During World Wars I and II, knitters and crocheters across the country banded together to provide socks for heroes who were fighting aboard. Knitters and crocheters in the Knit Your Bit Facebook group were asked why do they participate in the in the Knit Your Bit program? Their responses varied. Yet, they all shared common motivations, including honoring their ancestors and supporting veterans.
Knit Your Bit knitter Nancy Niles shared the story of her grandfather:
“Joseph Stewart Ewing (1910-2000) worked in the shipyard in Evansville, Indiana, helping to build LST ships. He would ride the trolley car that went from Rockport, Indiana, to Evansville every day to work. It cost 10 cents at the time to ride the trolley car round trip. I am not sure how many ships he worked on. He worked in the shipyard for the entire length of the war and then resumed farming and also became a general contractor from the skills he learned in the shipyard.”
Joseph “Stewart” Ewing was born to William and Cathryn Ewing on July 20, 1910. He married Zinna Beatrice Ellsworth (1912-1988) on January 4, 1931 in Rockport, Indiana. Prior to the start of the war, Stewart worked on his farm in Rockport.
During World War II, Indiana was an industrial hub and Stewart traveled 30 miles from Rockport to Evansville, Indiana to assist with the building of landing ship tanks (LSTs) at the United States Navy Evansville Shipyard. Along with Stewart, over 15,000 employees worked at the shipyard. From 1942 to 1945, 167 landing ship tanks were built in Evansville, Indiana. The Evansville Shipyard was one of the largest in the nation.
When the war ended, Stewart returned to Rockport and resumed work on his farm. He had several children including Nancy’s mom, Wanda Ewing, before passing away on June 22, 2000.
Knitting allows Nancy to honor her grandfather and the other veterans in her family. Nancy said, “I am so honored that my grandfather served during World War II in this way. I really can't tell you how it makes me feel to know that he had a part in helping build those ships. I am so proud of him for this.” Nancy’s father was in the US Navy during the Korean War, and her husband served in the Army during the Vietnam War.
Since its launch in 2006, Knit Your Bit has reached more than 10,000 knitters and crocheters in all 50 states. Through their efforts, the Museum has distributed more than 50,000 scarves to veterans’ centers, hospitals, and service organizations across the country.
Gaynell Brady is the Public Engagement and Community Program Coordinator at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Gaynell has an MA in Museum Studies from Southern University at New Orleans. Past professional experiences include National Park Service-Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve, New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, Louisiana State Museum, and River Road African American Museum.