Karen's Knitting Site

History of knitting

The actual origins of knitting are hard to trace. Historic evidence of knitted pieces have been found in several, diverse countries such as Egypt, England, Holland, Scotland, Spain, Germany, and so on. Apparently, the earliest evidence of knitted clothing found were fragments of socks that were made in Egypt sometime between 1000 and 1300 A.D. But, even this is disputed since some scholars say that these socks were not knitted but were the result of naalebinding (another fabric making technique).

The first trade union devoted to knitting professionals was founded in 1527 in Paris. It was originally a male-only occupation but soon became a household activity when knitted stockings became extremely popular. Apparently, by the lates 1600's between one and two million of these knitted stockings were exported from Britain to various parts of Europe.

Socks and stockings seem to be the earliest pieces of knitted clothing because this technique allowed for shaping the cloth to mold to the many angles of the foot. But this wasn't the only effective and creative use of hand knitting.

According to one source I checked, "Legend has it that sailors wore sweaters with their family pattern knit into them so that their bodies could be identified if they died at sea."4 While it's a morbid thing to think about, it is a notable application of the craft.

Whatever its true origins, knitting, crocheting, naalbinding and various other crafts of this nature have a long, rich history. As someone who has become a recent convert, I can easily see why these techniques have survived for so long.

1. "Knitting." Wikipedia, Retrieved March 2, 2005 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knitting
2. Rutt, Richard (2003). A history of handknitting. Interweave Press, Loveland, CO.
3. "Knitting History." Apparel Search Company, Retrieved March 2, 2005 from http://www.apparelsearch.com/Definitions/Fabric/Knitting_history.htm
4. Thomas, Nancy J. (2004). Barnes & Noble Basics: Knitting and crocheting. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, NY.
5. "Naalbinding." Regia Anglorum, Retrieved March 2, 2005 from http://www.regia.org/naalbind.htm
6. photo © Kathleen Kinder/Bill Mitchell 1997 http://www.daelnet.co.uk/features/knitting/history4.htm