The History of Knitting

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The earliest example of true knitting is a pair of knitting socks found in Egypt, dating back to A.D. 1100-just over 9 centuries ago!

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Hand knitting has been practiced for thousands of years. Where and how this art was invented is still a mystery. Some people believe that knitting began when primitive man made webs out of roots. Others think that Arabian nomads carried the craft into Europe. Still others think that this art originated in Persia. Regardless of where the craft began knitting is the textile infant.

From the beginning the art of knitting was an occupation for women. The oldest remnants of seemingly knitted pieces are those worn as socks. It seems that socks and stockings were knitted because they had to be shaped to the foot or leg. Records seem to indicate that sweaters were first knit in the 17th century. At this time the purl stitch does not seem to have existed. The first time the purl stitch is mentioned dates from the mid 16th century.

The earliest example of true knitting is a pair of knitting socks found in Egypt, dating back to A.D. 1100-just over 9 centuries ago! These early socks were worked in Nalebinding, an ancient craft which used thread to create fabric by making knots and loops. It was done with a wood or bone needle. There are many versions of nalebinding, and some of them look like true knitting.

During Medieval times the craft was controlled by guilds. Knitted garments were worn by the wealthy class. By the 16th century knitting had advanced into a craft. During the Elizabethan era knitting schools were established in Britain. Knitted stockings provided an income for the poor. These stockings were exported to Germany, Holland and Spain. During these times men wore short trunks so fitted stockings where a fashion necessity. Dales knitting, which began at the end of the 16th century, must hold the record for the longest knitting industry in England. Articles from this cottage knitting industry are preserved in the Museum of Hawes in Wensleydale.

Knitting is important in Scottish history. During the17th and 18th centuries whole families were involved in knitting garments. Sweaters were important to the fisherman of the Scottish Isles. Fair isle and cable patterns were used on aran sweaters. During the French-Nepoleanic wars woman got together to knit socks and mittens for the soldiers. This practice continued through World War I and World War II.

Different types of knitting originated in different parts of the world. Two-color knitting or fair isle knitting began on a group of islands north of Britain. The first example of this intricate pattern is believed to be knitted around 1850. The Prince of Wales wore a fair isle sweater in 1921. Yet other legends say that fair isle knitting was inspired in 1588 when a Spanish ship was wrecked off Fair Isle and the crew inspired native knitters to new forms of knitting patterns. Many lace patterns in use today still have French names. German knitting also has a long history. Four or five needles were often used by German knitters. The picture of the knitting Madonna, The Visit of the Angels, painted around 1390, by a Munich painter, documents this long-established craft of knitting. (http://www.discount-crochet.com)

The Industrial Revolution took over the hand craft of knitting through the invention of the knitting machine. Hand knitting lost its ability to compete with these knitting machines. Knitting as an art and craft fell to the wayside and was kept alive as a hobby.

It is interesting to watch the renaissance of knitting. Different techniques from different parts of the world are being combined. Specialty yarns have been created from different fibers. These new yarns produce stunning results. Companies are aspiring to make their knitting patterns the height of fashion. Celebrities have been seen knitting, which helps to popularize the revival of the art of knitting. Manufacturers and designers are working together to stimulate interest and creativity within this craft.

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K. Smith