Knitting: A Global History (Bibliography)



A Global History



Charity Neave

LIS 620

Dr. James Carmichael

Fall 2006

The Process:

            Knitting is a technique of looping yarn over two or more needles to create a thick yet flexible and elastic fabric.  The elasticity and flexibility of the fabric is dependent upon several factors—the size of the needles, the “weight” or thickness of the yarn, and type of yarn, and the natural “tension” of the knitter.  To knit one begins by creating a slip knot with one strand of yarn on one needle.  Subsequent loops are added to the needle in a number of different ways.  This first step is referred to as “casting on.”  For the creation of knitted loops, the second needle is inserted into a loop on the first needle.  Yarn is then wrapped over the loop and pulled through.  When the second needle is inserted in the front, or to the left of the loop, this is a “knit” stitch.  When the second needle is inserted from the back, or to the right of the loop, this is a “purl” stitch.  Many textures and designs can be created by utilizing just these two stitches.  Once a piece is finished, the loops are knotted through a process called “binding off.”

            There are still in existence, a few rhymes, or “nominees,” which help to memorize this process.  For example, here is one used by English “country folk,” found in a journal from 1890:

            Needle to needle and stitch to stitch,

            pull the old woman out of the ditch.

            If you ain’t out by the time I’m in,

            I’ll rap your knuckles with my knitting pin.

 Pulling the old woman ‘out’ of the ditch refers to the process of wrapping the yarn over the loop and pulling it through to create a knit stitch.  ‘In’ refers to the process of creating a purl stitch. Another rhyme was sung in order to keep track of the rows while knitting.  In the rhyme, the name would change with each new row, but otherwise the verse would be repeated the same as before. 

            Sally an’ I, Sally an’ I,

            For a good puddin’ pye

            Taa hoaf wheat, and thudder hoaf rye,

            Sally an’ I for a good puddin’ pye.


        Knitting utilizes various implements.  Yarn—anything can be knit into fabric; traditional yarn, string, raffia, leather, rags, etc.  Even the traditional yarns can be made from many things; synthetic fibers, wool, cotton, fur, hair, or a blend of two or more of these.  There is a multitude to choose from in this area.  Some knitters spin and dye their own, some order from specialty shops, some just rely on the old standbys.  Needles—like yarn, needles come in many forms.  They can be aluminum, plastic, bamboo, etc.  There is the hand-crafted, heirloom variety, and also the cheap or home-made, lose-able kind, and everything in between.  These are the basic utensils, but all sorts of accessories make certain tasks easier; double pointed needles, cord bobbins, stitch holders, cable needles, place markers, row counters, gauge measures, circular needles, etc.  Some tools are unique to particular methods.  For instance, traditionally in the British Isles and South America, knitting is often done while standing or walking.  Thus they carry the yarn to one side, in a pouch worn on a belt, wrap the yarn around their neck and work the yarn in the front.  Also, some cultures use a “sheath” or wooden stick to hold one needle in place while working.  Variously, in the British Isles, the pouch serves double duty as a sheath of sorts.  In the Andes, they also use small, double-pointed, hooked needles; often these are handmade as well.

The Knitting Phenomenon:

In recent years knitting has experienced quite an explosion in the Americas.  There are trendy knitting cafes in the larger cities, knitting groups have sprung up throughout the country, the gossip tabloids feature celebrities knitting (from Julia Roberts to Russell Crow), and there are numerous new books, magazines, television shows, and web sites devoted to learning, developing, discussing, and teaching the craft of hand-knitting.  One artist in London, Shane Waltner knits with “unusual” objects, mostly food, to make his statement about resisting capitalism and globalization.  Most of these new knitting enterprises are geared to the young, hip twenty-somethings, and envelop the ideologies of the generation.  Knitting is not just for housewives anymore!

          But knitting is also a global phenomenon.  Most cultures around the world practice the craft in some form or another.  Some may hold the yarn in their left hand, some in the right. Some knit for business, some for pleasure, and some out of tradition.  But using the same needles, yarn, and basic method they knit and purl their way to clothing, accessories, furnishings, and even art.  If you stop to consider that around the globe, people speak thousands of different languages, practice hundreds of different religions, and live and work in an infinite variety of buildings, it is amazing that the art of hand-knitting is practiced with such consistency.

 The Past:

            The origins of knitting as we know it today are quite obscure.  There are few early examples do to the fragile nature of fibers.  However, textile historians commonly trace hand-knitting back to Dura Europos in the Middle East around 200 AD.   Around 600 AD it is said to have traveled with the wool trade to Europe, where it was quickly adopted and spread to the colonized world.  However, there are a few snags in the story of knitting which add complexity to the issue. For one, some claim a Scotsman, St.Fiacra invented knitting and passed it along to France.  This is disputed by others who claim that this legend was attached to him later as he was adopted as the patron saint of cap makers after the founding of the first knitting guild in France.  Another view, one expressed by The Columbia Encyclopedia, holds that knitting was entirely unknown in Europe before the 15th  A third factor is that throughout the world, including Europe, archaeologists have unearthed “knitted” articles from various cultures in ancient times that do not coincide cleanly with either of these timelines. century, when it began to pop up in the textiles of Italy and Spain.

            Some of the confusion may spring from a genre of similar techniques used to make fabric from looped yarn called “sprang” has been found in the Ancient Middle East, Ancient Egypt, Pre-Columbian South America, Neolithic Scandinavia, North America, Africa, New Zealand, and depicted on vases of Ancient Greece.  These techniques are similar to the many methods still being used to “cast on” as described above, and another method used to “bind off” or to join two pieces, the “grafting” stitch.  Alternately, they are referred to as nålbinding, knotless knitting, cross looped, and single needle knitting.  There is much debate among historians concerning the relationship of such techniques to knitting, and whether artifacts made with these techniques should be considered as “true” knitting.   For example, take a pair of red sandal socks is in the British Victoria and Albert Museum.  These are the oldest knitted article in their collection and date to Coptic Egypt in the 3rd to 5th c. AD.  Many historians claim they are not “true” knitting because the stitches are twisted.  However, the V & A, and some textile historians, including Dorothy Burnham, author of “Coptic knitting.” They address the issue thusly, “the socks are knitted in stocking stitch using the single-needle technique and three ply wool.  Textile historians often find it difficult to tell whether early knitted objects are made like this, or with more than one needle as the finished articles are so similar in appearance…this type of knitting, which is a slow technique more like sewing was a forerunner of the faster method of knitting with two or more needles” (, November, 2006). The needle used in this cross-looped method appears to have been curved at one end, like a crochet hook, to facilitate this process.

            Similarly, although it is generally accepted that Spaniards spread hand-knitting to areas of Central and South America, knitted items in these regions have been discovered dating to around 1100 BC, which far predates the arrival of the Spanish, and the articles found in the Middle East and Egypt.  Also, knitted items from these areas often feature native patterns and colors, indicating embedded traditions.   A looped technique was even found being used to make nets for fishing in the early 19th century.

            A similar technique, nålbinding, has been discovered in Danish sites in 1400 BC, well before the appearance of sprang, cross-loop, or any other knitting method.  This method utilized a small frame through which yarn was wrapped to create a looped fabric.  Similar materials were found at the Viking burial site of Osberg.  This technique is very well documented and discussed by Scandinavian scholar Odd Norland in Primitive Scandinavian Textiles in Knotless Netting.  A similar frame has been depicted on Greek vases, indicating it was in use there as well.

            The first knitting guild was established in France in honor of St. Fiacra, in 620 AD.  Knitting guilds were tremendously popular in Europe in the Middle Ages, to the extent that, “knitting was considered as much an industry as weaving.  The guilds heavily controlled the manufacture of knit goods.  Knitters had to serve as apprentices for six years before they could enter a guild.  Knitters also had to prove their ability to knit stockings, berets, shirts, and after 1602, elaborately designed carpets”  (World Book, Inc., 2006).  These ornate pieces are one reason for the popularity of knitting in Europe.    Of course knitting guilds were for men only.  Knitting became quite the cottage industry as well, and as time went on, people came to rely increasingly on hand-knitting as an income.

            In Europe, knitting evolved to into many regional specialties.  For instance, “Austria and Germany produced heavily cabled and knotted fabrics, embroidered with brightly coloured patterns. In The Netherlands, naturalistic patterns were worked on fabric in reverse stocking stitch, and several Dutch knitters went to Denmark to teach Danish women the Dutch skills”  The British Isles are infamous for their heavily textured ‘fisherman’s sweaters.’  The legend, true or not, holds that fisherman all over the British Isles would wear sweaters knit with such recognizably unique designs that if ever they were found adrift their bodies could be identified.  In Scotland these are called “Aran”, in England “Guernseys,” “Jerseys,” or “Ganseys”.  Another British style is Fair Isle, which features painfully intricate designs of many colors.  This style was popularized by Prince Andrew in the 1930’s.  (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2006).

            The Tadjik people of Turkey, Khazakstan, and Afghanistan have a traditional style which has been passed down, at least according to legend, since the time of Genghis Khan.  They are also, “known as the Hazara (‘one thousand’), they are renowned for their fine-patterned fair isle type of knitting and chain stitch embroidery  (Harvey, 1996).   Both men and women in these mountain villages knit various types of winter wear.  This area is still very well known for its intricate colored patterning, and distinct shapes for mittens and slippers.

            In South America, knitting was quite popular among the lower classes, perhaps out of necessity.  Interestingly, it is traditionally the men who knit in the Andes, “In Peru and Bolivia, knitting is predominately men’s work.  Boys often make their own ch’ullos, the distinctive pointed cap with earflaps; by the time they are adolescents, they are very skilled and improvise their own colors and patterning.”  (Andean Folk knitting, 134) Knitting has taken on many unique forms in Peru—from the ch’ullo hats (see fig. 4), to figurines, to arm warmers, to the masks used in traditional celebrations.  They have also developed a unique method of knitting, and their own needles, as mentioned above.


The Modern Era:

         Since the 18th century and the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the United States, knitting has primarily been performed by machines. The first knitting machine was invented by Englishman Rev. William Lee in 1589, whose wife was a hand-knitter. The new invention, set to revolutionize the industry, was however, not so favorably received. In England, Queen Elizabeth refused to patent the machine for fear that it would strip many of her people of their livelihood.  Thus Mr. Lee was forced to market the machine in France, where it thrived.  The knitting machines not only had implications of the industrialization of the craft, but it also had implications for the division of labor based upon gender.  Many of the new machines were operated by men, while the handiwork portions, such as seaming, and the running of certain types of machines, such as circular machines (see fig. 1) were left for women (Parr, 1988).  Hand-knitting had been a viable occupation.  Now it was handed to, “girls, particularly the indentured, poor, or orphan [who] were taught knitting, along with spinning and sewing, in hopes that they may be more marriageable and/or able o earn a livelihood” (MacDonald, 1988).  Instruction books, like the “Simple Directions for Needle Work and Cutting It Out” were distributed to Model Schools in Ireland set up for the purpose of educating these individuals.

            During the first half of the 20th century, there was a resurgence of the craft; during the wars women knit for the men abroad, the injured soldiers were taught to knit to occupy their minds as they recuperated as suggested by nursing journals of the time.  Knitting was much discussed in nursing journals through the first half of the century as a means of occupying the infirm.  In Sweden, the Böhus Stickning cooperative was formed in 1939 to give financial support for women struggling to support families during the depression.  By the 1960’s, however, hand-knitting had been tossed aside-- this time largely due to changing views concerning traditionally domestic and feminine roles.  

            Knitting still exists as a cottage industry to support individuals and communities around the world, as with the Böhus Stickning project.  In South America there is a group called “The Center for Traditional Textiles,” founded and run by a Peruvian woman from the village of Chinchero.  Realizing the ability of the sale of traditional textiles to raise the standard of living in her village, and in surrounding villages, Nilda began to appeal to these villages and sell their wares in Cuzco near Machu Pichu (Samake, 2006) 

            Two important factors in the history of knitting are social class and gender.  These are often closely tied together.  Knitting has not always been relegated to “women’s work,”  although it definitely has maintained that image for some time.  As inferred by earlier discussion, in several shepherdic traditions, the Tadjik, the Andean, and to some degree, the British Isles, knitting has been practiced by men.  How, then has knitting become so closely associated with domesticity and the feminine?  Many argue this is a result of the industrialization of knitting.  As we have seen, this resulted in the mass production of knitted articles being performed by men, while hand-knitting became more of a hobby.  In many poorer, less industrialized cultures or communities, knitting is still practiced by men, but in post-Colonial industrial nations, women of the upper-classes, with plenty of free time, are more often the practitioners.

            It is appreciated for the time it takes to create something new, for the freedom it allows to express one’s individuality, for the choice that women have.  Hand-knitting in the 21st century is about doing it yourself, anti-consumerism, self-identity, and independence.  In the current rise of hand-knitting, one can see traces of the hippie and feminist movements of the 1960’s and the Punk Rock movements of the 1970’s, and the opposition to the consumerism and fun of the 1980’s and 90’s.   One collective, microRevolt, seeks to bring attention to sweatshops and the exploitation of women workers through their works which are entirely hand-made. Knitting has also been used as a means of financial support for women in Eastern Europe, villages in Peru, and families in Sweden.  These ideas are echoed in The Joy of Knitting.

            Some would argue that the very act of knitting improves the world: that regardless

            of what one knits for whom, one increases the amount of good in the world by doing

            something slowly and with care.  Despite our society’s constant drive for greater

            speed and efficiency, a knitter has deliberately chosen to keep an old craft from

            dying out and fading away. (Myers, 2001)

 I would add that knitting has become so popular in contemporary culture because it brings people together.  American culture has lost many of the ties that bind us together into communities, and as individuals we need that, and seek it out.  Through gathering, individuals can feel a sense of belonging, through the passing on of information individuals can feel a sense of importance and rooted-ness within the community.




Notes on the Sources Provided:

            The sources are grouped according to type, then specificity.  In addition to the title and author, the subject headings and call numbers are given for each title, as supplied by WorldCat.  Next, the availability of the item is given; such that each item is easily locatable.  Finally, a brief summary for each work is given, along with an account of how the work should be useful and relevant to the topic.  For the articles, a citation and summary is given.  These are all available on-line through historical journal databases, such as JStor unless otherwise specified.


Encyclopedias and Dictionaries:


The New Encyclopædia Britannica, Fifteenth Ed.  Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2006.

           Subject Headings:  Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

            LC Call Number: AE5.E363

            DD Call Number:

            Availability:  Most public, community college, and academic libraries have copies of this text.

           The articles on textiles and knitting are very informative concerning history.  The clear focus is on industrialized knitting and machines.


World Book, Inc.  The World Book Encyclopedia.  Chicago:  World Book, 2006.

            Subject Headings:  Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

            LC Call Number: AE5

            DD Call Number: 031

Availability: Most public, community college and academic libraries have copies   of this text.

            Again, the articles textiles and knitting are very informative concerning history.  The clear focus is on industrialized knitting and machines.  These two encyclopedias are a good place to start.


Jerde, Judtith.  Encyclopedia of Textiles.  New York:  Facts on File, 1992.

           Subject Headings:  Textile fabric—Dictionaries.

            LC Call Number:  TS 1309

            DD Call Number:  677’.003

            Availability: University of North Carolina Greensboro, most local public, community college, and academic libraries have copies of this text. 

            This text is weighted towards manufactured goods as opposed to hand-crafted, but the information is thorough and authoritative, and the illustrations are helpful.





Birrell, Verla Leone.  The Textile Arts: A Handbook of Fabric Structure and Design  processes; Ancient and Modern Weaving, Braiding, Printing, and Other Textile Techniques.  New York:  Harper, 1959.

            Subject Headings: Textile Fabrics

            LC Call Number: NK8804

            DD Call Number: 746

            Availability: University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Most local public, community college, academic libraries have copies of this text.

            This text is a classic in the field of textile history.  It has an interesting chapter on the history of hand-knitting.


Gibson-Roberts, Priscilla.  Knitting in the Old Way.  Loveland, Co.: Interweave Press, 1985.

           Subject Headings:  Sweaters


            LC Call Number: TT825

            DD Call Number: 746.9’2

            Availability:  Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenberg County, Durham County Public   Library, and a few other local libraries.  There is a newer edition  available as well.

            As a historical resource, this monograph is of little value.  However it does represent the many traditions practiced around the world in modern designs.


Gillow, John and Sentence, Bryan.  World Textiles:  A Visual Guide to Traditional  Techniques.  Boston:  Little Brown, 1999.

          Subject Headings: Textile fabrics—themes, motives.

                                    Textile fabrics—Technique.

            LC Call Number: NK8805

            DD Call Number: 746

            Availability: University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a few other academic libraries.

            This is a beautifully illustrated text which deals with various textile techniques from around the world.  See Chapter 2, “Non-loom Textiles,” pages 40-65.  The text is very informative regarding the related techniques, and what they look like.


Harris, Jennifer.  Textiles 5,000 Years:  An International History.  New York:  HN Abrams,  1993.

            Subject Headings: Textile fabrics—History

            LC Call Number: NK 8806

            DD Call Number:  746’.09

Availability:  Jackson Library, many other academic and some public libraries.

This text offers a beautifully illustrated chapter on knitting.  It also has more to offer than many texts on knitting techniques around the world.  The text ties these traditions together well, and features a small amount of information concerning knitting in Africa and Asia.


Harvey, Michael.  Patons: A Story of Handknitting.  Ascot, Berkshire:  Springwood Books, 1985.

             Subject Headings: Knitting--History

            LC Call Number: TT820

            DD Call Number:  746.43’2’09

            Availability:  No local libraries own this item, but it may be available through interlibrary loan.

            This text gives an account of the history of knitting, and the history of the Patons yarn company.


Kiewe, Heinz Edgar.  The Sacred History of Knitting.  London:  Oxford University Press,  1967.

            Subject Headings: Knitting—History.

            LC Call Number: TT680
            DD Call Number: 746.9’2

            Availability: Campbell University, NC State University, East Carolina University, some academic libraries.

            For years this text was considered an authority on the history of knitting.  At present many of his “theories” relating knitting to Christianity has been rebuffed.  However, with this in mind, it is an interesting viewpoint of the craft.


McGregor, Sheila.  Traditional Knitting.  London:  BT Batsford, 1983.

            Subject Headings: Knitting—History.

            LC Call Number: TT820

            DD Call Number: 746.9’2

            Availability: Gaston-Lincoln Regional Library, High Point Public Library, a few  public libraries

            The author is an expert in her field. This text explains the traditions of knitting in Scandinavia and the British Isles.  See also her work, Traditional Scandinavian Knitting. New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 1984.


Myers, Lisa R.  Joy of Knitting: Texture, Color, Design, and the Global Knitting   Circle.   Philadelphia:  Running Press, 2001.

            Subject Headings: Knitting.


            LC Call Number: TT820

            DD Call Number: 746.43’2

            Availability: Durham County Library, Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenberg  County, and a few other local public libraries.

            This is a collection of essays concerning knitting.  Each chapter deals with one      aspect of knitting and society and features a pattern.  Some of these chapters include “Knitting in the Computer Age,” “Knitting improves the world,” and “Knitting in the Global Village.” The latter essay deals specifically with various knitting traditions around the world.  A very interesting read!


 Rutt, Richard.  A History of Hand Knitting.  Loveland, CO.: Interweave Press, 1987

             Subject Headings: Knitting—History.

            LC Call Number: TT820

            DD Call Number: 746.43’2

Availability:  University of North Carolina Greensboro, many academic libraries, and some public libraries.

              This is perhaps the most definitive and comprehensive history of knitting to date.  It is an essential introduction to the topic.  From WorldCat, “[A History of Hand Knitting] traces the development and refinement of hand knitting, legends, tools, techniques, and local traditions from around the world.” 


Turnau, Irena.  History of Knitting Before Mass Production.  Warszawa: Institute of the   History of Material Culture, Polish Academy of Sciences, 1991.

             Subject Headings:  Knitting—Europe—History.

                                           Machine Knitting—History.


            LC Call Number: TT819.E85

            DD Call Number: N/A

            Availability:   University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a few academic libraries.

           This text is a very interesting look at the importance of the knitting industry in the ciety of Europe in the 15th-18th centuries.  Turnau’s focus is on the division of    labor along gender lines and the implications on society.



Regional/Specialty Monographs:


Bush, Nancy.  Folk Knitting in Estonia. Loveland, CO:  Interweave Press, 1999.

            Subject Headings:  Knitting—Estonia


                                    Estonia—Social life and customs

            LC Call Number: TT819.E76

            DD Call Number: 746.43’2’094798

            Availability: Durham County Library, some local public libraries.


Barber, E. J. W..  Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with Special Reference to the Aegean.  Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1991.

         Subject Headings:  Textile fabrics—Prehistoric—Europe

                                    Textile fabrics—Prehistoric—Middle East

                                    Neolithic Period—Europe

                                    Neolithic Period—Middle East

                                    Bronze Age—Europe

                                    Bronze Age—Middle East


                                    Middle East—Antiquities

            LC Call Number: GN776.2.A.1

            DD Call Number:  746’.09’01

            Availability: University of North Carolina at Greensboro

             From the publisher, “CounterThis pioneering work revises our notions of the origins and early development of textiles in Europe and the Near East. Using innovative linguistic techniques, along with methods from palaeobiology and other fields, it shows that spinning and pattern weaving began far earlier than has been supposed.

Collingwood, P.  The Techniques of Sprang: Plaiting on Threads.  London: Faber, 1974.

            Subject Headings: Sprang.

            LC Call Number: TT840

            DD Call Number: 746.1’4

            Availability: University of North Carolina, Asheville, University North Carolina, Charlotte, East Carolina University, and some academic/college libraries.

            This text was ground-breaking when first released, as it was the first full-length text to be published on the topic.  It is considered the best resource on the technique.  It   features plenty of diagrams and pictures.


Feitelson, Ann.  The Art of Fair Isle Knitting:  History, Technique, Color, and Patterns.   Loveland, CO.:  Interweave Press, 1996.

             Subject Headings:  Knitting—Scotland—Fair Isle—History.

                                         Knitting—Scotland—Fair Isle—Patterns.

            LC Call Number:  TT819. G72

            DD Call Number:  746.43’20432’0941135

            Availability:  Appalachian State University, Durham County Library

            This also is primarily a pattern book, but the author does offer information about the history of the Fair Isle style of knitting. 

Harvey, Janet.  Traditional Textiles of Central Asia.  London:  Thames & Hudson, 1996.                       

            Subject Headings: Textile fabrics—Asia, Central

                                    Textile Design--Asia, Central

            LC Call Number: NK8875

            DD Call Number:746.0958

            Availability: University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a few academic libraries.


Henson, G.  History of the Framework Knitters.  Newton Aboott:  1970.

            Subject Headings: Knit goods industry—Great Britain—History.

            LC Call Number: HD9969

            DD Call Number: 338.4’7’6776610942

            Availability:  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University Library, a few academic libraries.

            This book is based on the memories of knitters who operated knitting machines in the 1800’s.  It is useful as an almost primary source on the topic of the knitting machine. It might be useful to compare with the more contemporary look at sprang by Peter Collingwood.


Keele, Wendy.  Poems of Color:  Knitting in the Bohus Tradition.  Lovelace, CO.: Interweave Press, 1995.

            Subject Headings: Knitting—Sweden—Bohuslän—History—20th century.

                            Bohus Stickning--History.

            LC Call Number: TT819.S82

            DD Call Number: 746.43’2’09486

            Availability: Central North Carolina Regional Library, Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenberg County, some public and community college libraries.

             Although this is primarily a pattern book, it is the only book which discusses the Swedish Böhus movement, known for its distinctive patterns, and an example of knitting for social change.  


LeCount, Cynthia Gravelle.  Andean Folk Knitting:  Traditions and Techniques from Peru and Bolivia.  St. Paul, Minn.: Dos Tejedoras Fiber Arts Publishing, 1990

             Subject Headings:  Knitting—Andes region.

                                    Knitting—Andes region—Patterns

                                    Andes Region—Social life and customs

            LC Call Number: TT819.A53

            DD Call Number: 746.9’2

            Availability: University of North Carolina Greensboro, a few academic libraries.

             Cynthia LeCount is perhaps the pre-eminent author on the subject of knitting in the Andes.  This book features a chapter on the history of knitting in the Andes. 


MacDonald, Anne L.  No Idle Hands:  The Social History of American Knitting.  New York: Ballantine Books, 1988. 

             Subject Headings: Knitting—Social aspects—United States--History

            LC Call Number: TT819

            DD Call Number: 746.43’2’o973

            Availability:  University of North Carolina Greensboro, many public, community college, and academic libraries.

            This is a superberly detailed and thorough look at the history of knitting in the United States, keeping in mind the gender and religious aspects.


Nicholson, Heather.  Loving Stitch:  a History of Knitting and Spinning in New Zealand.  Auckland, NZ: Auckland University Press, 1998.

            Subject Headings: Knitting—New Zealand—History.

                                       Spinning—New Zealand—History.

            LC Call Number: TT819 .N45

            DD Call Number: 746.43/2/0993

            Availability: University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina State University, some academic libraries.   

            Nicholson explores the history of knitting in New Zealand, but also the culture, development of patterns, changing attitudes toward knitting, and much more.  This is an excellent resource.


Nordland, Odd.   Primitive Scandinavian Textiles in Knotless Netting.   Studia Norvegica: No.10.  Oslo:  Oslo University Press, 1961. 

             Subject Headings: Sprang – Scandinavia.

                            Textile fabrics – Scandinavia.

            LC Call Number: TT840.S68 N67

            DD Call Number:  N/A

           Availability: East Carolina University, a few academic libraries.

             The author discusses “sprang,” or a genre of various knitting related techniques  practiced in Neolithic Scandinavia, but also found in various parts of the world.  Nordland discusses these techniques in terms of textile history, and examines the possible development of these techniques throughout the world as separate or  related events.  It also includes eighty-three illustrations of techniques and artifacts.


Note: I would like to point out that although knitting is practiced in Asia, Africa, and Australia, the history in these areas is not very well documented.  Some of the texts refer to knitting in these areas, but I know of none that deal with these areas directly.



Interweave Knits.  Interweave Press.

            Besides patterns, resources, and news for knitters, each issue features an artifact or artwork concerning knitting, and offers a brief history of knitting during the place and time period that work represents.


Becker, Paula.  “Knitting for Victory—World War II” On-line article for, Washington State University History Database, August 19, 2004

-----“Knitting for Victory—World War I”  August 17, 2004


Burnham, Dorothy.  “Coptic Knitting: An Ancient Technique.” Textile History, 3.2 (Dec 1972): 116-24.

            This periodical is held at many academic libraries, including Guilford College, and Greensboro College, and some public libraries including Greensboro Public Library. 


Bush, Nancy.  Nalbinding: From the Iron Age to Today,” Piecework, 9.3 (May/June 2001): 28-32.


Grass, MN.  The Origins of the Art of Knitting.” Archaeology, 3 (1955).


Jenkins, Ian and Williams, Dyfri.  “Sprang Hair Nets: Their Manufacture and Use in Ancient Greece,” American Journal of Archaeology. 89 (1985).


Lambert, A.  “Peasant Textile Art,” Ciba Review.  n.s. 66 (1948):


Levy, SM.  “Illustrations of the History of Knitting Selected from the Collection of the     Victoria Albert Museum.’  Textile History. 1. 2 ( ): 183-205.


Parr, Joy.  “Disaggregating the Sexual Division of Labour: A Transatlantic Case Study,” Comparative Studies in Society and History. 30. 3 (July, 1988): 511-533.


Samake, Cynthia LeCount. “Knitting and Weaving in the Andes,”  (2004)


Turnau, I and Ponting, KG.  “Knitted Masterpieces,” Textile History. 7 (1976):


Waldron, Florencemae.  “The Battle Over Female (In)Dependence: Women in New England Quebecois Migrant Communties, 1870-1930,” Fronteirs. 26.2 (2005):    158- 205.



Web Resources:

The Knitting and Crochet Guild (United Kingdom)

The (UK) Knitting and Crochet Guild offers history, digitized artifacts, and current information.


See Eunny Knit!


This online journal offers more than just a look at the knitting process.  The author answers questions and offers research on everything from patterns to history.


The Shetland Museum

The Shetland Museum offers a lot of information and images of artifact concerning traditional styles of knitting in the British Isles.  This is an excellent site.


The Victoria and Albert Museum

The prominent textile museum’s web page features searchable archives and digitized collections, with a small amount of contextual history for each article, as well as links to web pages and on-line journals related to knitting.   The page also includes information about and links to guilds and clubs throughout England and North America, and some books and articles.

Historical patterns on the Web:


Knitting History


Collectives & Groups:

 Below are a listing of various knitting collectives and their web pages.  These reflect the various social and political movements of knitters.  They are not very useful as research, but are interesting.  They represent some of the unique ways the craft is being used to bring people together, protest, and have fun.


This group began with founding members PolyCotN and Akrylik in 2005.  The aim of this group is to take knitting to the streets, and to never leave knitting projects unfinished again.  They get their word out with propaganda-like means—flyers, music, internet.



From the manifesto on their web site, the mission of  microRevolt projects, is to “investigate the dawn of sweatshops in early industrial capitalism to inform the current crisis of global expansion and the feminization of labor.”


Glitty Knitty Knitty—Guerilla Knitting Central

This group is thoroughly committed to the advancement of the “knitting revolution,”  and seeks to spread the gospel of knitting.



Guilds and Organizations:

The Knitting Guild of America

 2692 Richmond Rd

Suite 205

Lexington, KY 40509



Craft Yarn Council

Their statement:

            “The Craft Yarn Council of America (CYCA) is the industry’s trade association.  CYCA sponsors the Certified Instructor’s Program, a knit and crochet teacher-training program, and supports Warm Up America and Caps for Kids, community-based charity projects.  In addition, the Council sponsors free Knit-Out & Crochet events, which keeps us in touch with thousands of knitters and crocheters around the country.  The Council was founded in 1981 to raise awareness of yarns.  Council members provide approximately 85% of the yarn, tools, books, magazines, and accessories sold in the US” (, 2006).

Their web site offers instructional material, information about events, links, and contact information for members given.  CYCA encourages individuals to contact members for more information.


Piedmont Triad Knitting Guild

402 Chester Woods Ct.

High Point, NC 27262


Contact:  Beverly Hunter,

The group meets the first Thursday of every month, September through May. 


Piedmont Triad Knitting Guild

Kernersville, NC 27284


Contact:  Leann Gray,

The group meets the first Thursday of every month.


Charity Neave Johnson,
Mar 18, 2010, 11:30 AM