A Brief History of Knitting

I was lucky enough to grow up in such a way that I was surrounded by people of

Estimated to have been made in
300-499 BCE. They don’t look
very comfortable, but looks
can be deceiving.
David Jackson
[CC BY-SA 2.0 uk],
via Wikimedia Commons

various cultures. As a result, I’ve always had an abiding respect and fascination with how things are done around the world. Since teaching myself how to knit and crochet, that interest moved on to international yarn-working techniques.

As a result, I’ve done a little research, and discovered the oldest knit object found was actually a sock in Egypt, leading some people to believe knitting and crochet originated in that area.

The pieces are incredibly intricate. When I’d first seen some of them, I thought they were actually woven pieces, because the work was so tiny. Instead, someone had created them with a fine needle and fibers.

Some modern day knitters have fallen in love with these ancient techniques, and have tried replicating them. In fact, you can find a surprising number of patterns to make your own medieval stockings. Here’s a free one on Ravelry.

It’s not hard to see why they’ve become so fascinating, either. Take a look at this beautiful detail from a tapestry made during that period of time.

by Will Bakker, [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

It must have taken whoever made that forever to get that fine detailing and color work done. The gauge is tiny, and it had to be hard keeping track of which color goes where.

I’ve been spoiled by my knitting app and printed out charts. I can’t imagine completing a project of that magnitude without the help of those things.

Although the oldest known pieces of knitting date back to the 300s to 500s, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the act of knitting itself is much older. Although it may be labor intensive, it’s still less dangerous than hunting.

Like all animals, humans need to stay warm, and since we don’t have the benefit of fur, doesn’t it make sense that we would have had to found a way to make clothing from plant materials as well as animal?

As relaxing and productive as knitting is, it also has a deep historical significance, as well.

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