Secrets, surveillance and sweaters...

This article is sooo up my alley: The Wartime Spies Who Used Knitting as an Espionage Tool.

With a nod to “bitter knitter” Madame Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities, who knits the names of all those who will be guillotined in the Revolution,

it talks about different ways that knitting can be used to hide secret messages:

  • Simulating morse code using “combinations of just two stitches: a knit stitch, which is smooth and looks like a “v”, and a purl stitch, which looks like a horizontal line or a little bump.”

  • Tying knotted codes into yarn and then knitting the yarn to camoflage it - “When the German authorities carefully unraveled such a sweater, the story went, they found the wool thread dotted with many knots. By marking a vertical door frame with the letters of the alphabet, spaced an inch apart, the knots could be deciphered as words by measuring the yarn along this alphabet and marking which letters the knots touched.”

  • Using the knots as morse code: “An ordinary loop knot can make the equivalent of a dot and a knot in the figure-eight manner will give you the equivalent of a dash.”

  • Using yarn to hide secret objects/messages - “She hid scraps of paper with sensitive information in balls of yarn, which she tossed over a cliff to hidden soldiers right below, under the noses of the enemy.”

I’ve been exploring the idea of knots as personal / secret codes for awhile… here are a couple of examples: