Toy Knitting in WWII


A guest post by Rohn Strong

Toy knitting is a tried and true tradition most knitters have experienced at least once in their career. I adore knitting toys. Ok, not really. The knitting can be fiddly. I mean, who wants to knit eight stitches in the round on double pointed needles for 12 inches just to make a leg? Not me. Nope.

However, I do it. Why? Because it makes me feel connected, in one way or antoher, to the past. To the mothers who knit such toys for their children when going to the store and purchasing just about anything, was impossible. These knitted toys brought great joy to the children who played with them.

So, I cast on and knit. I knit for days. I knit small legs, little arms, embroider faces, and tie on some hair. When Donna asked me to design and write for book 3 of the Stories in Stitches series, I was on board from the beginning, but I wanted to do something different. I could have knit a hat or a pair of socks. I chose a doll. Why? It called to me.

These dolls felt as if they belonged in my portfolio. When I saw them I immediately flashed back to WWII. A time where so many children lived in constant fear. Their fathers were off fighting in a part of the world they had barely studied in school. They waited, holding their breath, for a letter to come. A correspondence of some sort. Then, unfortunately, sometimes it wasn’t the letter they wanted.

20140423-222737.jpgThe war was not fought on the front lines but it was fought in the neighborhoods, the porches, the doorstops, the kitchen tables. The war took hold of every area of life and held on for years.

I imagined that each of these dolls was knitted for a child whose father was away. I could see their mothers knitting the night away with their left over wool. Then the child receiving the doll and the look of joy on his/her face.

What can I say? I have one active imagination!

I hope that each and every one of you love the dolls and the story that goes along with them. Why not make one and give it away to someone important in your life? Let’s keep this tradition going.

To celebrate the launch of Stories in Stitches 3 I am having a giveaway! Just comment on this post and tell us what your favorite toy was growing up – something that evokes a strong memory – and you can win a vintage turban kit! You will get the pattern and yarn to complete the turban, an iconic piece from WWII!

If you would like more info of my designs or me you can go to or visit my blog at

— Rohn Strong

To learn more about dolls knit in WW2,
with 2 patterns and a short story by Rohn,
see Stories In Stitches 3.


  1. My favorite toy was a rag doll named Katie. I have no idea what she originally looked like, because her facial details all fell off and my mother drew in a rather unusual face, and I “braided” her hair by tying it in knots. I left her in an airport once, and my dad had to go back through customs to get her– I remember him saying that he was surprised they didn’t check to see whether cocaine or diamonds were sewn into the doll! The sobbing two-year-old probably tipped off the customs officials that Katie was indeed just a little girl’s toy. :). I still have her all these years later, very well- loved.

  2. I had a doll–one of the early Barbie type dolls. I kept her and her outfits in a miniature steamer trunk. I made clothes for her from my mom’s scraps and knitted blankets for her.

  3. My mom crocheted a set of The Three Bears for me. Papa bear had a collar and tie, Mama bear had… an apron I think? But it was naked tiny Baby Bear who was my very favorite. She went with me everywhere and I hugged her until she was flat.

  4. Ludmilla Rowinsky says:

    I dragged ariybd a rag doll for 3 years. It was the only doll I ever played with, as I never played with, but sewed and knit clothes for dolls that came later. My father traded a pack of cigarettes to a German for the doll and gave her to me for my first birthday. Americans sent relief packages to displaced refugees in Europe and, sometimes, there was fabric and my mother made clothes for that doll with scraps left over from making clothes for us children. The doll’s name was Lialia, which just means Dolly. When I was about 4, I shared the doll with some pigs in a pen up the street, because I wanted them to play family with me. I cried for weeks, my mother told me, when they didn’t give her back. I still remember Lialia’s smudged face and her embroidered eyes and smile.

  5. I had a baby doll that I knit and crocheted soakers and kimonos for. I’m not sure what happened to her…maybe my younger sister got her or she was left behind in on of our many moves, but while I had her she made me happy.

  6. By random draw, the winner is Ludmilla Rowinsky! Congratulations.

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