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The history of the knitting needle

People have been knitting since ancient times. Over the centuries, the knitting needle has been further evolved: now it is crafted from an array of materials, the manufacturing process has become simpler and the types of needle become more varied. But has there been genuine innovation since the invention of the first knitting needle?

Discover
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3rd - 4th century BC

Nobody knows exactly how old the craft of knitting truly is. Present findings suggest that it is more established than carpet making, yet not as old as weaving.

The earliest surviving example of knitting is a sandal sock found in Egypt.

The history of knitting has not been fully explored as the materials used for it decomposed easily.

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7th - 8th century BC

The knitting technique as we know it today does not appear until the end of the 7th century. Since then, knitting with two needles has opened up entirely new possibilities.

In the olden days, knitting needles used to be made of bone, ivory or tortoiseshell.

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Until today:

There's been hardly a change in over 1,200 years

To this day, knitting needles are still made in much the same way as in ancient times. Very few hand tools have seen as little in the way of technical improvements as the knitting needle (even a hammer today is a high-tech product). This begs the question: Why?

Principle in the 8th century: long rod with a tapered tip and a knob at the end - the same as most of today's single-pointed knitting needles.

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Meanwhile in the

15th century

The earliest documented illustration dates from around 1400: knitting with a set of double-pointed knitting needles. While the stitches remain on 4 needles forming a square, a fifth needle is used to knit into the stitches, creating circular garments such as socks or sleeves.

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Circular knitting needles in the

20th century

Circular knitting needles are the all-rounders among knitting needles. They are great not just for knitting in the round (e.g. tubes, sleeves, hats), but also for flat objects, especially larger items. Socks and very small pieces are easy to knit with circular knitting needles - if you know the trick. It's a technique called "Magic Loop", invented by Sarah Hauschka and published first in the Fiber Trends booklet "The Magic Loop" in 2002.

Our survey result:

% Circular knitting needle
% Double-pointed needles
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Into the

21st century

Many new and imaginative needle versions have emerged not least as a result of modern production processes. Designed to stand out from competitors' products - often with marketing effects such as colour schemes, snazzy materials or elegant designs. The basic principle of the needle, however, has largely remained the same since the 8th century: a long rod with a tapered tip and a knob at the end. High time for a genuine innovation.

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The new generation of knitting needles

Reinvented for the human hand. Light, flexible, perfectly structured.

More info