Does anyone know how old this craft is?

I was just reading something that describes knitting as an “ancient practice”. Is that true? For something to qualify as “ancient” for me it would need to come from the time before the fall of the Roman Empire, i.e., 476 AD. Does anyone know how far back knitting goes?

PS I got the 476 AD idea from the Merriam-Webster.


aah's picture

To my best knowledge kniting as we know it first occured in the 1100s AD, before that there were nalbinding which looks a lot like knitting, sprang which is more like a kind of weaving, and macrame. Also tablet weaving and "normal" weaving. Crochet was first "invented in the 1800s.

Crafty Andy's picture

I guess it depends what they call knitting. Knitting in many languages refers to weaving as well. People have been making cloth for a very long time. Finger knitting and crochet knitting , just think of the fishermen 's net, they are most likely knit or crochet somehow.

AKQGuy's picture

I remember reading once that they have found" knitted" items in ancient egyptian digs withing the valley of the kings dating before the pyramids. Honestly I don't know how factual the article was though because I don't recall where I read this article.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

The fact that textiles normally do not survive very long [unless put into burials etc.] makes it hard to know just when knitting began. Often, there are only fragments to work with since clothing items were used and reused until they wore out. There is one source that mentions a knitted Chinese textile from very early on but I can't remember what dynasty. [Which means no luck with Common Era dating, either.] The items Q mentions are from quite early and there are Coptic pieces from the Christian era in Egypt. But, they could be nalbinding or other knot/net work. My guess is that the ancient Egyptians didn't knit; otherwise they would have portrayed it on the tomb walls, like their other arts and crafts. Some of the definite knitted pieces are mentioned in connection with the Arab/Muslim era in Egypt and one theory is that the Arabs took knitting to Europe through Spain. Still, it is fascinating to see what we can find out...if another time line had worked out, I would have been an art historian specializing in textiles.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Tom Hart's picture

Thanks for all the answers. I googled “history of knitting” and got directed to a Wikipedia piece that says it came from the Middle East. It says the earliest “known examples of knitting have been found in Egypt and cover a range of items, including complex colorful wool fragments and indigo blue and white cotton stockings, which have been dated between the 11th and 14th centuries CE.” The article also says that the purl didn’t come along until the mid 16th Century. Fathom that.

Truth is, nobody really knows---existing evidence is very ambiguous. Probably Did come from the middle east and I'm guessing around 500 to1000 AD---did They discover it in ancient China? We can all just keep guessing and enjoying our knitting.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

My best guess is that the Chinese learned of knitting through trade with the Middle East on the Silk Road. I wish I could remember where I found would make for some great followup research.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.