In a message dated 12/09/2006 08:20:02 GMT Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:
But were they? Or do we just lack evidence of early knitting needles?
Wooden needles wouldn't be very likely to survive. If they got broken
during the owner's lifetime, they probably got added to the kindling
for a fire.
The question of when hand-knitting began has intrigued me for years.
It is such a portable method of fabric construction (for the
experienced). There are wonderful paintings and photographs from the
19th century of women & girls knitting, often whilst standing, and
doing something else at the same time (having a natter with
neighbours whilst keeping an eye on the children, watching over
I'm not sure when the earliest wooden knitting needles date from, but all
the early examples of knitting are far too fine to have been knitted on wooden
needles. To replicate them today, even a size14 (2mm) needle is on the
coarse side! This seems to have been why knitting really took off, in England at
least, when machine-made steel wire arrived on the scene - I believe in some
areas of Britain, knitting needles are known as "wires".
With regard to portability, as a practitioner of both, I'd back naalebinding
against knitting any time! It can be put down without worry, won't unravel
if dropped and can be done while concentrating on something else by an
experienced worker. Added to which, you can sit and work in a crowded train or bus
without the ball of wool wandering off, or the ends of your needles digging
in to your neighbours (not a consideration in earlier times, I'll grant you!)
As far as the final product goes, naalebinding socks and gloves wear
better, are warmer, and easier to repair, though slower to make. Even after the
advent of knitting they continued to be made and used by working men in the
Swedish forestry and dockyard industry right up to the twentieth century because
they were warm, practically waterproof and provided a much better grip than
Incidentally there are pictures of medieval girls out in the fields
tablet-weaving with a warp stretched between them and there are examples of
scandinavian braid looms designed to be hold the warp taut between a curved stick
tucked into the belt and the belt itself so that they could be used while walking
- they are Sami in origin and so may date back to very early times.