"History"

Amelia Earhart’s Flight Around the Globe

Amelia Earhart - March 1937

Amelia Earhart in March, 1937

Amelia Earhart was famous for many things.  She was an aviation pioneer who was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.  She was a member of the National Women's Party, a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, a charter member of the Ninety-Nines (a professional organization of women pilots), and a career counselor to women students at Purdue University. 

But what she is best known for is her failed attempt to circumnavigate the globe by air in 1937.

She had been planning the attempt for a few years, and although it would not be the first time a person had circled the globe by air, the route she choose would follow the equator which would make it the longest route.  Amelia first made the attempt in March of 1937, when technical problems forced her to give up the attempt.  For her next attempt she choose a new plane, a Lockheed Electra 10E, which was modified to fit a larger fuel tank. 

She wasn't flying alone.  It was important to have a navigator along.  Air navigation maps were new and often inaccurate.  So who would be best qualified to help navigate an airplane across the ocean?  A ship's captain.  She selected two:  Captain Harry Manning, captain of the transatlantic ship the President Roosevelt which had brought Amelia back from Europe in 1928 after her flight across the Atlantic, and Fred Noonan, a licensed ship captain who had worked for the pioneering airline Pan Am, where he was responsible for navigating the route and training the pilots for the Pacific Ocean air routes between San Francisco and Manila.  The plan was to fly the Pacific portion with Noonan, the Atlantic portion with Captain Manning ... and the final leg by herself. 

The flight started in Oakland, California on May 20, 1937, and the plan was to triumphantly return to Oakland on July 4th.  There were planned stops for rest, refueling and repairs, and for the most part the flight was progressing successfully. 

Amelia Earhart, 1928

Amelia Earhart, 1928

With the trip almost completed, on July 2nd Amelia and Noonan left Lae Airfield in New Guinea, headed for Howland Island, a small uninhabited island ​about halfway between Australia and Hawaii.  The United States Coast Guard ship The Itasca was stationed at the the tiny island, ready to guide her in by radio and then allow her to refuel. 

But Amelia never made it to Howland Island. 

Amelia Earhart Flight Route

Amelia Earhart Flight Route

Radio transmission was difficult and sketchy, and it's been suggested that the different equipment in Amelia's plane and The Itasca made it impossible for them to communicate on the same radio frequency.  The Itasca couldn't hear her well, and when they heard her say "We must be on you, but cannot see you - but gas is running low.  Have been unable to reach you by radio" they knew that she couldn't hear The Itasca at all.  At one point Amelia started whistling over the radio, hoping that The Itasca could locate her better with a continuous signal.  The Itasca used their oil fired boilers to create black smoke, hoping that Amelia could see the black puffs of smoke in the air to help her locate the island, but if she saw it she didn't give any indication that she did. 

So what happened?  Nobody knows. The search for Amelia's plane officially began just one hour after her last transmission, and the search lasted for 17 days, until July 19th.  After the official search ended her husband paid for additional private searches.  New theories and "evidence" occasionally pop up, but no conclusive clues to her disappearance have ever been found. 

It is most likely that Amelia ran out of fuel and crashed into the water, or landed on another island and either died on impact or survived for a few days.  During the search some reported hearing radio signals for the first few days, but there were so many planes and boats searching for her that it is impossible to know if the signals came from Amelia or from fellow searchers. 

Several theories have surfaced over the years ...

She was shot down by the Japanese ... and they captured her airplane to copy the technology for their own. (This was before the start of World War II, but while international tensions were rising). It was also reported that she had been kept alive and years later was one of the many "Tokyo Rose" women, American-sounding women used by the Japanese to send demoralizing messages to American soldiers over the radio during WWII. The theory was accepted enough that Amelia's husband listened to the Tokyo Rose recordings, but said he didn't recognize any as his wife's voice.

​Another theory is that she faked her own death then moved to New Jersey, remarried and changed her name to Irene Craigmile Bolam. This theory was proclaimed in a book published in 1970. It was later disproved, and Mrs. Bolam was not at all pleased with the attention she received from the false allegation. The publisher quickly removed the book and paid a private settlement to Mrs. Bolam.

We like this theory ... ​She was captured by aliens. ... 'nuff said!

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart.  Because of a gap between her front teeth, she was advised to smile with her mouth closed for formal photos.

Amelia left a letter to her husband, to be opened in case the flight was her last, stating: "Please know that I am quite aware of the hazards.  I want to do it because I want to do it.  Women must try to do things as men have tried.  When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others." ​... It seems that she knew her failure could be just as inspiring as her success.

Would you like the excitement of circumnavigating the globe - without the danger?  FiberWild!'s new Sock of the Month: World Traveler series is called Around the World in 12 Socks.  You'll visit 12 exciting places around the world and knit a new sock inspired by the landscape and culture of each location, all without ever leaving your favorite knitting chair!  The odds of you mysteriously disappearing while knitting around the world are fairly slim, and the only equipment failure you will experience is that awful "ping" you hear when you drop a knitting needle on the hardwood floor.  

Pack your bags (I mean your knitting bag, of course!) ... and let's fly!​  Happy Knitting! ... Scout

The BEST “Best Of”

The Eagles - Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)

Album cover of The Eagles'
Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)

Who doesn't love a "Best of" compilation?  Your favorite songs, YouTube videos, poems, movies, even your favorite recipes, all ​gathered together in one easy reference. What's not to like?

And if you love a "Best Of," you're not alone.  What was the best selling album of the entire 20th century in the U.S.?  Not an album of new songs, but The Eagles' best-of compilation, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975).   The album was certified 29 x Platinum in 2006, which means it has sold 29 million copies - and continues to sell!

Factoid:  Michael Jackson's Thriller is the best selling album worldwide. At the end of the century Thriller had 46 million album sales while The Eagles' Their Greatest Hits had 40 million.

So why isn't there a "best of knitting"?  There should be!  And, now there is.  You know about Michelle Hunter's hugely popular Progressive Needles Knit-Alongs ... she is the master of mystery, and teases you with a promise of a really great project, then releases pieces of the pattern weekly.  But her KALs are more than just a pattern, Michelle also includes great videos of the project, so it's like getting the pattern and a private instructor to sit alongside you and help you along the way.

Michelle's new book The Best of Knit Purl Hunter contains 25 of the best patterns from her Knit-Alongs.  So what are the 25 patterns?  No longer a mystery ... you can checkout pictures of the projects and a video compilation here ...

​The Best of Knit Purl Hunter

The book contains stunning photographs of each project so you can see each item before you decide which project to knit.  Plus, the projects have been re-knit in fresh new color combinations, so even if you made the design during the actual Knit-Along, they will still be new to you!

The hard copy book will be available soon (early May).  You can pre-order your book now or wait until the eBook and individual PDFs are available on Ravelry the first week of July.

Happy Knitting! ... Scout

History of Knitting Part IX: Knitting in the Great Depression

Knit Twin Set & Skirt - from Good Needlework and Knitting Magazine - Sept 1938

Twin set and skirt knitting pattern
Good Needlework and Knitting Magazine
September 1938

On October 24, 1929 the stock market crashed.  It was the start of the Great Depression.  For the next 12 years nearly every industry suffered as sales slowed and jobs were lost.  But there were two very notable exceptions, the cosmetics industry (especially lipstick sales) ... and yarn!

And it's easy to see why!  Knitting is inexpensive and worthwhile entertainment - if you spend your money to see a show or eat a fancy dinner you have nothing to show for it the next day.  If you knit, not only does it occupy your time, but you have a tangible item to wear!​

Knitting your own clothes was a thrifty choice, but it was important to women that their hand-made garments not appear to be thrifty and cheap.  Expensive, European designed sweaters were very fashionable in the 1930s - and easily copied by American knitters.  Yarn manufacturers designed patterns that emphasized stylish, fashionable clothes.  Hand-knit sweaters, twin sets (a matching cardigan over a pull-over sweater) and even entire dresses were popular.  Projects were big and the emphasis was on style and fashion over the classic and (yawn!) utilitarian socks, mittens and scarves that had dominated every era before.

Knitting became more than a hobby, for many women it became a profession.  As companies downsized and jobs were lost, the thinking at the time was that any available jobs should go to men since they were the primary breadwinners.  The exception was the yarn industry.

Yarn manufacturers realized that new knit fashions had to be sharp and well-knit in order to attract buyers, so women were hired as knitting instructors.  The yarn industry knew that an increase in the number of women who learned to knit would mean an increase in their yarn sales.  But more importantly, they understood that it was crucial to the industry that women knit well.  They knew that a woman wearing a baggy, ill-fitting and ugly garment while bragging "I made it myself!" would not entice her friends to become knitters (and yarn customers).  It was a worthwhile expense for yarn manufacturers to pay knitting instructors to help home knitters to improve their knitting skills.  Better knitters wearing stylish, well-knit hand-knit clothes enticed their friends to learn how to knit - and more yarn customers were born by the minute!

So while men were hurting for jobs, women were hired as knitting instructors, shop girls and saleswomen in yarn shops​, and models in shows to promote knitting fashions.  Most of these jobs were part-time, since it was well established that all available full-time jobs should go to men, but the income these women received had a significant impact on their household budgets. 

Hollywood surged in the 1930s, and ordinary folk looked forward to seeing their favorite stars on the silver screen.  Designers jumped on the Hollywood bandwagon and published pattern books with fashions modeled by movie stars.  You couldn't afford to buy Hollywood fashions - but you could certainly afford to knit yourself an outfit to look like a Hollywood star!

Lana Turner (left) in They Won't Forget - 1937

Lana Turner (left) in
"They Won't Forget" (1937)
Tight sweaters and perky figure earned her the nickname "The Sweater Girl."

Lana Turner's character in the 1937 film "They Won't Forget" was famous for her tight-fitting knit sweaters.  She was nicknamed the "Sweater Girl," and started the fashion for tight-fitting sweaters worn over a cone-shaped bra that became popular throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

Katherine Hepburn Knitting

Star Katherine Hepburn knitting and (gasp!) wearing pants!

As it turns out, Hollywood starlets didn't just wear knit clothes, many of them were knitters as well.  Joan Crawford, Jayne Mansfield, Audrey Hepburn, Shirley Temple and Katherine Hepburn were all known to knit on their movie sets.  Knitting was not fuddy-duddy - it had become glamorous!  The thinking was that if Hollywood stars, who could easily afford to buy their clothes, were hand-knitting their clothes - then you should, too!

Want to try out an 1930s pattern?  A quick Ravelry peek (search "1930") reveals lots of vintage 1930s patterns as well as remakes inspired by the 1930s.  Give us a call to help you with your yarn selection ... and get ready for the glamor of a 1930s Hollywood star!

Happy Knitting! ... Scout

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