Is it because I associate it with Khartoum, in the Sudan? Perhaps, but what on earth would Lord Kitchener have to do with the Kitchener stitch, other than share the name? I decided to look it up and discovered that Lord Kitchener was a rather remarkable fellow and quite gifted in many departments.
Lord Herbert Kitchener, the 1st Earl Kitchener, began his career as a surveyor and became famous for winning the Battle of Omdurman which secured Sudan for the British in 1898. He was given the title "Lord Kitchener of Khartoum" for his efforts and thus we have the tie between Kitchener and Khartoum. During his rule of Khartoum he guaranteed the freedom of religion to all citizens, reformed the debt laws, and instituted a program for good governance of the Sudan. HIs resume is quite illustrious and he has many accomplishments to his credit after his efforts in the Sudan. He was the Secretary of State for War (England) at the outbreak of WW1 in 1914. In that capacity he organised the largest volunteer army that Britain (or the Empire) had seen to that date. He also foresaw that the war would be long and that Britain's victory was by no means sure. He apparently was a man who rose in ability as he was promoted and was especially gifted. He was the man responsible for laying groundwork for the expansion of munitions production at the beginning of WW1. Since this is a knitting blog and most of you aren't as fascinated with military history as I am, I won't go into a long and arduous recitation of all of his military work, but will note that he was ruthless when necessary.
This fact is especially puzzling, because he must have had a tender and loving side. He was bothered by the fact that sock patterns of the day had a seam on the toe that rubbed his soldiers' toes. Or perhaps his own feet bothered him. Whatever! He must have known how to knit, or been a brilliant engineer, because he developed the Kitchener's Stitch (or seam). During World War 1, he encouraged women in Britain and the USA to use his seam on socks they knit so soldiers' feet could be more comfortable. Thinking about the heat of Khartoum and the long marches, this invention must have made quite a difference in soldiers' lives. We knitters should give Lord Kitchener three cheers and think about the improvement a soldier made for socks--our hobby. I for one will never complain about the Kitchener stitch again. I have been put in my place and am quite impressed. I may be able to knit, but I don't think I could be a very good soldier, or for that matter come up with anything that would be particularly usefu to them.
An interesting postscript for those of you watching Downton Abbey by Julian Fellows is that his wife Emma Kitchner Fellows is a great-great niece of General (Lord) Kitchner.