Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Art of Knitting

From hats to socks to sweaters (or jumpers as they’re called in the U.K.) knitting has been a hobby of women and men for centuries. Queen Elizabeth I of England had a love of fine silk stockings that were very decorative and obviously expensive. The regular folk wore stockings made of wool and, during the late 15th century, knitted stockings were in such a high demand that men, women and children learned the art of knitting to supplement their income. Knitting became so fashionable that schools were established to promote the art and the people of England became well known for their fine work.

As a young child growing up in England, knitting was a required part of my curriculum. Perhaps teachers wanted to continue the ancient art, but the exercise teaches hand/eye coordination, and of course dexterity.
Knitters in Scotland developed patterns that are specific to certain areas. Aran sweaters are known worldwide for their warmth and their designs. As with quilting patterns wherein a design is specific to an area in the U.S. the Aran sweaters also tell a tail. The ribbing section has a "twisted" stitch, there are twisted cables, interlocking diamonds and  “popcorn” stitches that represent a certain area. Sweaters were essential garments for the fishermen of these islands because the natural oils within the wool provided some element of protection against the harsh weather encountered while out fishing.