Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The History Of Knitting

I thought to bring in an article about knitting; seeing we're coming into Winter here in Australia and it's a great hobby and skill to pick up.  I've been a knitter since I was around 12 years old when my Grandma taught me during my Christmas school holidays and I was about to go into high school.  Over the years, I've knitted off and on, however it's been only over the last decade or so that I've really picked it up as a permanent hobby; something that I sit down and do every day.  However, where knitting actually came from is still something I don't know about, and no matter who I ask, I don't get full or straight answers.  So, here we go:  into the world and history of knitting.

Mostly, where the history of knitting began is a big mystery.  However, it's been in our lives for a long time; but shorter than we think; as the term 'to knit' has only been around since the 1400's or so and even then, it's only through guess work on how old items are kept in museums.  
Knitting is made of wool, silk, and other fibers that decay rapidly, even under perfect conditions; knitting needles are essentially sharpened sticks, and hard to identify as knitting needles beyond a doubt; they could be hair picks, skewers, spindles, or any of the other zillion uses there are for a sharpened stick.
Before the term of knitting was created, there was nailbinding; which was used to make stretchy fabrics. Termed 'one needle knitting' by some museums, it is similar to knitting in structure, but stronger, less stretchy, and a lot more difficult to create. The resulting fabric would look very sloppy unless done by a master, and it wasn't something you could have the kids do while tending the sheep -- unlike knitting.
The oldest knitting (formed on two sticks by pulling loops through loops) we've got is 'Coptic Socks' from Egypt, dating to around the year 1000 CE. There are quite a few fragments, all of them done in shades of white and indigo, in stockinette. Many of them have Khufic (a decorative Arabic script) blessings knit into them, or symbols to ward off evil, or both. All look really cool. All of the ancient knitted fragments are knit out of cotton. Wool wasn't used for knitting until a much later date.

However the first important - and datable - piece of knitting was found in Spain in the year 1275.  All the pieces of knitting found in this time, have had writing on them.  Socks had 'Allah' knit in bands on them.  And the pillow has 'Blessing' knitted in decorative Arabic script knit around the edges.  Knitting words in knitting was done from the very first piece made up; at a time Europe was largely illiterate.  It was the Islamic world that had wide-spread literacy. So, the early knitting fragments were produced by someone literate, and most literate people were found somewhere in the Islamic world. Particularly literate people with a knowledge of decorative Arabic scripts. for the first four or five hundred years of knitting's history, the most common materials were cotton and silk - not wool. Cotton and silk were far easier to come by in the Middle East than in Europe. If knitting had started in Europe, they'd have used wool first; or maybe linen.  

Have you notice we work the stitches from right to left along the needles; however it's in our left hand? Ever wanted to know why? We write left to right... it would make sense that we would knit left to right.  But it seeing how long it's been around, it's been passed along as this technique for so long that people are only knitting both left to right and right to left due to the invention of double-ended needles coming onto the market in the last 30 years or so.
Knitting has been around for a long time; since the 1200 - 1400's; according to museums in the UK and Europe.  After finding the first pieces in Egypt and Spain, more were found throughout the world as time went on.  How it became so popular and widespread is still a mystery; however, as our more modern needles came into play - as well more decorative yarns and wools became more available - knitting became something we all could do to make clothing, gloves, hats or scarves... all from a couple of balls of knitting yarn.  Really, you can knit anything and make anything.  It has become a craze where everyone does, then it's not something to do... personally, I enjoy it all the time.

I obtained all the information for this article from a knitting editorial.  Here's the link to it

the history of knitting 

There's pictures of the knitting I talked about (as they are too big to put in here).  I hope you have enjoyed this article about knitting. And until my next post, keep creating!


  1. I tried knitting once... I am not very good at it. I generally like to finish what I start in one sitting, such as with my paintings, so I found it so hard to leave it behind...

    1. I don't mind working on my knitting or art piece by piece. It gives me time to look at it and tweak it... then fix it another time.

      If I try to finish something in one sitting, I find that it feels rushed and I don't like that... I worked 3 months on a Dr Who scarf; it ended up being 7ft long and brilliant! I loved doing it too! :D