The World of Knitting
There’s nothing new about men knitting – it just seems to be the exception to the rule in the modern world. It may be that men invented the art of knitting, and some men still do it. Knitting, generally seen as being for grannies and older women, has become “manly” following an endorsement from macho actor Ryan Gosling, an accomplished knitter himself. He once famously claimed that hours of knitting was his idea of a “perfect day”. Tom Daley said his work on knitting projects helped him stay calm between events at the Tokyo Olympics, where he won a gold diving medal. He recently launched an online store selling knitting kits. His Made with Love website gives his fans — many of whom have long followed his knitting exploits on Instagram — a new chance to purl along with the 27-year-old gold medalist. Russell Crowe took up knitting as a form of anger management! Breakfast at Tiffany’s star Audrey Hepburn was an avid knitter, both on and off the set.
Maybe you should get started after reading this paper.
History of Knitting
Knitting is the process of using two or more needles to loop yarn into a series of loops that are interconnected loops to create a finished garment or some other type of fabric. The word knit is derived from knot, thought to originate from the Dutch verb knutten, which is similar to the Old English cnyttan, “to knot”. Its origins lie in the need for clothing for protection against extreme weather conditions. More recently, knitting has become less a necessary skill and more of a hobby. Unlike weaving, knitting does not require a loom or other large equipment, making it a valuable technique for nomadic and non-agrarian peoples.
Would you believe that the oldest knitted artefacts are socks from Egypt, dating from the 11th century AD? They are a very fine gauge, done with complex colourwork, and some have a short row heel, which necessitates the purl stitch. These complexities suggest that knitting is even older than the archeological record can prove. Earlier items having a knitted or crocheted appearance were made with other techniques, such as Nålebinding, a method of making fabric by creating multiple loops with a single needle and thread – very much like sewing.
Some artefacts have a structure that is so similar to knitting, for example, 3rd to 5th century AD Romano-Egyptian toe-socks, that it is thought the “Coptic stitch” of Nålbinding is actually the forerunner to knitting.
Most histories of knitting indicate its origin was somewhere in the Middle East, from where it spread to Europe by the Mediterranean trade routes and later to the Americas with European colonisation.
The earliest known knitted items in Europe were made by Muslim knitters employed by Spanish Christian royal families. Their high skills in knitting can be seen in several items found in the tombs in the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, a royal monastery near Burgos, Spain. Among them are the knitted cushion covers and gloves found in the tomb of Prince Fernando de la Cerda, who died in 1275. The silk cushion cover was knitted at approximately 20 stitches per inch. It included knitted patterns reflecting the family armoury and the Arabic word baraka (“blessings”). Numerous other knitted garments and accessories, also dating from the mid-13th century, have been found in cathedral treasuries in Spain.
The Knitting History Forum is a great resource for readers interested in knitting history. It’s certainly worth exploring.
Nålebinding (the word comes from Danish, literally “binding with a needle” or “needle-binding”), also known as naalbinding, nålbinding, nålbindning or naalebinding) is a fabric creation technique that predates both knitting and crochet. It is also known in English as “knotless netting,” “knotless knitting,” or “single needle knitting”.
Picture Credit: “Nålebinding. Ancient craft. Rudhave Slot. February 2018” by storebukkebruse is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
The technique is different from crochet in that it involves passing the full length of the working thread through each loop, whereas with crochet, the work is formed only of loops, never involving the free end. It also differs from knitting in that lengths must be pieced together during the process of nålebinding, rather than a continuous strand of yarn that can easily be pulled out.
Nålebinding is still practised by women of the Nanti tribe, an indigenous people of the Camisea region of Peru. They use it to make bracelets. Nålebinding remains popular in Scandinavian countries and the Balkans.
The oldest known textile fragment of Nålbinding dates from about 6500 BC. Historical samples have often been misidentified as knitting due to how similar they can appear in the finished products if made using the Coptic stitch. Nålbinding was used during the Viking age (793–1066 AD) in Scandinavia before knitting and crochet were known.
A famous specimen of nålbinding is the ‘Coppergate sock’ found during an excavation of the Coppergate area in York. It was a wool sock created using a technique never before recorded in England. The sock was slipper-like in style and would have covered the whole foot.
Crocheting is a method of creating textiles by using a crochet hook to interlock loops of yarn, thread, or strands of other materials. The name is derived from the French word crochet, a diminutive of croche, in turn from the Germanic croc, meaning ‘small hook’. Hooks can be made from various materials, such as metal, wood, bamboo, or plastic.
The key difference between crochet and knitting, apart from the ‘needles’ used for their production, is that each stitch in crochet is completed before the next one is begun, while knitting keeps many stitches open at a time. However, some variant forms of crochet, such as Tunisian crochet and broomstick lace, do keep multiple crochet stitches open at a time.
The first known published instructions for crochet explicitly using that term to describe the craft in its present sense, appeared in the Dutch magazine Penélopé in 1823. It describes and illustrates a shepherd’s hook and recommends its use for crochet with coarser yarn.
The earliest dated reference in English to garments made of cloth produced by looping yarn with a hook—shepherd’s knitting—is in The Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant (1797–1830).
If you’d like to see how to crochet, take a look at the video here.
The Different Stitches of Knitting
All knitting is made up of variations of knit and purl stitches:
- The knit stitch is made by creating a loop in the back of your work.
- The purl stitch is made by creating a loop in the front of your work.
The TOFT website has a handy Stitch Directory and a helpful Knitting Glossary. The TOFT company specialise in designing knitting patterns and kits for beginner knitters and produce lots of easy chunky knitting patterns. You can teach yourself to knit using their knitting videos that you can access online.
Learning to knit is very fashionable and no longer the pastime of the retired, nor is it restricted to women or the old.
Nowadays, with the availability of YouTube and other videos widely available on the Web, it’s easy to start learning how to knit. For example:
- Let’s say you want to know how to knit Stocking Stitch – all you need to do is go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6y06YQE95I or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tW_Ck9PemM and away you go.
- Want to Basket Stitch? No problem, just go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A66rJpMPBGo
There are five basic types of knitting needles, with some overlap – some are plastic, some wood, or metal:
- Straight needles.
- Circular needles.
- Interchangeable needles.
- Double-pointed needles.
- Cable needles.
Historically, needles were made out of wood, antler or bone. With so many different types of knitting needles on offer today, choosing the right one can be a problem, especially if you are new to the art of knitting. You’ll need to find which type is the most comfortable for you and can handle what you want to create.
Your first port of call for needles should be the Let’s Knit Ultimate Knitting Needle Guide, which you can access online. You’ll find everything you need to know in one handy location.
Famous (Fictional) Knitter
Charles Dickens(1812-1870) created the most famous knitting character for his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities. During the French revolution, the fictional Therese Defarge appears using pattern stitches as a code as she knitted a list of the names of the upper class doomed to die at the guillotine.
Knitting Groups near Haywards Heath
- u3a Stitch and Knit Group, Haywards Heath: Pam Wheeler email@example.com
- Crawley, Sussex: https://www.meetup.com/Star-Citizen-UK-Meetup/
- Brighton & Hove: https://www.meetup.com/Sew-In-Brighton-Hove-Meetup/
- Hangleton (Hove): At Hangleton Library or Lynne Sherlock 07575 487049 firstname.lastname@example.org
Books etc. on Knitting
- “A History of Hand Knitting”, by Richard Rutt, published by BT Batsford; ISBN 0 7134 5118 1
- “The Complete Beginners Guide to Knitting: Everything you need to know to start to knit”, by Sian Brown, Lou Butt, et al., published by Sona Books; First edition (28 April 2019); ISBN-10 : 1912918021, ISBN-13 : 978-1912918027
- “An Essential Guide Book On Knitting: Learn To Knit Easy, Fun, And Funky Knitting Projects Using Easy To Follow Instructions & Images”, by Carrie Kruckeberg, 6 January 2021, independently published; ISBN-13 : 979-8591171711
- “Knitting & Crochet For Beginners: The Complete Guide To Learn How To Knit & Crochet”, by Nancy Gordon, ASIN : B08C7HS898, independently published; Illustrated edition (30 Jun. 2020), ISBN-13 : 979-8653423529
Magazines and Patterns
- Let’s Knit Together (online knitting club): https://www.letsknit.co.uk/
Reference Sources, Further Reading and Acknowledgments
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6y06YQE95I
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tW_Ck9PemM
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A66rJpMPBGo
- At: https://bytomdaley.com/ ↑
- From the mid-16th century onwards, the purl was used as a decorative stitch. ↑
- Men were the first to use Nålbinding, which required only one needle. Nålbinding predates knitting by about a thousand years and crochet by 1500 years. Nålbinding was used during the Viking age of 793-1066 AD in Scandinavia before knitting and crocheting were known. ↑
- At http://knittinghistory.co.uk/ ↑
- Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%A5lebinding ↑
- Source: Wills, Kerry (2007). The Close-Knit Circle: American Knitters Today. Greenwood Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-275-99246-0. ↑
- It was found in Nahal Hemar Cave, Israel. Another example, made of lime bast fibre from the Ertebølle period c. 4200 BC was found in Tybrind Vig, a Mesolithic fishing village in Denmark. The oldest known samples of single-needle knitted clothing include the color-patterned sandal socks of the Coptic Christians of Egypt (4th century AD), and hats and shawls from the Paracas and Nazca cultures in Peru, dated between 300 BC and 300 AD. ↑
- Source: Debbie (22 January 2010). “Single Needle Knitting: Video and Information”. ancientegyptiansock.blogspot.com. ↑
- Defined at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crochet ↑
- At https://www.toftuk.com/Article_Pages_StitchDirectory.aspx ↑
- At: https://www.toftuk.com/Article_Pages_ABBREVIATIONS.aspx ↑
- At: https://www.toftuk.com/Article_Pages_beginnervideos.aspx ↑
- At: https://www.letsknit.co.uk/blog/the-ultimate-knitting-needle-guide ↑