Knitting is one of several ways to turn thread or yarn into cloth (cf weaving, crochet). Unlike woven fabric, knitted fabric consists entirely of horizontal parallel courses of yarn. The courses are joined to each other by interlocking loops in which a short loop of one course of yarn is wrapped over the bight of another course. Knitting can be done either by hand, described below, or by machine. In practice, hand knitting is usually begun (or "cast on") by forming a base series of twisted loops of yarn on a knitting needle. A second knitting needle is then used to reach through each loop (or stitch) in succession in order to snag a bight of yarn and pull a length back through the loop. This forms a new stitch at the top of the current wale of stitches (or loops). Work can proceed in the round (circular knitting) or by going back and forth in rows. Knitting can also be done by machines, which use a different mechanical system to produce nearly identical results.
Originally a male-only occupation, the first knitting trade guild was started in Paris in 1527. Knitting became a household occupation with the growing popularity of knitted stockings and by the end of the 1600s, one to two million pairs of stockings were exported from Britain to other parts of Europe.
The two basic stitches are knit (or "plain") and purl (or "wrong"). These two nominal stitches are actually identical, however, being the obverse and reverse of the same stitch. A knit stitch is formed by inserting the needle in the back of the loop and pulling a loop of yarn through to form a new loop, while a purl stitch is formed by inserting the needle in the front of the loop and pushing a loop of yarn through to form a new loop.
Many patterns can be made by using knit and purl stitches in various combinations. If only knits or only purls are used when working back and forth in rows, the result is called garter stitch. Alternating rows of knits and purls result in stockinette or jersey stitch, the stitch most often used in commercial garments such as T-shirts. Different combinations of stitches can be used to form ribbing, cables, or other textures. Complex patterns can be formed by knitting with multiple colours in either intarsia or Fair Isle techniques.
Early origins of knitting
An exact geographical origin for knitting cannot be specified. The craft is believed to have been developed B.C., but this is disputed today. The oldest remnants of seemingly knitted pieces are those that were worn as socks. It is believed that socks and stockings were the first pieces to be produced by techniques similar to knitting as they had to be shaped in order to fit the foot, whereas woven cloth could be used for most other items of clothing. Today it is known that these early socks were worked in Nalebinding, an ancient craft which involves creating fabric from thread by making multible knots or loops. It is done with a needle (originally of wood or bone). There exist numerous techniques of nalebinding, and some of them look very similar to true knitting. This craft was almost dead by the time archaeological excavations started except in some very remote areas, so no one thought about it. Some of the oldest textiles ever found are today believed to be a kind of nalebinding. It has been speculated that nalebinding or related techniques may have preceded the abillity to spin continuous thread, because nalebinding isn't worked with a continuous thread and so doesn't require one. Several other pieces done in now almost extinct techniques have been mistaken for knitting or crochet by archaeologists who had no training in the history of needlework.
The first references to true knitting in Europe date in the early 14th century, the first knitted socks from Egypt might be slightly older. At these early times, the purl stitch was unknown, in order to produce plain knitting they had to knit in the round and then cut it open if required. The first reference to purl stitch dates from mid 16th century, but the knowledge may have slightly preceded that.
During this era the manufacture of stockings was of vast importance to many Britons, who knitted with fine wool and exported their wares. Knitting schools were established as a way of providing an income to the poor, and the stockings that were made sent to Holland, Spain, and Germany.
The fashion of the period for men to wear short trunks made the fitted stockings commonly used, a fashion necessity.
Queen Elizabeth the First herself favoured silk stockings, these were finer, softer and much more expensive. Actual examples of stockings that belonged to her still remain, showing the high quality and decorative nature of the items specifically knitted for her.
Importance in Scottish history
Knitting was such a vast occupation among those living on the Scottish Isles during the 17th and 18th centuries that the whole family would be involved in making sweaters, socks, stockings, etc. The sweaters were essential to the fishermen of these Isles, as the natural oils within the wool would provide some element of protection against the harsh weathers while out fishing.
Many elaborate designs were developed, such as cable stitch used on aran sweaters.
Rudimentary knitting devices had been invented prior to this period, but were one-off creations. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution wool spinning, and cloth manufacture began to be done in factories. More women would be employed at operating machinery, rather than producing their home spun and knitted items.
The consistency of the factory spun wool was better in that it was more uniform, and the weight could be gauged better as a consequence.
1939-1945 Knitting for victory
Make do and mend was the title of a booklet produced by the British wartime government department, the Ministry of Information.
Wool was in very short supply, as were so many things. The booklet encouraged women to unpick any old, unwearable, woollen items in order to re-use the wool.
Knitting patterns were issued for people to make items for the Army and Navy to wear in winter, such as balaclavas and gloves. This had the effect of producing the required items, but also gave a positive sense of achievement towards the war effort, by being able to contribute in this way.
1950' and 60's high fashion
After the war years, knitting has a huge boost as greater colours and styles of yarn were introduced. Many thousands of patterns fed a hungry market for fashionable designs in bright colours.
The "twinset" was an extremely popular combination for the home knitter. It consisted of a short-sleeved top with a cardigan in the same colour, to be worn together.
Girls were taught to knit in schools, as it was thought to be a useful skill, not just a hobby. Magazines such as "Pins and needles" in the UK, carried patterns of varying difficulty, with not just clothes, but items such as blankets, toys, bags, lace curtains and items that could be sold for profit.
The popularity of knitting showed a sharp decline in this period in the Western world. Sales of patterns and yarns slumped, as the craft was increasingly seen as old-fashioned and children were rarely taught to knit in school.
The increased availability and low cost of machine knitted items meant that consumers could have a beautiful looking sweater at the same cost of purchasing the wool and pattern themselves.
Following this decline of knitting, manufacturers and designers looked for new ways to stimulate interest and creativity within the craft.
Focus was given to making speciality yarns, which could produce beautiful and stunning results.
Companies like Vogue worked to make their patterns the height of fashion, and Rowan Yarns popularised their patterns with high-quality magazines that bore no resemblance to the old-fashioned style once produced in bulk.
Knitting as a business is classified as an industry based on its purpose. It can be in the manufacturing industry as a textile product (NAICS Code 314999) if what is produced is a new product, such as an article of clothing. It can be in the arts industry if the knitting is considered to be a work of art (NAICS Code 711510), rather than a product.
There are a variety of ways people make money from knitting. Some sell their knitted products locally, at trade shows or via the internet. Others sell original patterns or kits they have designed themselves. And, still others teach knitting. The best way to learn more about the viabiiity of any of these business models is to participate in associations and workshops, subscribe to magazines that are related to your interests, and read books that give more in-depth information about the business.
A comprehensive needlecraft library reference including color charts to encourage knowledgable design variations, complete with lay-flat binding for practical access while knitting.
The Basic Guide to
Pricing Your Craftwork
Basic formulas for pricing craftwork, retail or wholesale.
The Basic Guide to
Selling Arts & Crafts
Step-by-step help on over 150 topics for marketing your home made crafts.
The Basic Guide to
Selling Crafts on the Internet
Unravels the mysteries of selling crafts online with clear, step-by-step advice.
Big Book of
Originally published in Germany in 1996, this is a lavishly illustrated knitting reference particularly strong in its coverage of both basic techniques like increasing and decreasing and more advanced techniques like knitting cables without a cable needle, working with charts, and placing sleeve increases in openwork patterns.
Business and Legal
Forms for Crafts
A complete set of business and legal forms designed to meet the active craftperson's every need.
The Business of
Sewing, Volume 1
Sample price lists; lists of organizations and lending institutions; payment methods you can offer your customers; how to get a merchant account for credit card sales; how to collect money on past due accounts; buying in bulk with a list of suppliers and a sample letter to contact them; business and financial plans; studio design, networking; time management; tackling your fears; turning sewing into a business and making the transition; how to avoid getting frustrated; industry statistics.
The Business of
Sewing, Volume 2
How to make a "Consumer Price List", and how to structure a "Working Price List" and the use of both; what "Pricing" method is best for you and how to handle price resistance; how to conduct production analysis with a time and motion study; how to make a project inventory list; how to market your business; subcontractors or fabricators and how to hire them; E-commerce and on-line merchant accounts, web design, shopping carts and E-newsletters; how to write books and articles, teach seminars and workshops, and produce sewing audios and videos.
Simple knitted accents.
Encyclopedia of Needlework
Originally published in France in 1884, this anniversary edition provides fascinating historical information plus new additions that make it a classic.
Crafting as a
How to develop a thriving retail business.
Covers every aspect of starting and managing your own craft-based business.
Crafts and Crafts
Good business practice in dealing with customers, pricing, and presentation in the show booth.
Business Answer Book & Resource Guide
Answers to questions about starting, marketing, and managing a homebased business efficiently, legally, and profitably.
Takes the reader from idea to finished garment, emphasizing creative swatching and a lighthearted "what-if?" approach as the creative process begins, followed by solid documentation and detailed garment schematics as the design takes its final form.
Domino knitting is a type of "modular knitting," with knitted squares and strips building on one another to form a larger piece that became a craze among Scandinavian knitters. Precise step-by-step instruction show how squares can be worked in a variety of stitches for multicolored effects.
Zimmermann's Knitters' Almanac
Classic patterns for Aran sweaters, baby items, blankets, mittens, moccasins and other seasonal needs may be followed by intermediate to advanced knitters, or may be adapted into original works. Charming, delightful informal and opinionated.
Felted knitting is a process where you knit a loose garment and then wash it in the washing machine to shrink and thicken the fabric. This book contains a detailed step-by-step introduction, including how to felt on purpose and not by mistake, techniques for both hand and machine felting, and choosing and testing yarns.
A Fourth Treasury
of Knitting Patterns
While there are many stitch pattern "dictionaries", the Walker series is very large and comprehensive.
Hundreds of secrets to success in selling arts & crafts.
Knitting From the
Hate sewing up? Never quite sure if it's the right length? Want to line up designs in the lower border with the pattern in the body? Then knit from the top.
Knitting in the
Brilliant multi-colored patterns of the Scandinavian countries, intriguing motifs of the Shetland Islands, and rich sculptural knits of northern Europe are covered in detail - the history as well as the how-to.
& Trade Secrets
Clever solutions for better hand knitting, machine knitting and crocheting.
Basic techniques and easy-to-follow directions for garments to fit all sizes.
One of the best selling Knitting reference manuals in print. It covers everything from the basic stitches to gauge, joins, seams, borders, buttonholes and more.
A comprehensive guide to the principles and techniques of handknitting.
Handy Book of Patterns
Basic designs in multiple sizes and gauges.
The Knitters Book
of Finishing Techniques
More than 50 expert techniques cover increases, decreases, seams, blocking, decorative finishes, and more. Master each method with step-by-step illustrations, easy-to-read text, and dozens of color photos.
This complete basic introduction to the fundamentals of knitting machine operation presents clear step-by-step instructions and diagrams for the methodology and principles used in machine knitting. Coverage ranges from individual techniques to the creation of entire garments, including creating fabric with original patterns, stitch designs and textures.
The best ideas and information from 80 professionals in various fields of the craft industry.
Mary Thomas's Book
of Knitting Patterns
A widely used instruction of classic knitting patterns and how to create them. Patterns, illustrated in charts, diagrams and photographs, range from cross and cross-over motifs to lace knitting, medallion knitting and filet lace.
Classic "how-to" book covers everything from winding yarn and fundamental stitches to making patterns and garments, blocking, etc. with over 250 technique diagrams illustrating every basic step and pattern.
The New Knitting
Over 300 traditional and innovative stitch patterns illustrated in color with easy-to-follow charts.
Simple Knits with
Unique projects for creative knitters.
The Ultimate Knitting Book
Includes the history of knitting, knitting supplies, basic techniques, a stitch dictionary, correction of errors and more.
Business: A Legal Guide
Explains legal principles that protect a crafts business and help it grow. It also provides practical advice on how to deal with day-to-day problems -- such as dealing with delinquent payments. The book provides over a dozen tear-out contracts and other legal forms, plus step-by-step instructions to fill them out.
Knitting and Needlecrafts
Anna offers a wide assortment of patterns for a variety of needlework styles, including knitting, crochet, cross-stitch, embroidery, weaving, and other crafts.
Check out the latest trends and the newest products, learn new stitches and meet new faces.
Each issue is filled with instructions on knitting basics, tips for advanced knitters, projects large and small, and special designer projects and techniques.
Covers yarns, books and supplies utilized by knitters.
Cross-stitch, embroidery, knitting, quilting, crochet, beading, lace making, and crochet, plus the stories and ethnic traditions behind the techniques.