I am very new to knitting but feel myself totally drawn to its simplicity. While sewing requires special cutting tools, marking chalk, pattern weights, tracing paper, a different type of sm needle for every different kind of fabric, knitting requires two sticks and a ball of yarn.
I also appreciate this difference: While sewing requires cutting fabric into all different shapes and then re-assembling it again, knitting–at least the knitting that I’m doing right now–creates something out of the one continuous length of yarn.
While completing a few rows last week, I wondered about the history of knitting. Here are some highlights from Wikipedia:
> The word is derived from knot and ultimately from the Old English cnyttan, to knot.
> Most histories of knitting place its origin somewhere in the Middle East, from there it spread to Europe by Mediterranean trade routes, and then to the Americas with European colonization.
> 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 first known purl stitches appear in the mid-16th century, in the red silk stockings in which Eleanora de Toledo, wife of Cosimo de Medici, was buried, and which also include the first lacy patterns made by yarn-overs.
>The English Queen Elizabeth I herself favored silk stockings; these were finer, softer, more decorative and much more expensive than those of wool. Stockings reputed to have belonged to her still exist, demonstrating the high quality of the items specifically knitted for her.
I also love all of this about the health benefits:
> Studies have shown that knitting, along with other forms of needlework, provide several significant health benefits. These studies have found the rhythmic and repetitive action of knitting can “help prevent and manage stress, pain and depression, which in turn strengthens the body’s immune system”, as well as create a relaxation response in the body which can decrease blood pressure, heart rate, help prevent illness, and have a calming effect.
> Pain specialists have also found that the brain chemistry is changed when one knits, resulting in an increase in “feel good” hormones (i.e. serotonin and dopamine), and a decrease in stress hormones.
> Knitting, along with other leisure activities has been linked to reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Much like physical activity strengthens the body, mental exercise makes our brains more resilient.