When I relax into my knitting mode and allow my mind to wander aimlessly, it frequently begins to wonder about the origin of all things knitting. Today, it speculated on the origin of the word knitting. And as is frequently the case, I made up stories. This time about people in ancient cultures. So, after putting my needlework aside I turned to today’s doorway into the past—my computer. What did I discover?
Recorded usage for the words knit or knitting date back to the 14th century. Then they referred to a fastening with rope or thread, to tie into a knot. In Middle English they meant unity; a bond or unifying force; interconnection; a relationship.
It was from 1711 that a definition more closely related to today’s usage was found; the act of weaving a continuous thread of loops or knots. But I’m fascinated by the fact that the term knitting needle dates from the 1590s.
Of all the ways in which the words knit and knitting have been used, I’m most taken by those in Middle English. Because they certainly match the social dynamic that permeates today’s vast knitting community from little groups gathering at a local yarn shop to world-wide initiatives like Knitting for Peace (knitforpeace.org.uk). I marvel at the many ways in which the act of knitting has improved people’s lives and am grateful that knitters around the globe share its health benefits.
I think we should add another definition to history’s list. To knit is to heal.