Legend has it that sailors wore sweaters with their family pattern knit into them so that their bodies could be identified if they died at sea. Morbid as it may be, it is a notable application of the craft.
The actual origins of knitting are unknown. Historic evidence of knitted pieces has been found in countries such as Egypt, England, Holland, Scotland, Spain, Germany. The earliest evidence of knitted clothing found were fragments of socks that were made in Egypt sometime between 1000 and 1300 A.D. However, even this is disputed since some scholars say that these socks were not knitted, but were the result of nalebinding, an ancient Scandinavian craft similar to knitting.
In the Middle Ages, knitting prospered and became a prominent industry. The manufacture of stockings was particularly important in Britain, and a number of knitting schools were established. However, despite popular belief, it was men (and not women) who were the first to make a career in knitting!
The first trade union devoted to knitting professionals was founded in 1527 in Paris, which was run solely by men. Soon knitted stockings became extremely popular and knitting became a household activity. This is when women took over the craft.
The decline of knitting began in the 1980’s when machine knitted items cost less than the price of knitting the same item yourself. However, an increased interest in traditional values has contributed to a sudden resurgence in knitting. Knitting has become cool again.