|Oldest Knitting: Sock at V&A Museum|
Very few examples of ancient knitting exist. Since early knitting was made with natural fibers much of it naturally disintegrated on its own. It is also likely that the earliest knitting was practical garments such as socks, caps and gloves. And, seriously, do you save your old socks? After ancient socks were worn beyond the mending point they were likely thrown away or tossed into the rag bag, just like today.
But there is another reason that museums have so few examples of ancient knitting. The golden age of archaeology was the 1920s. Great tombs and fascinating pyramids were discovered and investigated. In the race to acquire extraordinary mummies, valuable pottery and fascinating gold masks, ancient knitwear may have been tossed aside as worthless (A shocking concept to knitters like us!). In addition, most of the early archaeologists were men who were unfamiliar with knitting, and as a result many nalbinded pieces were incorrectly identified as knitting, further confusing the history of knitting. (For a fascinating look at rediscovering ancient knitting read Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years - Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber).
|Nalbinded Socks in V&A Museum|
So what is nalbinding? Nalbinding is a method of connecting loops, similar to knitting (and often called single-needle knitting). Nalbinding uses one needle with a hole in the end, like a huge a sewing needle, and like sewing it is done with a short length of yarn. At the end of each length of yarn you must splice the end of one piece with the beginning of the next piece instead of working continuously from a ball of yarn. It is thought to be a predecessor of knitting, but because it is so much slower, knitting became much more common. There are still nalbinders today - but not many!
The oldest known knitting is a remnant of a sock made in Egypt around 1100 - 1300 and now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum (pictured at the top). A gorgeous two-color cotton design from an obviously experienced knitter, this is the oldest known surviving relic, but certainly was not the first-ever attempt at knitting.
|Knit Cap, 1500 - 1550, at V&A Museum|
|ChiaoGoo Bamboo Sock Set|
In honor of Mama Zheng and all of the "crafty ladies" throughout history, we've got our ChiaoGoo needles on sale at 20% off now through February 21st, 2016.
Stay tuned! More on the history of knitting will follow in another post.
Happy Knitting . . . . Scout