A recent Radio 4 programme about MI6 first alerted me to the links between espionage and knitting. It described old French ladies keeping count of Nazi trains with their clandestine knitting code – purl one for a goods train, drop one for a military train and so on.
It turns out there are more connections between these two activities than you’d think. For instance, “red spy queen” Elizabeth Bentley hid secret documents in her knitting bag.
A woman called Old Mom Rinker spied for George Washington by knitting near the enemy camp, putting her overheard information on scraps of paper inside balls of yarn and nudging them off the cliff to soldiers below.
And cold war spy George Blake used a knitting needle ladder to escape from Wormwood Scrubs.
These investigations led me to an even stranger phenomenon – the shepherds of Landes in Aquitaine, who liked to knit on stilts:
Pattern for a Morse Code vest