Early Period Knitting

In 1935 archeologists working in the Roman city of Dura Europos found true knitted fabric. Dura Europos, which fell in 256 A.D., is located on the borders of modern Israel. The fabric was knitted with two needles in a technique referred to as 'crossed' or 'oriental' knitting. One piece had intricate leaf patterns knitted into it. We know the Copts were using knitting, because knitted anklets were buried with their dead. One pair was divided at the big toe like Japanese tabi and used drop knitting and cross stitching at the heel to fit the heel.

The Arab conquest of Spain re-introduced the art of knitting to Europe. Silk stockings were being knitted in Spain shortly after the 11th century and hand-knitting was practiced in Italy as early as the thirteenth century.

For those of you who would like to try your hand at it, below is the method for 'crossed needle knitting' and the pattern for the Dura Europos find.

Crossed (Eastern) knitting. The left part of the stitch crosses over the right. The pattern consists of three stripes, the center one being a straight stem sprouting a series of conventional leaves diagonally; the outside stripes carry a series of connected oval lozenges. See diagrams above.

Mary Thomas's Knitting Book (New York, 1938) gives excellent diagrams of the crossed knitting, both knit and purl.

Knitting Patterns

These two patterns are knitted simultaneously, with a band of 4 stitches between which are knitted in the odd rows and purled in the even rows.

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