History of Knitting Part VIII: Knitting in the 1920s

By the end of World War I many women were sick of knitting and absolutely despised the colors olive and gray.  ​Women talked of being "knit-out," exhausted by all of the knitting for soldiers they had done during the war. 

Mrs Calvin Coolidge Knitting in the 1920's

First Lady Mrs. Calvin Coolidge,
an avid knitter.

Yarn manufacturers panicked!  What to do?  In 1923 yarn manufacturer Fleisher hosted a knitting contest with $11,000 in total prize money.  First place was a whopping $2,000 ... at a time when winning a first prize for knitting at a local fair would bring in about $15.  Thousands entered the contest, including the First Lady herself, Mrs. Calvin Coolidge (she didn't win).

But while knitting slowed down in the 1920s, it didn't stop.  As we all know, some of us just can't stop knitting!​

Fashions were changing, with young women wearing shorter skirts and longer necklines​ while flaunting bobbed hair and cosmetics.  But the "New Woman" soon discovered that short hair was much more prone to a bad hair days than long hair.  Long hair, even on a bad day, generally hung straight.  If you had a permanent wave to your hair or used a curling iron at home to crimp and curl your hair, you might be in for trouble!  Curling irons of the time had no way to regulate heat - and often scorched your hair!

Knit Sweater - Lady's World Magazine - Feb 14, 1921

Modeling a knit sweater in
Lady's World magazine,
February 14, 1921.

No way to avoid it ... you were going to have some frizzy days.  The solution was the cloche hat, a knit hat with little or no brim worn close to the head like a skull cap.  The hair was hidden, except for a few well-behaved curls that were allowed to peek out in front.   

Sweaters became very popular - they were knit slim and tubular to exaggerate the flapper look of a small bust and slim hips.  They were also knit with (gasp!) stripes!  Big, bold horizontal stripes of multiple colors ... a perfect contrast to the drab olive sweaters knit for the soldiers during the war. 

1920s Men's Sweaters

1920s Men's Sweaters

But sweaters weren't just for the ladies.  While men continued to dress in suits of somber colors, an exception was made while "sporting" and especially while playing golf.  Men golfed in bold sweaters in bright colors with colorful argyle socks to match.  

Even with the craze for cloche hats and sweaters, knitting overall slumped as many war knitters took a break from their needles.  The slump didn't last long and the 1930s saw a huge revival in knitting . . . but that's a topic for another day!

Are you a New Woman?  Independent and fun - and not afraid of a bad hair day!  Put on some 1920s flair with the crocheted Simple Cloche With Flower hat, or knit the classic Abalone Shell Hat.

Happy Knitting! ... Scout

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