The history of knitting is a bit like a knotted ball of yarn; it’s hard to know where it starts!
The earliest evidence we have is fragments of cotton socks from 11th century Egypt but any earlier evidence is debated among scholars due to the argument over what was classed as knitting.
The actual act of knitting was known as ‘knotting’, which came from the Scandinavian word ‘nålebinding’, practised across the globe. We know that knitting spread from Egypt across Europe, entering the English language in the 14th century.
Several 14th century paintings show the Virgin Mary knitting but it wasn’t until the 16th century that knitting truly became popular. In 1527 the first knitted guild was set up in France but it was only open to men! Apparently, it wasn’t until knitting became more of domestic activity that women really got interested.
Apparently, in 1589 a Nottinghamshire clergyman, called William Lee, invented a knitting machine due to being so frustrated at his wife’s obsession with knitting! But it wasn’t until the 18th century and the start of the industrial revolution that saw the mass production of knitting on machines.
Knitting only really returned as hobby in Victorian times, when ladies started to knit for leisure and well it’s pretty much stayed put since then, with a slight rise and fall in popularity. Although, I think it’s fair to say that it’s very much back on the scene!