It is certainly a very traditional skill, but how old is knitting, and where in the world did it first originate? We answer these questions and more as we investigate the origins of knitting.
Origins and early days
Although sewing is thought to be over 20,000 years old, there is no evidence of knitting until the 5th Century AD.
The earliest knitted items come from the Middle East and North Africa. The oldest example of knitting, displayed at the V&A museum, is a pair of knitted socks from Fastest in Egypt . These are made using a form of sewing called nalbinding, which is thought to be a very early form of knitting.
Two-needle knitting is not thought to have developed until much later, with the earliest evidence appearing from the 12th century.
Spread to Europe
Muslim employees of rich Spanish families are thought to have introduced the practice to the continent which then spread across Europe in the Medieval period. In some countries, such as the Netherlands, England and Scotland, wool production became a major industry.
Our name for knitting, unsurprisingly, comes from the word ‘knot’ and is a derivation of the Old English, ‘cnyttan’, and the German, ‘knutten’, which both mean ‘to knot’.
Knitting through time
Knitting became a basic skill passed down through the generations. Then came the development of the mechanical knitting loom in the 16th Century.
By the 19th and 20th Centuries, most knitwear was produced in factories but the art of handknitting continued in rural communities and among hobbyists. As hobbies, both knitting and crocheting have fluctuated in popularity ever since.
We are currently in a knitting boom, as more and more people want to learn traditional skills. The advent of helpful tools like the knitting and crochet kits available from sites such as www.woolcouturecompany.com/collections/crochet-kits is helping more and more people gain these once-essential skills.
From Egypt to the Middle East and then through Spain to the rest of Europe and beyond, the history of knitting is certainly a fascinating one. But perhaps not as old as you thought.