Although the actual advent of knitting is still a mystery, and some think the middle-east to be the place of origin – Persia, Israel, Syria or Jordan. Spain is the site of the first dateable knitting, found in a tomb from 1275; the middle of the Dark-Ages. Writing surrounds many of the sock fragments, usually ‘Allah’. Much of Europe was illiterate at that time, whereas the middle-east had wide-spread literacy. The most common materials used were cotton and silk, lending the theory that this was the centre of activity. If developed in Europe then wool or linen may have been used.

The first knitting activity is thought to be Naalbinding (or Needlebinding), an ancient craft dating back to the stone-age. The craft was practiced in Scandanavia by the Vikings and predates knitting and crochet by about 2000 years. The fabric is made by using a single needle, made of wood or bone, and looks similar to true knitting and could be confused by anyone with no knowledge of needlework. These pictures are of Naalbinding and date back to the 300s.

A similar method was highly developed in Peru by the Nazca culture (100BC – 700AD) and used in the fringe of woven clothes. Using intricate colour changes they created animals and human figures. The earliest archaeological evidence of knitting was discovered in Egyptian tombs dating from 3rd to 6th centuries AD. The knitting was a ‘cross knit’, or single-needle knitting where the stitches are rotated by a half turn instead of aligning vertically.

It is not until the 14th Century that the first references to true knitting appeared in Europe – knitting in a round and then cut to create the necessary openings; purl was not heard of until the 16th century though could have been developed before that. Arabian sailors and merchants are thought to have spread knitting throughout Europe and the Mediterranean probably around the 5th century.

Knitting has come a long way since those days. It has passed through many phases over the years, being ‘in fashion’ and out again. Now, it seems, knitting is not only back in fashion but growing at a tremendous rate.

While knitting is an excellent past-time, it is also growing in reputation as a therapy and helping many people with pain management, depression, arthritis and many more health problems. Research is currently being undertaken in the United Kingdom on how knitting can re-vitalise the brain and activate new brain cell growth.



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