Monday, March 5, 2012

The History of Knitting and Crocheting

Both use needles, both use yarn and both result in gorgeous creations, as seen in so many shops on Etsy and in our very own AP Team. So, what’s the difference? This month the AP Team blog will focus on the similarities and differences between knitting and crocheting with fantastic guest posts packed with information about both types of hand work.

Let’s begin the month with the history of the two. Evidence of knitting dates back to cotton socks with stranded knit color patterns found in Egypt from the end of the first millennium AD while crocheting is a much more recent development first documented in 19th century Europe.


German painter Master Bertram of Minden (c1390) created the Buxtehude Altar piece titled Visit of the Angel, the right wing of which is known as the Madonna Knitting (1400-1410). The painting shows the Virgin Mary knitting a seamless garment in the round on four needles while the Christ Child sits at her feet conversing with angels.

Knitting was originally a male-only occupation with the first knitting guild documented in Paris in 1527. As knitted stockings became high fashion in the 16th century, William Lee invented his knitting machine in 1589 to create fine silk stockings. Although Lee never enjoyed the return on investment, his invention eventually did contribute to industrialization of the textile industry in England and relegated hand knitting into
a useful but non-essential ‘leisure activity’.

Hand knitting has gone into and out of favor many times in the last two centuries. Two key events that united nations across the globe to pick up their knitting needles were World Wars I and II. Knitting patterns were issued

to citizens with instructions for making items for the Army and Navy soldiers to wear in winter months. The post war decades enjoyed a surge in knitting at the twinset became very popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The short-sleeved top with a long-sleeved cardigan in the same color was worn together and considered Haute Couture.

Although the 1980’s saw a deep decline in the popularity of knitting the early 21st Century has experienced a resurgence of knitting with widely available natural fibers and novelty yarns resulting in stunning garments, accessories and home décor items. Celebrities including Julia Roberts, Dakota Fanning and Cameron Diaz are photographed knitting in public to further revive the hobby and art form.

Crocheting by comparison was first referenced as shepherd’s knitting in The Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant (1797-1830) in the 19th century. In 1824, crochet patterns appeared in the Dutch magazine Pénélopé. Author Donna Kooler proposes early industrialization leading to availability of machine spun cotton thread lead to the development of crocheting. The invention of the cotton gin and the spinning jenny replaced hand spun linen in Europe and North American, making consistent cotton thread widely available and inexpensive.

Crocheting with fine cotton thread created delicate patterns characteristic of Irish lace. As Ireland faced the Great Irish Famine in 1845-1849 crocheting was encouraged as an alternative way of making money for impoverished Irish workers. Mademoiselle Riego de la Blanchardiere is generally credited with the invention of Irish Crochet, which was made in great quantities to meet demand in Europe and America until World War I.

After World War I fewer crochet patterns were published and most were simplified versions of earlier patterns. Crocheting enjoyed resurgence in the United States after World War II with interest in home crafts, particularly colorful doilies and potholders that called for thicker threads and yarns. Like knitting, crocheting has experienced ups and downs in popularity in the later decades of the 20th century.

With the renewed popularity of do-it-yourself handcrafts the early 21st century sees more crochet patterns and great strides in improvement of the quality and variety of yarns and threads. Crochet is also more visible in the fashion industry with designers like Christopher Kane making extensive use of the granny square, one of the most basic crochet patterns.

Fabulous AP Team Knitting:


Lovely AP Team Crocheting:


With that, the month dedicated to knitting and crocheting begins. Be sure to share your thoughts, ideas and impressions both in the comments on the blog and the dedicated thread on the AP Team discussion board.

References:
Wikipedia.org (surprise, surprise!)
theknittree.com, Sharon Nani

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