History of Knitting
Knitting is one of the earliest methods devised to form yarn into fabric and garments. Evidence of techniques and various materials, including cotton, traces back to 1000 B.C. with the origin of knitting suggested by historian Richard Rutt to have been in Egypt. The knitted stockings from Egypt dating back to approximately the 12th century already show a complexity in techniques that suggests knitting had existed for some time even before these stockings.
Knitting became more common in the 15th century when it spread throughout Europe. Worn for comfort and style, hand-knitted fabrics became so popular that by 1488, the British Parliament controlled the price of knitted caps. Henry VIII was the first monarch to wear fitted knit stockings instead of loose trousers, and Queen Elizabeth I, who preferred stockings knit of silk, encouraged the formation of knitting guilds in England.
To increase production, in 1589, a British gentleman named William Lee invented the first mechanical knitting frame. The original machine only had 8 needles per inch and was later improved to 20 needles per inch to knit stockings in silk and wool. Its development
12th century sock found in Egypt.
and use created a commercial industry around knit products like hosiery and legwear.
15th century artwork depicting knitting.
By the mid-19th century, improvements in steam-powered knitting machines transitioned production to factories to accommodate larger machinery and production volume.
In the 1920s, knitting became popular as knit garments became desirable for sport, leisure, and fashion. The Prince of Wales made tennis sweaters popular for golf, and Coco Chanel popularized knits in women’s fashion.
With the introduction of synthetic yarns in the 1950s, knitting received an additional boost due to the new bright colors and yarn textures. Sweater twin sets were extremely popular in womenswear.
In the 21st century, knitting has seen a resurgence in manufacturing capabilities and as a DIY craft movement. Hand knitting has increased in popularity due to the advent of the internet and social media where knitters commune and share creative inspiration.
In manufacturing, yarn qualities have increased exponentially with the help of global sourcing and trading. Technological innovations in machinery influence the new types of knit products that can be created along with improvements in speed, capabilities, and automation.
Ever growing in popularity, knit garments today are key staples in every person’s wardrobe with multiple lifestyle needs and uses. Activewear calls for form-fitting garments that support movement, support, and recovery.
Casualwear calls for comfortable products that retain their shape and require little maintenance—dresswear demands elegance and simplicity of style. Knits are unsurpassed in their broad range of styles and applications.
Engraving of an 1860’s knitting machine.