Textile Talk: A History of Knitting

Textile Talk is a new weekly blog feature written by Allie Bennett of Stitchville

As promised, a brief history of knitting. I hope you will find it as fascinating as I have.

The origins of knitting are cloudy, since the one thing we are sure of is that knitting (or something like it) has been done for a long, long time. Before people actually knit, a technique called ‘nalbinding’ was used. This made a strong, stretchy fabric and was formed by making a series of knots. Interestingly, the oldest know artifact is a pair of socks. Yes. Socks. From the 300’s. Here’s a picture:

pig 1

As far as ‘real’ knitting, meaning two sticks pulling loops of yarn through loops of yarn, the earliest remnant is, again, a pair of socks. This time from much later, sometime around 1000 and from Egypt. As you can see, the pattern is quite complex, leading us to believe these fellows had been at it for a while. Look how cool:

pic 2

As time went on, knitting moved from a necessity to hobby. The purl stitch was invented somewhere around the 16th century and from there many of the more decorative garments were created (cable stitching and other patterns) and during the 17th and 18th century it was very popular in Scotland, where even the men took up the craft. They developed a beautiful technique on an island north of Scotland called Fair Isle where they created beautiful multi colored patterns. As seen here:

pic 3

During the 19th and 20th century, knitting experienced a downslope in popularity, most likely due to it not being a necessity any more- with garments being readily available quite cheaply. But in the 21st century, thanks to the handmade movement, as well as yarns becoming more affordable, there seems to be a surge in the craft.

Which brings us to modern day.

pic 4

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