The word is derived from knot, thought to originate from the Dutch verb knutten, which is similar to the Old English cnyttan, to knot.
There are a few different views as how this came to be, but there is a supposition that knitting may be connected with the ancient activity of knotting fishing nets. And this also agrees with the historical view that knitting was introduced by Arabian seafarers sailing and trading in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Knitting certainly appears to have its roots in pre-Christian times, but the spread of Christianity may have carried the germ of the practice with it. Its evidence in South America, for example, is thought to be as a result of the influence of the Spanish conquistadors. The lack of many surviving examples – fabric and fibers deteriorate relatively quickly – makes it difficult to judge the exact history of knitting.
Nalbindning is described as an ancient Scandinavian technique used to produce woolen clothing from lengths of yarn and a single short needle. This method created a tight weave which was suitable for felting and therefore, provided maximum protection from the cold. While this is not considered knitting, it is suggested it may be its precursor and certainly that of crochet-work.
Evidence of the earliest knitting, using two needles, is believed to come from Egypt in the eleventh century, where more knitted socks were found.
But from there we jump to thirteenth and fourteenth century Europe, particularly France, Germany and Britain. The painting, The Visit of the Angels, circa 1390, by the German painter, Master Bertram, depicts the Madonna knitting in the round.
Knitting guildsFashionable knits were known in France as early as the 1420s. It is also known that knitting guilds, exclusively male and with structured apprenticeship systems, were formed in Europe in the 1400s. These knitting guilds appear to have been established to improve the quality of the profession and to attract a wealthier and more stable clientele.
From the Elizabethan period in Briton, knitting history is easier to determine. The development of knitting was driven by the fashion of the time, in particular fitted stockings worn by the men under short trunks. These stockings were exported to many other parts of Europe.