The history of knitting is mostly a big mystery,
guessed at from fragments kept in museums around the
Knitting is made of wool, silk, and other fibers
that decay rapidly, even under perfect conditions;
knitting needles are essentially sharpened sticks,
and hard to identify as knitting needles beyond a
doubt; they could be hair picks, skewers, spindles,
or any of the other uses there are for a sharpened
In the past, when spinning was all by hand and much
more time-consuming, many sweaters that didn't fit
were unraveled and re-knitted.
Yarn wasn't discarded until it wore out. Add
in that not many people in the past thought to save
their everyday items for their descendants, and
there aren't many useful knitted objects left for us
to find, all these years later.
Once in a while we get lucky. The
archeological evidence we have is very interesting,
and there are other ways to date things.
The oldest REAL knitting (formed on two sticks by
pulling loops through loops) found is 'Coptic socks'
Egypt, dating to
around the year 1000 BC.
There are quite a few fragments, all of them
done in shades of white and indigo, in stockinet.
Many of them have Khufic (a decorative Arabic
script) blessings knit into them, or symbols to ward
off evil, or both.
All of the really ancient knitted fragments
we've got are knitted with cotton.
Wool wasn't used for knitting until way
Many of the
sock fragments found have 'Allah' knitted in bands
around them, assumed to function as a blessing.
It can be assumed that knitting words into
knitting was done almost from the outset and at a
Europe was largely illiterate.
It was the Islamic world that had wide spread
So, the early knitting fragments were
produced by someone literate, and most literate
people were found somewhere in the Islamic world.
Particularly literate people with a knowledge
of decorative Arabic scripts.
The popularity of knitting showed a sharp decline
once machinery was used to produce knitted garments
quickly and cheaply in the Western world. Sales of
patterns and yarns slumped, as the craft was
increasingly seen as old-fashioned and children were
rarely taught to knit in school.
No one is quite
sure when and where crochet got its start. The word
croc, or croche,
the Middle French word for hook, and the Old Norse
word for hook is
When you think that all it took to form a
significant part of handicraft history was a hook,
some yarn, and a bit of human imagination and
ingenuity, it is also easy to see that the roots of
crochet are worldwide and diverse, though as the art
grew in popularity and complexity, so history was
Little is known about the
early history of crochet.
It seems likely that the earliest crochet was
made using fingers, rather than the hooks used
There are theories that crochet could have existed
as early as 1500 BC, as part of nun's work, which
included needlepoint lace and bobbin lace.
Crochet developed as a way of imitating lace and
lace-making as the real thing was very expensive and
beyond the reach of most people.
Once it was discovered that patterns of chains could
be made by joining them together without the need to
work them on to a background of fabric, tambouring
and other forms of lace-making developed into the
kind of crochet that we are familiar with today,
although it was still done with extremely thin
hooks, like needles, and very fine threads.
There has been a recent resurgence in the popularity
of many cottage-industry style handicrafts, with
crochet being one of the most accessible. As a
result, today's crochet patterns show how a
traditional craft can be used to make some of the
most fashionable and stylish items around, whether
for personal wear or for decorating the home.