Spring is poppy season—I adore poppies! I used to grow five different varieties at my former home in Madison, Wisconsin, which usually bloomed from early May and into June. But poppies have a deeper symbolic meaning that many may be unaware of.
Knitwear designer Eileen Lee remembers her grandmother wearing a red crepe-paper poppy on the lapel of her coat. Eileen’s grandfather was a World War I (1914–1918) veteran. As a child, Eileen didn’t understand the deeper meaning and symbolism of the paper poppy her grandmother wore.
The corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is a common weed in Europe that germinates when the soil is disturbed. During World War I, these opportunistic flowers carpeted the battlefields and inspired Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872–1918), a Canadian medical officer, to pen the poem “In Flanders Fields” in May 1915, referencing the accumulation of poppies growing on soldiers’ graves. The custom of wearing a red poppy in remembrance of veterans lost in times of war harkens back to the years following the armistice in 1918.
Eileen Lee’s lovely A Red Poppy Cowl to Knit pattern honors the tradition of wearing a red poppy to commemorate those we have lost to war. Double knit in vivid shades of red and gold Madeline Tosh Sock, 100% merino wool, fingering-weight yarn, this cozy reversible cowl is a delight to knit and a way to remember.
Elizabeth Prose is a former associate editor of PieceWork magazine.
You can find this pattern and others celebrating the color red in the March/April 2014 issue of PieceWork! Also, remember that if you are an active subscriber to PieceWork magazine, you have unlimited access to previous issues, including March/April 2014. See our help center for the step-by-step process on how to access them.
Originally published March 22, 2016; updated May 28, 2017; updated April 22, 2022.