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Published on May 10th, 2015 | by Angie

42 comments

10 Things you didn’t know about knitting

We know the secrets of knitting, purling, and yarn-overs, but what other mysteries lie within the realm of knitting? Here are 10 mind blowing facts that you won’t believe. 

10 things you didn't know about knitting

1. No one really knows how old knitting is

10 amazing facts about knitting - read more on the LoveKnitting blog! Antique Dutch knitting needle case from the late 17th century: photo credit – Curiocabinet.co.uk

Knitting is thought to be older than crochet, but younger than weaving. Archaeologists have difficulty determining when knitting first appeared due to the unfortunate fact that knitted fabrics tend to decay with time. Sharpened sticks that are found at dig sites might be knitting needles, or they might be tools used for completely different things. The English word for ”knitting” didn’t appear until the 14th century, and the craft was thought to have originated in the Middle East and brought west by the Crusades.

2. There is a needlecraft older than knitting, but nearly identical

10 facts about knitting - read more on the LoveKnitting blog!Above: ancient Egyptian nålebinding socks

Nålebinding (Danish for ”binding with a needle”) only uses one needle to create this fabric which is almost indistinguishable from knitted fabric. This technique is like a hybrid of crochet and knitting, where the thread is pulled all the way through a loop, instead of having a working end in crochet. Because of this, the pieces need to be seamed together as a seamless piece of fabric is impossible.

3. Knitting was once a male only occupation

10 things you didn't know about knitting - read more on the LoveKnitting blog!Image source: Telegraph.co.uk

Isn’t it interesting how society changes? A craft that’s generally thought of as being ”women’s work” was once a predominately male trade. The first knitting union was founded in Paris in 1527, and you guessed it – no women allowed!

4. The knitting machine was invented in 1589

10 facts about knitting - read more on the LoveKnitting blog!Above: deconstructed antique knitting machine. Image source: imgbuddy.com

Invented by an English clergyman by the name of William Lee during the reign of Elizabeth I, the knitting machine changed the way we think about clothing and fabric. The business of making clothing transferred into small cottage industries, making hand knitting non-essential, a leisure activity.

5. Knitting has been considered a national duty during times of war

10 things people don't know about knitting - read more on the LoveKnitting blog!Above: World War 1 propaganda poster. Image source: ww1propaganda.com

In many countries, the women who were left behind in times of war were tasked with picking up where the men left off. Their jobs included making aircrafts, weapons, farming, and more; they were also charged with the duty to knit socks, hats, and scarves for the soldiers that were stationed in cold places. Some families sent knitted garments straight to their soldiers, but many knit for any and all soldiers who needed a bit of warmth.

6. Knitting is healthy

10 things knitters don't know - read more at LoveKnitting!

 

Again and again, studies have proved that knitting reduces blood pressure, decreases heart rate, and has innumerable benefits for mental health as a whole. Knitting spurs a relaxation response by the body, which can help deter illness. Curious? Click here to read more about how knitting is good for your mental health.

7. For the first 400 years of knitting, wool wasn’t the most popular type of yarn

10 facts about knitting - learn more at the LoveKnitting blog!

 

During the days of early knitting, wool was far from the most popular fiber to knit with – this is likely due to the lack of availability of wool outside of agricultural areas. Cotton and silk were the most popular among knitters for the first 400 – 500 years of the craft’s existence. Eventually wool became the reigning queen of the kit world, and wool farmers began to breed sheep specifically for sustainable, strong, and soft wool, like with the Merino sheep breed. The 21st century has seen a huge resurgence in plant based fibers like bamboo, linen, and cotton.

8. The first knitting pattern book was written in the 17th century

10 facts about knitting - Modelbuch - read more on the LoveKnitting blog!

 

Published in 1611 by Johann Siebmacher, this book contains 126 pages of needlework and colorwork charts, ranging from simple repeating motifs to full, tapestry-like scenes. The graphs on many pages were painstakingly filled in by hand! Love patterns? Click here to see our huge library!

9. Early needles were made with ivory, bone, and tortoise shell

10 facts about knittingImage source: TeresaKasner.Blogspot.com

These early needles were designed to be strong and pointed to facilitate knitting, but used materials that we might think are very strange. Today’s needles can be made with a huge range of materials, from plastic, to aluminum, to bamboo, to beautifully colored wood. Click here to learn more about what knitting needles are made of!

10.Even Greek gods and goddesses spun and wove

Diego_Velázquez_-_The_Fable_of_Arachne_(detail)_-_WGA24456The Fable of Arachnae, by Diego Velazquez

Precursors to knitting, spinning and weaving are mentioned throughout oral history. One of the most well known tales is that of Arachnae, a mortal woman who was very gifted in the art of weaving (or spinning, as some versions say). She foolishly challenged the jealous goddess Athena, and after they competed, Athena cursed Arachnae with melancholy. After a time, Arachnae decided that life was too much to bear – but Athena took pity on her and let her live as a spider, so as to weave the rest of her days. Arachnae is where we get the scientific term for spider, arachnid! I’m sure many or us have a fear of these creatures, which would be called arachnophobia.

Don’t let your fellow knitters miss out – share this post using the social bar on the left! Stay tuned to this blog for more knitting fun, inspiration, and tips – subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here

 


About the Author

Jack of all trades, Master of Netflix and video games. A musician by passion, a gamer by choice, and a crafter by chance: I write about knitting and crochet, design fun patterns, and blog at GamerCrafting!


Last updated: August 4th, 2017.

42 Responses to 10 Things you didn’t know about knitting

  1. I didn’t know a lot of this either. Thanks for the history lesson!

  2. MCatherine says:

    All good things to know. Thank you!

  3. Teresa says:

    Very interesting, an enjoyable read

  4. Sigga says:

    I liked to read it
    thanks. 🙂

  5. Jaye Sudar says:

    I love the blog post. As a nalbinder, you might want to know that ‘seamless’ articles are possible. Hats especially. What happens because of the fact that you use short lengths of yarn is that you have lots and lots of joins. Check out http://www.en.neulakintaat.fi/ She has great videos and projects.

  6. Barbara Jackson says:

    as a child during World War 2 at school we were not allowed to sit idle during a reading lesson, we had to knit socks on 4 needles, scarfs or balaclava on very dreary khaki wool for the soldiers.

  7. Jacqueline Williams says:

    What an interesting blog. As I’m always saying ” every day is a day at school “!! Great stuff 🙂

  8. NeelofarRehman says:

    I didn’t know this stuff at all.

  9. Kerry-Jane Warner says:

    In 1608 in the little island of Jersey in the Channel Islands, UK, knitting was banned during August and September as it had become so popular and profitable that there were not enough labourers at harvest time and the crops were left in the fields to rot.
    The law still stands, so if you come to visit our beautiful little island in the summer and you are a man, DON’T BRING YOUR KNITTING or woe betide you!!

  10. cliff Lewis says:

    I don’t feel so bad now because as a teenage boy travelling 1hour each way to secondary School I knitted a pullover in the school colours on the bus. The other regular passengers become to see me knitting away if I was able sit. Also my father was quite good knitter making socks in the evening .

  11. Nanette Ettinger says:

    I learned a lot today. I’m glad your spot was on Facebook today.

  12. Victoria Davies says:

    So interesting. Thanks for the fun facts. Move over boys…we girls are taking knitting by storm!

  13. Jeannie says:

    What an interesting blog this is, and I thank you for the opportunity to learn new things. Gonna share with my gal friends. I just love Loveknitting.com!

  14. helen says:

    How interesting! Thank you. some new facts for me to share.

  15. Joan says:

    That is very interesting reading. Both my grandfathers knitted their own socks, and they were beautifully made on four needles. Their knitting was neater than mine.

  16. jean Parham says:

    With regard to men only knitting, there are some beautiful examples of knitter apprentice work at the Victoria and Albert museum. Not sure if these are still on public display you would have to check prior to a visit. An apprentice was required to produce a pair of gloves – and a bedspread. These are very complicated intarsia designs similar to tapestry hangings.

  17. Mrs Veronica Tarpley says:

    That was certainly fasinating, I did know that a lot of men did knitting , but not that it was a mans only thing in days gone past , you learn something new every day. Vron

  18. Sharn says:

    My Granddad & Dad spun super fine yarn, my Nana (Dad’s Mum) was always seen with some knitting on the go, my Mum is the crochet person and I knit. I have just loved linking into other yarn websites from this blog, found out heaps more. Yarn is beneficial to health I reckon.

  19. Chris says:

    Nålebinding (#2) is more like sewing or embroidery than anything else – think rows and rows of buttonhole stitch (and variations therof). It’s certainly easy to do seamless pieces with it; you just shape as you go, much like crochet. Very portable too, and wont unravel when you drop your hook!

  20. Leona Olson says:

    Someone on sparkpeople.com on the Raverly.com team posted a link to your site. This is so interesting. Thanks for the research.

  21. Shirley says:

    When I visited Peu a few years ago it was the men, mostly younger ones, who were knitting while standing in their shops in the markets. They made very intricately patterened “Chullos” the hats with earflaps, using fine yarn and didn’t seem to be following any instructions!

  22. Adriana says:

    very insteresting! I found something close to the nalebinding you mentioned above :
    http://www.freshstitches.com/knook-knitting-with-a-crochet-hook-wort/, it must be something quite similar don’t you think?

  23. Woola OOPS says:

    Very interesting ! 🙂

  24. Woody says:

    Hello! – William lee invented the narrow frame knitting machine – the pic you have is a circular machine (I know them as Griswolds) – But you probably know thia already! – We have an interactive film about the history of framework knitting available to view online at http://mtp.ekit.co.uk
    thanks for the post : -)
    Woody

  25. Joy says:

    Thank you for all the information. In addition to knitting compulsively I am a history nut. Thanks for combining the two.

  26. Number 2 is not correct. I make seamless things all the time in the Coptic/Tarim stitch, which is the stitch shown for the nalbinding. I’ve made this particular sock several times–no seaming involved. You do have to splice or wet-splice your yarns together, or, in the case of cotton and silk, weave the ends in, but still no seaming….. Otherwise this is a cool article!

  27. Izzie says:

    Darn near accurate on everything.

    However, knitting was a male only occupation in Renaissance England an France, where guilds took over. Everywhere else, it was used to keep idle women busy.

    Naalbinding, in my experience, doesn’t look like knitting with the exceptions of the Coptic stitch and Asle Weaver stitch (it looks a lot like herringbone stitch). Other stitches like the Dalby, are very easy to spot. And, the yarn is grafted together in spit splices, with absolutely no seams. Great shot of the Coptic socks though.

    Also, early needles were made in metal. The Egyptian children’s socks found dating to the 800s were 20 stitches to the inch. Bone and other materials are too brittle to work down to gauges smaller, and lengthy past maybe a US 1. They aren’t forgiving to hand pressure.

  28. Kathleen Tinkle RN retired says:

    Ive been knitting since the 5th grade. I love tidbits and this was amazing. Have already shared it. Thank you

  29. Cookie says:

    I agree with my fellow nålbinders – you should update that passage about “seaming necessary”, because that’s just not true. In fact, working in the round is the easiest way in nålbindning. Working flat poses a bit of a challenge (but it is possible). And only that particular stitch (Coptic) looks anything close to knitting… Interesting post none the less.

  30. susan hoit says:

    I guess we are never to old to learn. I have started to teach myself the Oslo stitch. Not too hard. But I can’t undstand how someone can turn out a sock so fast!!!

  31. Nana says:

    WOW = WOW Very Interesting and Informative. Well written and appreciated.
    THANK YOU / KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

  32. pearl says:

    wow. what amazing info. im the crazy knitting lady of my town and i think this blog is fantastic. well done

  33. Pat says:

    I knew some of this but was very interested in the ancient patterns. I started doing the knook but

  34. Thank you for the information. I did not know this.

    Janice

  35. Susanna says:

    Thank you!
    VERY interesting article – will post to my knitting friends. ?

  36. Mary Faber says:

    Very interesting , can any one tell me why I can knit now with square needles, & haven’t been able to knit for four years because of arthritis in my fingers??? I am a returned knitter that is sooooooo happy.

  37. Saundra Burns says:

    Square knitting needles? Where can I get those? I haven’t been able to knit for years because of arthritis. I would love to be able to again
    Saundra
    Alabama, USA

  38. kim says:

    I want your life….knitting and writing about knitting and doing it in London…..geez Louise

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