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American Red Cross program called on knitters during World War II

Knitting for Victory supplied 63 million garments for civilian and military members.

TOLEDO, Ohio — An interesting piece of mail to the WTOL 11 newsroom led to an historical find. 

A viewer from Michigan sent a knitting pattern to WTOL 11 Meteorologist Diane Phillips, after learning Diane enjoys knitting. The pattern for a men's sleeveless V-neck sweater looked old, and it was. He explained it belonged to his grandmother. 

With the American Red Cross logo at the top, Diane took the pattern to the local chapter to find out more about it. She learned it was part of a World War II-era program.

Rachel Hepner-Zawodny with the local American Red Cross chapter said there were patterns for socks, vests, sweaters, and surgical wraps.

"There were 8 million women who were recruited throughout the various chapters in the nation as well as Junior Red Crossers to actually take on this task to make these items," Hepner-Zawodny said.

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These volunteers were a part of the Production Corp that made more than 63 million garments for civilians and the military.

"So, every volunteer was given a kit and the materials. And then given, I would say a goal, like these are how many that you need to make," Hepner-Zawodny said. 

Each project pattern had to be followed straight to the end.

"There are strict instructions to send everything unused back to the chapter. so, waste not, want not," Hepner-Zawodny said. 

The completed garments, which were only made in navy blue or olive-green wool yarn, would be distributed in comfort kits, which are still a part of the American Red Cross today.

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"While we don't have an actual Production Corps, there are still those groups out there that know our history of the Production Corps and still want to make handmade items for the Red Cross," Hepner-Zawodny said. 

Though the Red Cross no longer distributes knit kits, they do have the World War II knitting patterns available here.

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