Knitting, like weaving or crochet, is one of several ways to turn thread or
yarn into cloth. Similar to crochet, knitting consists of bights pulled through
other bights; knitting differs from crochet in that multiple bights are
"active". The active bights are held on a knitting needle until
another bight can be passed through them.
There are two varieties of knitting, weft knitting (the usual kind) and warp
A weft-knitted fabric consists of horizontal parallel courses of yarn and
requires only a single yarn. By contrast, warp knitting requires one yarn for
every stitch in the row (course); these yarns make vertical parallel wales.
Warp knitting is resistant to runs, and is common in lingerie fabric, e.g.,
tricot. Warp knitting is generally done by machine, whereas weft knitting may
be done by machine or by hand. Knitting machines use a
different mechanical system to produce results nearly identical to those
produced by hand-knitting.
Hand-knitted fabrics are usually started by forming a base series of twisted
loops of yarn on a knitting needle ("cast on"). To form a new stitch,
a second knitting needle is used to reach through each loop (or stitch) in
succession to pull a bight of yarn back through the loop. Work can proceed in
the round (circular knitting) or by
going back and forth in rows (flat knitting).
A brief history of knitting
The earliest definite examples of knitting date from Europe and Egypt in the
14th century, although some claim that the technology dates back into centuries
BC. The first knitting trade guild was started in Paris in 1527, establishing
the occupation as male-dominated for centuries to come.
Knitting became a household occupation with the growing popularity of knitted
stockings and by the end of the 1600s, one to two million pairs of stockings
were exported from Britain to other parts of Europe.
With the invention of the knitting machine, knitting "by hand" became
a useful but nonessential craft, and its practitioners increasingly female.
Similar to quilting, spinning, and needlepoint, knitting became a social
activity, performed while the crafters converse among themselves.
Hand-knitting has gone in and out of fashion many times in the last two
centuries, and at the turn of the 21st century it is enjoying a revival. The
latter 1990s saw a 400% increase in the number of knitters under age 35.
Modern knitters come from all ages, walks of life, and (increasingly) genders;
a social stigma against male knitters has been rapidly disappearing, and most
knitting circles now sport at least a few men.
Properties of knit fabrics
The topology of a knit
fabric is relatively complex. Unlike woven fabrics, where strands usually run
straight horizontally and vertically, yarn that has been knit follows a loopy
path along its row, as with the red strand in this diagram:
The loops of one row have all been pulled through the loops of the row below
Because there is no single straight line of yarn anywhere in the pattern, a
knit piece will be stretchy in all directions (some more than others, depending
on the yarn fiber and the specific pattern used). This stretchiness,
unavailable from woven fabrics (which only stretch along the bias), is what
originally made knitting so suitable for stockings. Many modern stretchy
garments, even as they rely on elastic synthetic materials for some stretch,
also achieve at least some of their stretch through knit patterns.
The basic knit fabric (as in the diagram, and usually called a stocking or
stockinette pattern) has a definite right side and wrong side.
On the right side, the visible portions of the loops are the verticals
connecting two rows, arranged in a grid of V shapes.
On the wrong side, the ends of the loops are visible, both the tops and
bottoms, creating a much more bumpy texture sometimes called reverse
stockinette (despite being the "wrong side," reverse stockinette is
frequently used as a pattern in its own right).
Because the yarn holding rows together is all on the front, and the yarn
holding side-by-side stitches together is all on the back, stockinette fabric
has a strong tendency to curl toward the front on the top and bottom, and
toward the back on the left and right side.
Stitches can be worked from either side, and many patterns are created by
mixing regular knit stitches with the "wrong side" stitches, known as
purl stitches, either in columns (ribbing), rows (garter or welting), or more
complex patterns. Each such fabric has different properties: a garter stitch
has much more vertical stretch, while ribbing stretches much more horizontally.
Because of their front-back symmetry, these two fabrics have little curl,
making them popular as edging, even when their stretch properties are not
Different combinations of knit and purl stitches, along with more advanced
techniques, generate fabrics of considerably variable consistency, from gauzy
to very dense, from highly stretchy to relatively stiff, from flat to tightly
curled, and so on.
The Knitting Process
A piece of knitting begins with the process of casting on (also known as
"binding on"), which involves the initial creation of the stitches on
the needle. Different methods of cast on are used for different effects; one
may be stretchy enough for lace, while another provides a decorative edging.
Provisional cast ons are used when the knitting will continue in both
directions from the cast on.
The body of a knitted piece may include plain stitches or a number of colour
and textured patterns. It is sometimes claimed that there are as many methods
of knitting as there are knitters, but most Western-style knitters follow
either the English style or the Continental style. The number of active
stitches remains the same as when cast on unless stitches are added (an
increase) or removed (a decrease) to shape the item.
Once the knitted piece is finished, the remaining live stitches are cast off.
Casting (or binding) off loops the stitches across each other so they can be
removed from the needle without unravelling the item. Although the mechanics
are different from casting on, there are a similar variety of methods and
choices to be made.
Typically, the final knitted garment will be made of several knitted pieces,
with individual sections of the garment knit separately and then sewn together
once all the pieces have been completed. Seamless knitting, where a whole
garment is knit as a single piece is also possible. Smaller items, such as
socks and hats are usually knit in one piece on double pointed needles or
The accepted default texture for a knit garment is that generated by the flat
stockinette stitch - as seen, though very small, in machine-made stockings and
t-shirts - which is worked in the round as nothing but knit stitches, and
worked flat as alternating rows of knit and purl. Other simple textures can be
made with nothing but knit and purl stitches, including garter stitch, ribbing,
and moss and seed stitches. Adding a "slip stitch" (just moving a
loop from one needle to the other, without working it) allows for a wide range
of textures, including heel and linen stitches, and a number of more
Some more advanced knitting techniques create a surprising variety of complex
textures. Combining "yarn-over" increases (which create small eyelet
holes in the resulting fabric) with assorted decreases (e.g. by knitting two
stitches together) is key to lace knitting, a very open fabric resembling lace.
Changing the order of stitches from one row to the next, usually with the help
of a cable needle or stitch holder, is key to cable knitting, producing an
endless variety of cables, honeycombs, ropes, and other Aran sweater
patterning. Entrelac forms a rich checkerboard texture by knitting small
squares, picking up their side edges, and knitting more squares to continue the
Plenty of finished knitting projects never use more than a single colour of
yarn, but there are many ways to work in multiple colours. Some yarns are dyed
to be either variegated (changing colour every few stitches) or self-striping
(changing every few rows). When knitting with yarns whose colours change, it is
best to alternate between two different skeins of yarn, usually alternating
every other row. This will allow the garment to have a random colour variation.
Even with solid-colour yarn, the knitter can easily create horizontal stripes
by changing yarn at the end of a row. More complicated techniques permit large
fields of colour (e.g. intarsia), busy small-scale patterns of colour (e.g.
Fair Isle), or both (e.g. double knitting and slip-stitch colour).
Even if the pattern is all a single colour - and perhaps especially then - it
is important that the dye lot numbers match. Yarn is dyed in batches, or lots,
and within such a lot the colour will match nearly perfectly. Even a
tightly-regulated factory dye process will not be able to exactly match the
colour between dye lots, though. They may appear identical on the skein, but
when knit into a solid field of colour, the subtle change when the knitter
switched skeins will become much more apparent. To control this, each dye lot
is assigned a unique serial number, which is generally printed somewhere on the
band around the skein.
Yarn with multiple shades of the same hue are called ombre, while a yarn with
multiple hues may be known as a given colorway - a green, red and yellow yarn
might be dubbed the "Parrot Colorway" by its manufacturer. Heathered
yarns contain small amounts of fiber of different colours, while tweed yarns
may have greater amounts of different coloured fibers.
The classic knitting material is worsted-weight yarn, spun from the wool of a
sheep, though goat's fibre (e.g. mohair or cashmere), rabbit fur (usually
angora), and alpaca fibre are also very popular. Natural fibres such as these
have the advantage of being slightly elastic and very breathable, while
trapping a great deal of air, making for a fairly warm fabric. Some of the more
expensive fibres, such as cashmere, are often blended with other types, merino
wool being very popular for its softness and fineness.
Other natural fibres that can be used for yarn include silk, or vegetable
fibers such as linen and cotton. These tend to be much less elastic than
animal-fibre yarns, though they can be stronger in some cases. Given the cost
of silk, it is often blended with other fibers, such as rayon, cotton and wool.
Pure linen makes a poor knitting fiber, having virtually no elasticity; it is
often blended with cotton, wool or acrylic. Cotton can be mercerised to
increase its elasticity and its resistance to pilling. In any case, the
finished product will be rather different from those made with woollen yarns.
A number of synthetic materials are also commonly made into yarn, chiefly
acrylic. Acrylic yarn for a long time completely dominated the knitting market,
and is still frequently the only available option at craft stores and other
stores that do not specialise in knitting supplies. However, many knitters
prefer the feel of natural fibers, both during the knitting process and in the
final product. 100% acrylic yarns are available, as are wool-acrylic blends in
various proportions. Some other synthetics are available as well; yarn designed
for use in socks frequently contains a small percentage of nylon for increased
durability, and numerous specialty yarns exist.
A relatively recent trend in knitting yarn is the novelty yarn. Novelty yarns
have been on the market for a long time, but have enjoyed a revival as many new
knitters learn to knit, and expect fun and dazzling materials to knit with.
Novelty yarns, especially eyelash yarns, are also popular with new knitters
because they can help cover uneven stitches and tension, and general bad
knitting. There has been a dramatic increase in the amount, and in the
different forms, in which novelty yarns can be found. Typically, novelty yarns
arise from innovations in the spinning process. What could define a novelty
yarn as opposed to "regular" yarn is the exaggeration in one or many
of a regular fiber's characteristics; for example, some yarns are a bit fuzzy
or hairy, but a novelty yarn might take that to an extreme, with yarns that
have long hairs or metallic fuzz. Novelty yarns now come in all shapes and
textures. There are also yarns that are entirely metallic.
One variety of novelty yarn is called boucle, textured or flammé. Yarns of this
type involve at least one or two strands of regular yarn twisted together with
something else to make an interesting texture. To make boucle, the tension on
one strand, as it is being spun, must be different from the other. The extra
element can be a metallic thread, or a much-thicker or much-narrower strand of
yarn, or yarn that varies between thick and thin. Some companies have come to
put twin yarns on the market to show off combinations of one regular yarn and a
novelty yarns in assorted colours or even two different types of novelty yarns.
Another type of novelty yarn is eyelash yarn. In general, eyelash yarns will be
hairy and have the general aspect of faux fur once knitted up in a garment. The
texture and composition of such yarns have been explored by many companies, and
there are innumerable types of eyelash yarns. The most prominent types would
probably be 100% polyester with a straight and relatively short hair. The hair
can be curly. The core and hair of the thread can be metallic, and the hairs
can sometimes be two different lengths. Some of the drawbacks of eyelash yarns
is that they tend to have poor stitch definition, and that they are not
flattering to curvy figures as they add bulk to a garment, so they are mostly
used for accessories such as scarves.
Another type of novelty yarn is ribbon yarn. They are not the kind of ribbons
used in sewing and millinery, but are rather ribbon yarns made especially for
knitting, usually in a tubular form. Ribbon yarns must have give and
Very often, novelty yarns will involve a lot of colour change. Most often these
will be obtained through the print process, in which a fiber will have
different colours created through a dyeing process. Sometimes the colour will
come through the sequence in which different colours are spun together. In some
yarns the same process is used, but at the same time the color repeats are long
enough to enable a self-striping feature. If the proper number of stitches is
cast, then stripes will appear as the yarn is knitted into a garment. Sock yarn
companies have evidently taken a great interest in self-striping yarn. Such
yarns have a wide array of different effects that can be obtained by knitting
the yarn in the round over the number of stitches normally cast for a sock.
Ultimately, there is no restriction as to what materials can be used to knit;
anything that can be viewed as a long strand of something can be used as a sort
of knitting yarn. Creative knitters have successfully used ribbon, plastic
strips, wire, raffia, crepe paper, string threaded with beads, and rope to
fashion bags, bowls, jewelry, household items, and works of art.
Industrially, metal wire is also knitted into a metal fabric for a wide range
of uses including the filter material in cafetieres, catalytic converters for
cars and many other uses. These fabrics are usually manufactured on circular
knitting machines that would be recognised by conventional knitters as sock
Original Source: wikipedia
Web site: www.getknitting.com