Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Whoever invented knitting must have been hard up for something to do.
That was my assessment when I learned how to knit, and after taking up the needles again after several years, it remains my belief.
Really, shifted a little loop of yarn from one needle to another, knitting three loops together without dropping everything off one needle or the other, yarn over, passed slipped stitch over. Who dreamed this up?
Probably the Egyptians. Knitted articles appeared in Egypt before 1000 a.d. Because of the intricacy of socks knit in blue and white cotton, there must have been something earlier.
Before knitting with two needles, there was nålbinding. Nålbinding looks like knitting, but used one needle, splicing and knotting string together. This may have evolved into knitting, and spread into Spain and the rest of Europe.
The tomb of a Spanish prince contained the first known European knitting in 1275 a.d. Most knitting was intended for liturgical garments and accessories for the church.
Then, in the 14th century, paintings in Germany and Italy depicted Mary knitting beside Baby Jesus. This suggests that knitting had become commonplace. According to the Encyclopedia of Knitting, women knitting would be seen as “sweetly domestic.” Mary would not have been portrayed as usurping a male-dominated trade.”
By the 16th century, men of fashion in Italy and Spain demanded elegant knitted stockings to go with their knee breeches. To supply the demand, knitting guilds popped up. These were exclusively male. To become a Master Knitter in the Middle Ages, a young man had to train for six years; three were spent as an apprentice studying under the masters, and three spent traveling around, learning foreign techniques. Then, to pass a painstaking exam, he spent thirteen weeks knitting an assortment of articles. Among the requirements were a pair of stockings or embroidered gloves, a felded cap, a shirt or waistcoat, and a knitted carpet. Parisian guilds were considered the best.
A knitting machine was invented by an Englishman in 1589. The Industrial Revolution created an upheaval in many trades and knitting wasn’t exempt. Knitted goods were now manufactured by machine.
Once again, knitting became a sweet pastime for ladies. Why do we knit? With our needles, we create works of art. Like these poppies. Why am I knitting poppies? Because a character in my work-in-progress knits poppies, and I needed to understand what she experienced.
The pattern calls for casting on 120 stitches. To practice after several years absence from knitting, I used a remnant, casting on 60 stitches. It still has 15 rows like the full-sized poppy, but instead of appearing only flattered than the ruffled one, it’s half the size. Oh well, knitting is supposed to be fun, right?
As I struggle to knit three together, I can’t help thinking, someone must have been awfully bored to dream up this exercise.