Knitting vs. Crocheting: One of the first things to know is the distinction between the two main “needle arts”: knitting and crocheting. Both are great hobbies that allow you to make pretty much anything you can imagine out of yarn. There are, however, some key differences.
Crocheting uses a hook whereas knitting uses two needles. Knitting is a bit more versatile and is better for more intricate designs. Crocheting, however, is easier to learn and, very important for beginners, it’s easier to correct your mistakes in crocheting. Therefore, we suggest starting with crochet and using it as a springboard into knitting as you gain confidence. This article covers knitting simply because it is the more popular hobby.
For knitting, you’ll need to know some basic techniques. To start, you’ll need to know how to cast on (creating a starting row of stitches so you can start knitting), knit stitch, purl stitch, and cast off which creates a finished edge that will stop your stitches from unraveling. There are hundreds of step-by-step guides online, but this one does a good job of covering the basics.
The origins of knitting are shrouded in mystery, though most historians believe it originated in the middle east around the 10th or 11th century CE. The oldest surviving piece of knitwear are these socks, now housed at London’s Victoria and Albert museum. They were made between the 11th and 13th centuries CE in Egypt, and their complex (and snazzy) design suggests that knitting had already been around a long time.
Knitting techniques spread from the Middle East to Europe, where it became enormously popular in the middle ages. As you may know from paintings or movies, men in the Middle Ages, at least the classy ones, liked to wear stockings. Demand for fine stockings drove the knitting industry, causing the formation of knitting guilds which required six-year long apprenticeship to become a certified master knitter. The first knitting machine was invented in 1580 by William Lee. While mechanized knitwear was usually cheaper, hand-knitting produced much finer knitwear for a long time to come.
Over the past century or so, knitting revivals have usually occurred during periods of scarcity. During both World Wars, those on the home front were encouraged to dig up their unworn garments and use them to make new items for use on the front. Thus women and schoolchildren hand-knit socks, helmet liners, and other items for the soldiers in the field. It also became popular during the Great Depression, in order to make clothes last longer, and to make use of every scrap of yarn.
The most recent knitting revival, starting in the 1990s, was driven not by necessity, but by a general revival of interest in hand crafts. People in their 20s and 30s have been the largest growing group of knitters, and their presence has been felt online. Knitting has been the subject of leading blog since the beginning of blogging, and the needle arts have spawned their own thriving social network with millions of users called Ravelry. Knitting has produced a form of street art called yarn bombing in which public objects are knitted in yarn, and even produced its own star comedian specializing in knitting humor.