Monday, September 9, 2013

The World's Oldest Piece of Knitting?

Cover of Sept./Oct. 2013 issue
Speaking of the September/October (2013) issue of Piecework Magazine, readers interested in the history of knitting should check out the article by Chris Laning which appears in that issue, titled, "The Iklé Fragment: Knitting or Not?" A black-and-white photograph can be found in the article, and also on Chris's Flickr here.  (The original appears to have had a maroon design on a gold background.)

The Iklé fragment is a scrap of textile, dated to between the 7th and 9th centuries CE, which was found in Egypt and has been characterized as the earliest extant piece of knitting.  However, as Chris explains at great length in the article, the physical characteristics of the fragment more closely match those of nalbinding, a technique worked with a blunt needle with an eye in it, and many discontinuous pieces of thread, instead of multiple needles and a continuous piece of yarn, as knitting is worked.  I won't repeat Chris's analysis here (the article is good and if you're interested in the subject at all you should read it), but a key piece of evidence is that the fragment has not raveled in over a thousand years.  Nalbinding doesn't ravel because each stitch incorporates a knot, securing the textile; that is not true of knitting.

As a bonus, this issue of Piecework incorporates two pouch-making projects based upon the Iklé fragment; one to be knitted and one to be nalbinded.  (Neither is featured on the front cover; the pouch shown there is a different project associated with another article.)  If I were more interested in textile working for its own sake, I probably would experiment with both. 

No comments:

Post a Comment