval stonemasonry housing a bulk of books (the majority of their collection is stored ‘off-site’-ie in a warehouse in Newark). Some delightful Goldbergian mechanism conveys them from their shelves to the survace via a series of conveyer belts and pulleys, to arrive in the hands of the bored teenagers populating the main desk. Or perhaps a race of Morlock-creatures drags them from their proper place and puts them on the conveyor belts, to be borne up to worlds they will never see.

In any case, enjoy.

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