The History of Knitting: From the Middle East to the World

Knitting has been around for centuries with its origins believed to be from Middle East in 5th century. Learn about its journey from Middle East to Europe & Great Britain & its impact on health & well-being.

The History of Knitting: From the Middle East to the World

It is believed that the fabric originated in the Middle East in the 5th century and soon after traveled to Europe with wool merchants. Interestingly, examples of early fabrics from Egypt are made of cotton fibers, not wool. The first example of double-needle knitting in our collection was made in North Africa between 1100 and 1300, during a period of Islamic rule. The abstract blue and white design echoes the combinations of colors and patterns found in Islamic ceramics. It is likely that the shape of the sock was achieved by changing the size of the needles during knitting.

The oldest knitted items have been found in Egypt and are dated between the 11th and 14th centuries AD. Spanish Christian royal families employed Muslim weavers and their works are the oldest known knitwear in Europe. They were very skilled and made a lot of different items, such as cushion covers and gloves. Archaeological findings from many cities in Europe show that the fabric spread across Europe in the 14th century. During the 16th century, the fabric spread across Great Britain.

In the Scottish Islands, during the 17th and 18th centuries, weaving became a concern of many. There were cases of entire families knitting as a form of work and it became an important source of income. Sweaters were one of the main items that were woven because they proved useful to local fishermen on these islands. Over time, many elaborate designs developed. Origins of purling and weaving in the roundRichard Rutt said surviving artifacts suggest that the tubular half stitch was the first form of knitting and that the purl stitch was a late invention.

The oldest picot points that can be dated are in the averages of Eleonora de Toledo, 1562 or earlier. It is likely that purling would have been used to turn the heels of socks before this, but there is no clear evidence. From the mid-16th century onwards, lace was used as a decorative stitch. Now that we've seen these impressive bound fakes, let's see the real deal. The first genuine knitwear is from Egypt, around 1000-1400 AD (much later than seamless garments).

They include some colorful fragments and intricate socks (sometimes called Coptic socks) woven in white and indigo cotton. Careful modeling of knitwear for bespoke garments was not perfected until the 1930s, when individual designers became experts in developing elegant and practical forms. Dales weaving, which began in the late 16th century, should hold the record for England's longest weaving industry. I have been nailing since the late 70s, and I have a simple evolution from Coptic stitch to weaving. I wonder if the first fishermen made their nets using the arm knitting method (which produces an open mesh according to the size of the wrist itself), which later evolved to using tools (knitting needles) to achieve smaller stitches that could dress the body. The image of the Weaver Virgin, The Visit of Angels, painted around 1390 by a painter from Munich, documents this long-standing art of weaving. In the case of the Coptic stitch, I was saving the herringbone in the stitches to save labor, simply sliding it as I went, and I realized that it would be very easy to go from that to knitting.

Hand-weaving featured prominently at the knitwear section of The Great Exhibition held in Great Britain in 1851. When I started researching on history of weaving, I expected legends and myths and perhaps some lovely fairy tales. Katya Zelentsova, an avant-garde knitwear designer and graduate of Central Saint Martin is one of these “extreme knitters”. The word dot could be replaced by any other word, maybe even something like “hand-woven” but in a different language. Avant-garde fabric-focused designers such as Yan Yan and Hazar Jawabra are gaining ground around world and actively reversing preconceived attitudes. But knitting offers more than just a sustainable way to be more self-reliant and creative; it also benefits overall health and well-being. At some point a nail binder could have inserted a second needle into work and played until joint of nails became knitted fabric.

Jaclyn Easterbrooks
Jaclyn Easterbrooks

Passionate zombie fanatic. Friendly musicaholic. Hipster-friendly beer maven. Total internet lover. Evil beer ninja.

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