You may think of hand-knitting as being a very old craft, considering that you hear of people nowadays being taught to knit by their granny or even their great-granny. When in fact in comparison to spinning and weaving it is a very young skill. Although, it is difficult for archeologists to date the exact origin of knitting as the natural fibres are perishable.
What we do know is that the word "knit" meaning to tie or to join, clearly predates knitting as a craft. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest literary reference in English to the primary modern meaning of "knit" is from 1530!
Knitting may have come from the Middle East to Europe through Spain, by the Moors. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Moors knitted hosiery and stockings in both silk and wool. This completely replaced hosiery made from cloth amongst the upper classes. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, this trend of knitted stockings grew rapidly among the English. It was seen at the time by the legal authority as being a suitable occupation for the poor to provide an income. As a result by 1600 England had become a leading exporter of woolen stockings.
Throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries, knitting spread North to Scandinavia and East to Russia and by the early 19th Century was well established throughout Western and Eastern Europe. Knitting made its entry into the rest of Europe in the form of luxury goods worn by the well to do. The working classes learned the technique to meet the high demand and eventually the wearing of knitted garments eventually filtered down to their own wardrobes as they adapted the luxury items to more practical garments for common use.
Cable and Fairisle knitting came to the islands at a much later date from the sea faring traders. Scottish missionaries and immigrants taught cable knitting in America and other colonies who in turn developed knitting patterns of their own.
Mothers would teach a pattern to a daughter who would experiment and invent a new one and so it took generations to develop the many patterns found today. Knitters on the Shetland Isles, which lies at the confluence of a number of international trade routes, developed a particularly rich vocabulary of stranded multi-coloured patterns. Now called Fairisle patterns, they are believed to have been influenced by the geometric Arabic patterns that have been around for centuries. These patterns are taken as references points for many of Eribé’s own collections.
Later, the knitters of Ireland's Aran Isles adapted cable and twisted stitch patterns. Introduced by Irish émigrés returning from America, to the traditional fishing shirt shape to create elaborately cabled knitwear in natural-coloured wool, now called Aran sweaters.
It was only until very recently that knitting patterns have been written down and collected. Even today in the Scottish Shetland Islands some women cannot read patterns! All their knitting patterns have been handed down through word of mouth meaning they can only knit the patterns they have been taught as small children.
The abundance and low cost of manufactured goods means modern day knitters no longer need to supplement their incomes with production knitting and therefore it has primarily become a popular hobby in America, Europe and Asia. Whereas knitting in the early part of the 20th century was done using manuals that demanded strict adherence to instructions, knitters now enjoy the freedom to knit their own creations or translate their ideas onto knitting machines for speed.
Hand knitting is still very much alive and well. It is enjoyed, also, for its therapeutic qualities. This hypnotic craft has proven to aid people back to better health. It is suggested that hand knitting should be encouraged amongst people who are suffering from any form of depression. So, not only does your wardrobe benefit from hand knitting as a hobby but your mind as well!
A major part of what makes Eribé garments so special is the fact that they create beautiful hand-knitted garments and accessories by employing well over 100 hand knitters, from all over the country!