The documented history of knitting began with a pair of ancient Egyptian socks, which were made in the third century AD. But due to the structural complexity of this pair of socks, archaeologists believe the craft is actually much older than they can definitively prove, according to a July 2020 report on UK news site BBC.
Knitting spread from the Middle East to Europe via Mediterranean trade routes in the 14th century, and became particularly popular in England during the Middle Ages, where knitted woolen garments were favored for their weather-resistant qualities.
Since then, knitwear has fallen in and out of fashion again and again. Designers like Coco Chanel, Emilio Pucci and Missoni have incorporated knits into their signature A-line suits and skirts. Knitting has held a constant presence in fashion, even though it was used conventionally. But by the end of the 20th century, pioneers like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen began to look at knits differently – so much so that knits began to be worn in unusual ways and created more fashion-forward garments.
And so, extreme knitting was born. Take a look at Icelandic experimental knitwear designer Ýr Jóhannsdóttir’s cubist-inspired sweaters and masks, many of which have a protruding tongue, and you’ll understand what the term means. Knitting slowly began to evolve into the opposite of its stereotype – it inspired unique pieces, it was rebellious and empowering.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, knitting exploded. According to British fashion magazine Vogue Business, We Are Knitters (a Spain-based company that sells knitting tools and kits) reported that its annual peak of 10% rose to 235% in March 2020. One of the The main reasons for the growing popularity of craftsmanship is that it offers a sustainable way to be self-reliant and creative. And according to the Mental Health America website, some of the health benefits of knitting include lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety and distraction from chronic pain.
This is probably why the knitting community has grown and diversified. Go to Instagram or Twitter and you’ll find a variety of knitting groups that include like-minded people who come together not only to knit but also to socialize. In the case of groups like Black Girl Knit Club, there is also an emphasis on highlighting ethnic minorities within the craft community.