Although a craft not as old as other needle arts, knitting has a long history and currently used tools and techniques have come quite some distance from nalbinding (nalbinding employs the thumb and a needle as tools for looping). Examples of nalbinding dating from the 3rd century have been found in destroyed Roman outposts. Evidence of nalbinding is also found in early Scandinavian cultures.
Older examples, dating from the Iron Age (400BC - 1BC) have also been discovered. Knitted socks dating back to the 4th - 5th century A.D. are on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Some of the first knitted gloves had been produced by the 13th century. Luxury knitting for liturgical clothing such as gloves was state of the art.
Queen Elizabeth I preferred knitted silk stockings, and with good reason; knitting adds flexibility to a garment even while adding warmth. Mostly men wore knitted stockings. An appetite for knitted stockings spread through the Royals of the time, which created a growing guild of knitters throughout Europe. However, it wasn’t long before knitted hosiery was the preference of the masses, and a competitive hand-production throughout England was underway with peasants willing to knit for low wages. Fashions changed, and men started to wear long pants during the time of the French Revolution, and that brought a swift end to the peasants’ trade, due to reduced demand for the long hose.
The knitted sweater is quite young as a form of garment; the first known sweaters date back only to the 17th century. Fisherman wore hand-knitted sweaters so they could stay warm and free to move about their boats without being caught on the rigging and other parts of the boat. Sweaters knit for and worn by fishermen were known as Guernseys or Ganseys. Each village had its signature pattern. Sadly, one of the reasons for this was to help identify the bodies of men who had died at sea.
Knitwear’s popularity increased as the Industrial Revolution allowed for more leisure time for the wealthy. Men found that playing golf or tennis was much more comfortable in flexible knitted clothing rather than stiff woven fabrics. Women of today who enjoy the freedom of knitted clothing, can thank the wives of those wealthy golf-club swinging men. The women of leisure enjoyed sports as well and quickly abandoned the corset in favor of the comfort of knitted garments.
Knitting found its way to America with the Puritans and was taught to all young girls, not only to prevent the evil dangers of idle hands, but to teach a valuable skill that could provide income. Once knitting in factories was in play, hand knitting became a pastime rather than a necessity for middle and upper class women. Social class was not to be ignored, however. Since peasants still also knitted, a class line was drawn in that the leisure knitters developed new ways to hold and decorate their needles so as to not be associated with the lower social strata.
Eventually, knitting became a medium for creative expression and fashion statements. Colorful and different patterns emerged as the art circled the globe. Coco Chanel introduced her first collection of knitted clothing in 1916, made from surplus fabrics intended for undergarments.
Knitting has its own language today, including abbreviations, gauges sizes, increases and decreases, special stitches, and shaping symbols. There is a plethora of tools and gadgets available to assist the knitting enthusiast, and a wide variety of knitting needles is also available. Even the simple knitting needle, once only a thumb tip or a branch of a tree, is now a basis for decoration and ornamentation.
You don’t want the finding or embellishment to be getting in the way of the yarn, which leaves the button end of the needle the most practical place available for easy decorating.
Challenges arise in decorating a plastic knitting needles because the
ability to use a head pin or any sort of sharp point to hold findings or beads
is eliminated. Therefore embellishments can only be affixed with glue or
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