It is generally believed knitting, or something very basically similar in concept, has been in use for thousands of years before the dawn of civilization. Primitive people have been weaving roots, vines, strips of barks, sinews of animal skin, leaves, and other common materials found naturally in their surroundings. Trade and travel in the succeeding generations have refined the methods and items usually utilized until the craft became fully developed as a craft, influenced by the various regions it was introduced into.
The ancient explorers and businessmen found the financial value of a beautiful woven rug or carpet very enticing to those they come in contact with. It was an object worthy to be treasured, kept in secret vaults or displayed behind thrones from Arabia, to Persia, to India, and the vast kingdoms of Asia and Europe, both conquerors and nomads alike.
A less grandiose form of weaving, knitting evolved as an individual occupation, usually by women, providing pieces of clothing to ward off the cold, such as coats and socks. The first true example was found in Egypt around A. D 1100, and made use of a process known as nalebinding where the thread is formed into fabric by making knots and loops using bone or wood needle. Utility preceded function and form followed soon after.
Knitted garments became exclusively granted to royalty and the wealthy class during the Elizabethan era in the medieval times, and work shops and schools were controlled by guilds. Britain exported knitted stockings to Holland, Spain, and Germany to be worn by men wearing short trunks, the fashion of the gentry in those times.
In the Scottish Isles, the knitting industry centered on the sweaters to be worn by fisher folks, and whole families became involved in their manufacture, which was then given yet greater impetus during the Napoleonic wars all the way through the first and second world wars. Durability and wear ability were the hallmark of these weaves.
Knitting styles developed independently in many locations. For example, the multi-colored began in a group of islands north of Britain, where legend has it that shipwrecked Spanish seamen inspired native knitters to incorporate new pattern forms. Elsewhere, as in Germany, the use of 4 or 5 needles was the norm, evident even on a famous painting done in 1390 of a knitting Madonna in The Visit of the Angels.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the invention of knitting machines, manual procedures lost the ability to compete. From the original humble origins it started from, then to international renown, it landed back into the comforts of the home and to the hands of the individual practitioner. The craft diminished into the category of a hobby although it increased in status as an art form. As technology advanced, appreciation grew.
Recently, knitting has undergone a resurrection and a renaissance, and today has more performing enthusiasts than ever. Specialty yarns have been created from different fibers, and different techniques have been combined. Nowadays, the demand is dictated by fashion, the choices limited only by the imagination.
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